If a person were to say she is not anxious, stressed, or worried, most people wouldn’t believe her. One would think he must be one of those strange Buddhist monks who live in a faraway place far from bills, household chores, the 40-60 hour work week and the demands of everyday life.
Who does not feel stress or anxious about paying bills, raising children, getting through school, finding a job, dealing with relationships? Anxiety, stress, and worry are commonly accepted as the “price” of adult womanhood.
Anxiety is a natural phenomenon that is transitory: a heightened state to alert us to a call for action due to possible danger. Most modern people have developed a way of becoming stuck in this temporal storm and then labeling it an illness.
As anxiety starts the adrenaline, “fight or flight” response begins within the body. This is why staying in a state of anxiety, stress, or worry can create or worsen many physical symptoms such as: abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea or constipation of IBS, ulcers, nausea, vomiting, and reproductive problems due the body not being able to function in a natural, healthy manner.
Anxiety is a problem women struggle with more than men. In 2008, Harvard Medical School found that two-thirds of all people with anxiety disorders are women.
The pain is bringing attention to the injury. Anxiety is a giant wake up call.
Today, women are constantly dealing with how they feel about their appearance and their bodies viewed through a cultural myth of always not measuring up to an unrealistic illusion of beauty. Women constantly focus on what they eat while having limited time to make healthy meals. Women are still paid $0.77 to a man’s dollar according to the White House findings.
Women are given messages that having their emotions equals weakness.
The pressures for women who are working mothers are literally never ending. Stay at home mothers are quite often undervalued and misunderstood; while they never getting to clock out and rest. The single mother does not stand a chance.
The women who say they are married to their career are many times completely immersed in the “man’s world.”
What are women to do then if anxiety is not a curable illness or an illness at all? What are women to do if they want to live an anxiety-free life?
They must work to find practical, reality-based ways to address their anxiety and eliminate anxiety. This quite often means not only changes in daily life behaviors, but, also, addressing deeper causes of anxiety. Harvard Medical School found that people who utilized counseling and therapy were 40% more successful at reducing anxiety then simply being in relaxation groups and much higher than doing nothing at all.
Groups and workshops are meaningful places to find compassion, support, understanding, and empathy. Women need tools and skills to recognize and eliminate causes of anxiety. Women also need to have a life of their own outside of their roles.
With the numerous demands being made on women, a woman needs hobbies and passionate endeavors, social time, and quiet time without any demands.
Susan, age 38, is married with two children and was employed at a local company. She was on medication for anxiety and depression. She didn’t feel she was a good wife or mother. She felt estranged from her husband and in undue conflict with her children. She had the beginnings of an ulcer and many physical maladies.
Sometimes, she thought she was going crazy. She felt isolated and alone in her problems and issues. She had given up hope things would ever substantially improve. Susan attended a workshop that a friend recommended that led to her joining an ongoing group to address her issues.
After several months, Susan was off medication completely. She understood the origins, causes and multiple factors in what kept her anxious then depressed then anxious in a vicious cycle. She felt she was able to relate to her husband and children in a more productive, meaningful way. She started to do more things for herself that made life more enjoyable.
Anxiety, stress, and worry do not have to be a constant. There is concrete help.
Vanessa Jankowski is a clinical social worker in private practice at the Center for Change and Healing, 1755 Park St., Suite 200, Naperville. She offers groups for women seeking to eliminate anxiety from their lives at the United Methodist Church in Channahon. Contact her at ChangeandHealing.com or 630-712-6042.