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Women's Stress

Stress is caused by the mental and physical response you have to overwhelming demands. Demands can be both positive, such as a qualifying for the Olympics, or negative, such as an injury. The response can be positive and productive, such as eating healthier, or negative and destructive, such as not sleeping. There can often be a fine line between the productive and destructive effects of stress. This line is different for everyone, just as stress and the effects of stress are different for everyone. The mind interprets events to define them as stressful, and each woman is unique in her experiences and interpretations.

Productive Stress
In a positive sense, stress can make you alert, motivated, and productive. To this end, stress can be beneficial. It inspires you to meet the challenge of the task at hand. You push yourself and learn how to best handle the situation so it will be less stressful in the future. Some women "thrive" on stress, appreciating the motivation it provides.

Stress is common to women. Because women are capable of doing many things at once, they are more susceptible to the stresses of all the activities they take on. Women are social organizers, mediators, planners, mothers, wives, spouses, girlfriends, daughters, friends, athletes, teammates, managers, employees, cleaning ladies, cooks, partners, athletes, and therapists. Positive stress can lead to a full, very active life that keeps you young in spirit and in health. Athletic girls in organized sports have a full schedule as they go from school to athletic activity, and learn to balance school, fitness, friendships, and family. These girls grow into women who regularly exercise and who have the ability to manage their busy lives with multiple responsibilities, squeezing the most out of every day.

Some people need both physical and mental stress to be productive; some athletes need stress to stay at the top of their game. Their rewards are good health, personal satisfaction, and positive acknowledgment or compensation. Some athletes compete at high levels with the reward of enjoyment. Regardless, the stress must be worth it, otherwise the athlete will lose her edge, competitiveness, and desire.

Commonly Identified Positive Causes of Stress

  • Being involved in multiple activities
  • Qualifying for elite competition
  • Starting a new sport or job
  • Moving up a position or ranking
  • New relationship/marriage/living arrangement
  • Moving or going away to college
  • Joining a new team
  • A new contract or scholarship
  • Being responsible for others
  • Hormone fluctuations
Negative Stress
At high levels or for long periods of time, stress can be dangerous. Not only can it cause crying, anger, or inability to get work done, it can also cause physical illness or problems. Sometimes it can lead to negative coping behaviors, which lead to even more problems and a vicious cycle of never-ending stress. These negative coping behaviors include eating too little or too much, eating unhealthy foods, sleeping too much or too little, skipping work or practice, smoking, drinking, taking drugs, or taking too many prescribed medications. Even if you are not conscientiously engaging in negative coping behaviors, your body might be doing it for you. Signs of this are frequent colds, cold sores, canker sores, appetite and weight changes, heart disease, heart attacks, and even cancer. Too much stress can also lead to injuries or accidents, as it can cause you to be distracted from the task at hand.

Commonly Identified Negative Causes of Stress

  • Death of a loved one or friend
  • End of a relationship
  • A move, change of schools, or change of jobs
  • Money problems
  • Loss of position, standing, or ranking
  • Physical, sexual, or verbal abuse
  • Overwhelming pressure from coaches, peers, employers, or family
  • An accident or injury


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From The Active Woman's Health and Fitness Handbook by Nadya Swedan. Copyright © 2003 by Nadya Swedan. Used by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon.


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