What is stressing us out?

The 2019 Jean Hailes Women's Health Survey reported that 42% of women who completed the survey reported feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge at least weekly in the past four weeks; more than half for women aged 18-35 (64.1%).

In the most recent survey on my other website, Planning With Kids, I asked readers a number of questions about stress and family life. And just like the Jean Hailes survey, it reflected that women are feeling stressed. 90% of the over 650 respondents said they were currently experiencing family life as moderately stressful or higher.

Stress isn't always a bad thing so it helps to distinguish the types of stress that we might be experiencing.

Eustress

Eustress is a positive form of stress having a beneficial effect on health, motivation, performance, and emotional well-being. This type of stress can:

  • help you cope with potentially serious situations (fight or flight)
  • help you face challenges
  • help you stay motivated
  • complete tasks
  • achieve goals

Psychologist Dr. Kara Fasone says eustress is all about sufficiently challenging yourself without expending all your resources. This type of stress empowers you to grow in three areas:

  • Emotionally, eustress can result in positive feelings of contentment, inspiration, motivation, and flow.
  • Psychologically, eustress helps us build our self-efficacy, autonomy, and resilience.
  • Physically, eustress helps us build our body (e.g., through completing a challenging workout). {source}

Distress

But there is no doubt that stress can negatively impact our wellbeing and this is referred to as distress. When this type of distress is excessive or goes for prolonged periods of time, it could see us experience:

  • fatigue
  • burnout
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • feeling unable to cope
  • decreased stress tolerance

If we don’t find ways to manage our stress levels, then we are at risk of developing stress-related health conditions in addition to the mental health problems listed above like:

  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • abnormal heart rhythms
  • heart attacks
  • stroke

What is stressing the modern woman?

90% of the over 650 female respondents said they were currently experiencing family life as moderately stressful or higher.

Kid stuff was the biggest cause of stress for readers (22%) and this includes things like getting the kids ready in the morning, after school activities, managing homework, managing tech use, kids fighting, kids behaviour and kids’ routines in general.

Work and family issues were the second biggest cause of stress to families (20%) and this covered issues like trying to do everything, the contentious issue of balance between work, home duties and kids, the feeling of constantly juggling too many responsibilities, a heavy mental load, struggling to keep up with everything, feeling overwhelmed and feeling like there is too much to do and not enough time. 

Here is a small sample of some comments that really stood out to me from the over 650 submitted in the survey:

  •  Struggling to keep up with everything - home, kids commitments, part-time work.
  • Juggling money/work with kids activities and schedules
  • My mental load - paid work, parenting, running the house, marriage
  • Time pressure. Feeling overwhelmed and like everything happens at high speed.
  • Feeling like there’s not enough time to get everything done
  • Being everything to everyone (mum, wife, teacher, mentor, cook, cleaner, building project manager, driver, activity planner, household organiser etc etc)
  • Having to carry the weight of all home organisation and managing starting school and kinder for the first time

This word cloud from the responses provides a great visual on what is stressing out mums:

Mums are expecting so much of themselves. They are trying to give their kids the best of everything, fit in all these extra activities and experiences, while also trying to do well at work, keep the house totally organised, keep the life admin under control, keep fit, be a good friend and be a fantastic life partner.

If you were to read a job description that said you had key responsibility for all of that, you would run a mile! And even if you aren’t expecting yourself to do all of the roles listed above, you would still have a significant workload.

The modern world is stressful. There is a mismatch between our current environment filled with air, noise and visual pollution, torrents of information and an overwhelming number of opportunities, and the environment of our evolutionary adaption - think the simpler world of hunter-gatherer and nomadic societies.

The way we currently live is not set up in a way that is conducive to how environmental conditions were when our brains evolved:

  • We have multiple responsibilities and are pulled in multiple directions
  • We try to fit more and more into our days and sleep is sacrificed
  • We compare ourselves to impossible or unrealistic standards
  • We are constantly connected
  • We watch the news and see war, devastation and tragedy

We weren’t built for this level of stress 24/7. But with the help of adaptogens, our bodies can adapt to this stress. You can read just how they can help you here - How Adaptogens Work.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: all content provided here is of a general nature only and is not a substitute for individualised professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and reliance should not be placed on it. For personalised medical or nutrition advice, please make an appointment with your doctor, dietitian or qualified health care professional.