Women are 11 percent more stressed and 16 percent more anxious than men, according to a recent study from Lantern, a company that uses clinical research to create web programs.
But such findings may not be all that surprising. A 2010 report from the American Psychological Association found that nearly 50 percent of women surveyed said their stress levels had increased over the past five years. Only 39 percent of men reported feeling more stressed.
So why the large discrepancy?
In an interview with Fox News, family psychologist Amy Shoffner noted that the difference between the stress levels of men and women isn’t necessarily the stressor itself, but the way men and women approach it.
“Women want to move into the stressor, they want to sit with the stressor, they want to weigh in on the stressor, they want to try and problem-solve the stressor,” said Shoffner. “And when they spend that much time attached to the stressor, you can imagine what that does to their bodies.”
Conversely, men exhibit a “fight or flight” mentality when stress threatens.
“Men either go in for the kill and overcome the stressor,” said Shoffner, “or they flee from it and try to avoid it.”
While men generally have a shorter memory and are more likely to move on from stress quickly, women are prone to hold on to perfectionist thoughts, listen to the critical inner-voice, and let the fear of falling short fester within.
“Women are very unforgiving of themselves when something happens,” said Shoffner. “For example, if I forget to send my child to school with lunch, I may activate an inner critic that says, ‘You’re such a bad mom.’ ”
While life isn’t likely to lose its busy pace, Shoffner shared four healthy stress management tips that can ease the tension:
Challenge your internal dialogue
Take time each day to listen to and understand what your inner self is saying. Learn to recognize the moments when your inner voice becomes degrading.
“Try and reframe your thoughts and have more positive self-talk,” said Shoffner.
Take time for yourself
Take time every day to do something that helps you recharge. According to Shoffner, this could mean taking time for meditation or even 30 minutes of watching a favorite television show.
“The more you practice self-soothing or self-care, the less likely you are to turn to addictive patterns such as overeating,” Shoffner said.
This doesn’t mean you have to join a gym or bike a mountain. Activities as simple as walking for 20 minutes a day can stimulate your brain and help manage stress levels.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Regular exercise can increase self-confidence and lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety.”
This might be the most important tip of all, according to Shoffner. With schools, soccer teams or church groups clamoring for a mother’s attention, women need to learn when to say no.“It’s important to learn to recognize when your cup is too full,” said Shoffner. “Then, when your inner critic kicks in, you can say, ‘No, I’m still a fabulous mother even if I couldn’t go on that field trip.’ ”