By Dr. Rachel Goldman
Being a woman carries a lot of inherent pressure. Not only do we feel obligated to fill many different roles on a daily basis, but the added pressure that is put on us culturally and socially can sometimes be too much. This is why it is important that we are mindful that we are not adding extra pressure on ourselves, when there is already so much pressure others are placing on us. So how should we think about navigating each day with our own views and values, and how do we know when it gets to be too much to bear?
As I often say, stress happens, but what most people don’t realize is that there is good stress, and bad stress. Good stress is called eustress. This type of stress is short-term and motivates us. It’s the excitement leading up to the first day at a new job, going on a first date, or even preparing for a presentation. This stress motivates us to prepare a little more which then helps us improve our performance and feel more confident. Some stress and anxiety can be helpful, but when the stress adds up, and we feel like it is no longer within our coping abilities, we may get overwhelmed and feel stuck. This is the bad stress. Bad stress can be short- or long-term, and doesn’t feel good. We can all probably identify several examples of this type of stress that we are experiencing right now, perhaps relationship problems, finances, and excessive work demands. This type of stress does not motivate us and can actually lead to anxiety, poor concentration, focus, as well as other mental and physical problems. It is perceived as being outside of our coping abilities, and we feel less in control.
One of my favorite quotes is “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another,” by William James. Our thoughts, emotions and behaviors are all linked, so remember that our thoughts CAN impact how we feel and have an impact on our stress level. Two game-changing thoughts that can help you each day are:
1. All situations are neutral, until we interpret them. Think about it, you are stuck in traffic. It’s a fact, but then when you interpret the situation, you now have a thought, which may be “Oh no! I am going to be late to work,” or “I have a few extra minutes to finish this podcast.” Think about how each of those statements make you feel.
2. “Should” statements are unhelpful thinking styles, also called cognitive distortions, these thoughts put unreasonable demands or pressure on ourselves which can make us feel guilty or like we failed. Think about what it feels like if you say “I should work out.” Does that feel good? We can think about making small mental shifts throughout the day. For instance, instead of “I should work out,” you can tweak this statement and say “I choose to work out“ or “I get to work out.” You can see how this small shift in words completely changes the tone and makes a big difference in how you feel.
We can’t change other people, or how society puts extra pressure on women today, but what we can change is how we perceive situations and how we cope with our stressors.