In the fast-paced and demanding world we live in, stress has become an unavoidable aspect of daily life. Women often face a unique set of stressors that can take a toll on their well-being. From the daily demands of work, and juggling family and parenting expectations, to societal expectations, women are often impacted by stress. In this blog, I will cover the two types that I see in therapy and how Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) can help alleviate the impact of stress.
Stress and Women
Stress is our body’s response to pressure to internal or external pressures. Everyone experiences stress due to various events but how we manage and react to stress can influence our overall wellbeing. When stress becomes chronic or excessive, it becomes harder to adapt and cope. According to the Women’s Health Organization, women are more likely than men to report symptoms of stress and are also more likely to have mental health conditions that are made worse by stress, such as depression or anxiety.
Degrees of Stress
Although stress is normal, it can manifest in various forms, each presenting unique challenges to a woman’s well-being. For today’s blog, we will focus on two types of stress.
- Acute Stress: Acute stress, the body’s immediate and short-term response to a perceived threat or challenge, can strain relationships due to the intensity and urgency of the stressor. Examples of experiences that can contribute to acute stress can be traffic jams, arguments with a loved one or a boss, and impending work deadlines, just to name a few.
- Chronic or Toxic Stress: Toxic stress has its roots in adverse childhood experiences (or ACEs) where environments are marked by abuse, neglect, or chronic family dysfunction. Research on adverse childhood experiences demonstrates the correlation between early adverse experiences and the impact later in life.
ACEs have been linked to increased risk for alcohol and substance use disorders, suicide, mental health conditions, and health risk behaviors throughout life. The toxic stress caused by ACEs can result in increased risk for heavy alcohol use, tobacco use, obesity, and risky sexual behaviors.National Association for Chronic Disease
Symptoms of Chronic Stress
- Muscle pain
- Gastrointestinal upset (such as stress-induced constipation)
- Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or respiration
- Sleep disturbances or nightmares
- Changes in appetite, eating, and weight
- Trouble regulating emotions
- Increased anxiety and irritability
- Depression or mood swings
- Impulsive, risky, or destructive behavior patterns
- Increased use of substances or alcohol
- Difficulty focusing, concentrating, or remembering things
- Inability to feel present or engaged in activities
- Impaired functioning in one or more areas of life
- Social withdrawal or isolation
- Racing thoughts or negative thoughts about self and future
Impact of Stress on Relationships
Stress is common in relationships, but for women who tend to keep stress to themselves, it can be potentially harmful to relationships. Here are ways stress can impact relationships.
- Communication Breakdown: Stress can hinder effective communication between partners. Women who grapple with their stressors may find it challenging to express their needs and emotions, leading to misunderstandings and tension in the relationship.
- Increased Conflict: Stress often magnifies existing conflicts and can create new ones. Couples experiencing chronic stress may find themselves arguing more frequently, with heightened emotional intensity.
- Decreased Intimacy: Physical and emotional intimacy can take a hit when one or both partners are under chronic stress. Fatigue, mood swings, and a sense of emotional distance can erode the closeness that is essential for a healthy relationship.
- Changes in Priorities: Chronic stress may shift priorities, causing individuals to focus more on managing their stressors than nurturing their relationships. This shift can lead to a sense of neglect and isolation within the partnership.
- Impact on the Mental Health of Both Partners: The stress experienced by one partner can have a ripple effect on the mental health of the other. A shared sense of burden and responsibility may contribute to a cycle of stress within the relationship.
EMDR Therapy and Stress Management
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has proven effective in treating various mental health issues, including those stemming from stress and trauma. EMDR therapy helps individuals process distressing memories and experiences.
- Trauma Resolution: EMDR therapy is particularly beneficial for individuals who have experienced traumatic events contributing to chronic stress. By helping individuals process and integrate traumatic memories, EMDR can alleviate the emotional charge associated with these experiences.
- Reducing Anxiety and Depression: EMDR has demonstrated effectiveness in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, both of which are often heightened by chronic stress. By addressing the underlying issues contributing to these mental health challenges, EMDR promotes emotional well-being.
- Enhancing Coping Mechanisms: The therapy helps individuals develop adaptive coping mechanisms, enabling them to navigate stressors more effectively. This increased resilience can have a positive impact on both mental health and relationships.
- Improving Self-Esteem: Chronic stress can erode self-esteem over time. EMDR assists individuals in reprocessing negative beliefs about themselves, fostering a more positive self-image, and contributing to improved overall well-being.
As we explore the intricate relationship between stress and its impact on women’s mental and physical health, and relationships, it’s essential to recognize the value of therapeutic interventions like EMDR therapy. With EMDR therapy, we can address the root source(s) of acute and toxic stress in order to move toward healing, resilience, and healthier relationships.
I invite you to take a few moments to get grounded and let go of any stress you might be holding on to. If you found this article helpful, be sure to leave a comment below.