Why Are Women More Prone To Anxiety?
Does it surprise you to hear that as a woman you are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety compared to a man?
Women are by nature more complex than men, not just in our physical makeup, but in how we think too. As women, we tend to experience greater fluctuations in hormones, and we are wired to operate differently. Every woman knows well that monthly menstrual cycles can play havoc with your emotions, creating mood swings and sensitivities. Further biological changes, like pregnancy and the menopause, just add more fuel to an already well-stoked fire.
The way in which women deal with psychological and emotional stress is more complex (and complicated!) than the straightforward way in which many men approach a challenge. In times of stress, men tend to take action; to want to fix, to find a solution. Taking physical action helps to release a build-up of stress neurotransmitters adrenalin and cortisol. This means for men that taking action most times shifts them back to balance and calm much quicker. This pro-active approach is very positive-ruminating, spiraling thoughts tend not to get a grip.
However, women tend to deal with stress by going inside, over-thinking and over-feeling everything. A woman stressed needs to talk about how she feels so that she can begin to understand why she feels the way she does. Only when this is clear, can she possibly begin to contemplate the next step towards taking some physical action to remedy the situation.
A woman needs to be ‘held’ in her emotional distress
Have a man offer you a solution too soon and you easily become overwhelmed by the depth of your emotions.
Over-thinking and over-feeling fuels adrenalin and cortisol. Excessive over-analysis and worrying, with anxiety symptoms, are often the result.
Some women feel their anxiety symptoms are inherited by way of their genetic blueprint. Most likely is that a woman experienced some degree of childhood trauma or that the tendency towards being anxious is a learned behaviour rather than genetics. Clients tend to say ‘my mum was anxious or my grandmother was anxious’. This means that if anxiety is learned, it can be unlearned – and this I have had the pleasure to experience in myself and in my clients, over my many years in consultancy.
The honest truth is that most women typically experience some degree of low-level anxiety most of the time. This can peak into panic attacks, fears and phobias, and anxiety disorders during those crises times of psychological or biological stress.
So I guess it is fair to admit that in the main, women are less physically and cognitively conditioned than men, to process emotion quickly and effectively – Yikes! STOP with trying to be so in control and strong all the time…
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How To Help Yourself To Feel Less Anxiety
Give Yourself Permission To Feel
Women feel so deeply. The key is to allow these feelings to empower you. The next time you feel over-emotional, I want you to think of that emotion as nutrition for your soul. Feed yourself on your emotion… breathe into your feelings and allow yourself to grow!
For me personally twenty years ago, it was only when I began to truly own my feelings that anxiety in my life began to ease and my perception of my power began to grow.
As a woman, you need to give yourself permission not to be hurried through your emotion, and told to ‘pull yourself together’ or to ‘just get on with it’. Don’t accept being subject to popular phrases such as ‘What’s the matter with you now’ or ‘take a look at yourself’ or ‘sort yourself out!’ or my all-time favourite ‘what’s wrong with you?!’
Worrying, feeling afraid, feeling unsure socially and professionally is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of humanity. It is not something to be ashamed of or embarrassed by.
Anxiety can occur in women of all ages
It is also really common for healthy teenage girls to develop anxiety, again due to hormonal fluctuations and the struggles of developing an identity, steering their way through first relationships and getting along with and fitting in with their peers.
It is common for high functioning, dynamic non-stop women to be running on chronic anxiety in the background – ignoring it, denying it is there, and appearing to cope day to day… only for you to have to confront it head-on, when anxiety deepens during the early stages of menopause.
The longer anxiety runs in the background, the more sensitive and reactive the stress centre within the brain becomes. Everyday triggers of anxiety become more widespread over time, so you’ll find that the slightest thing can set off an anxiety attack.
It’s a common misconception that the menopause creates anxiety. Actually, this isn’t true. It is simply exacerbating an imbalance that is already there.
The more girls and women help themselves throughout their life at any age, to maintain a healthy physiological and psychological balance, the less likely you will be to experience anxiety during the menopause.
The good news is there is so much you CAN do to help yourself manage and clear anxiety.
Effective self-help measures you can take
- Tweak your diet to get the right nutrition
- Take at least 30 mins of exercise every day
- Find time to learn to relax
- Get outside and get enough natural light daily,
- Help yourself to live a life that feels true to you so that you show up every day being more accepting of yourself, and
- Learn effective stress coping strategies, so that you may increase your competence and confidence in your day to day living.
Anxiety Expert – Anxiety Help Bournemouth & Christchurch, UK
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