The most overwhelming expectation of women is that of being multitaskers. We are expected to manage our personal and professional life with aplomb. It is believed that we can be caregivers and go-getters in equal measure all the time. This outrageous expectation is often gift-wrapped as a compliment to make us feel happy. Then why are many of us so unhappy under the burden?
The answer lies in chronic, hidden stress. When the ability to multitask becomes an expectation, when we no longer feel driven as much as we feel overwhelmed, it is time to take a step back. Not doing so can quickly take a toll on our mental health and cause chronic anxiety, which in the Indian context is often accepted as the norm, but leads to several, severe issues in the long run. Instead, sometimes all it takes to relax is a cup of coffee or the company of a friend.
We hope that this list of stress-busting techniques for women helps you pause, consider what matters most to you, and unapologetically implement it. Each of these ideas have a quick-fix technique and long-term solutions as well:
Take a day off
When was the last time you took the day off for no particular reason? There’s a famous Grey’s Anatomy quote that goes, “You’re not killing anyone by taking the day off, so just go.” The pressure is endless, there will always be that bill that needs to be paid, the colleague who needs management, and so on. By virtue of our ability to take on so much, we often don’t see this as too much to handle, but it really is. To make this idea more sustainable over time, try taking at least half a day off every month to relax and pamper yourself.
Talk to a friend
When anxiety and stress are clouding, call a friend. It may be worth letting them know that this is an emergency and that you need someone to hear you out. Over time, you can also build and nurture your close group of friends by scheduling activities with them so everyone can decompress a bit. Having a strong community to lean on can make a huge difference when there are uncountable errands to run in very little time.
Form a habit for your mental health
If there is a benefit of the patriarchal conditioning we receive, it is that we are much more in sync with our emotions. That’s why you could benefit immensely from habits that nurture your energy. Some examples are journaling and meditation. Both are great ways to observe all you are feeling and to subconsciously come up with ways to deal with it. While one evening or meditation/journaling does bring relief, the key is to do it consistently, however small or insignificant it may seem at first.
Look for medical/biological reasons
A woman’s body is very dynamic and changing with every cycle. While often ignored or brushed aside, premenstrual syndrome is an issue that many women grapple with silently for fear of being considered ‘hormonal’. However, it is a medical issue that needs attention and support. It helps to know that some women experience PMS as severe anxiety or mood swings, which sometimes last well until the beginning of menstruation. If you notice a pattern when you feel stressed out, consider if PMS may be the cause, and seek medical care accordingly.
Recognise that you are only human
This is actually a mindset shift, we need to change how we are wired. Recognising that we are not invincible superheroes and are just flesh and blood can help deal with everyday stressors effectively. We are not responsible for everything and everyone, and there is only so much we can do. As a tip, consider starting the day or the week with a list of tasks on all fronts, and try not to add to them as the week goes by. It’s okay to say ‘no’ to someone else in order to say yes to yourself!
Pick up a hobby
What’s great about hobbies is that they don’t demand commitment. We can indulge and let go based solely on how we’re feeling at the moment. If there’s something you’ve wanted to try, taking it up can allow you some much-needed space and help clear your mind. Most people also swear by an exercise class to help take their mind off of things. As a woman, it is probably an everyday experience to wake up thinking about ten different things that need looking into. Something engaging can help distract you and relieve stress.
If you are experiencing severe stress that manifests as chronic anxiety, a debilitating feeling, or even a panic attack, do not hesitate to seek professional help or talk to a trusted friend to plan the next steps. Women’s health issues do not begin and end at the OB/GYN, and it is okay to recognise what we need and seek the help that is just right for us.
We all need to remember that it is not normal to experience anxiety and stress at all times, and it isn’t just how a woman should live her life because society has accepted it as the norm. It is okay to draw your boundaries and be assertive about guarding them.
(Edited by Neha Baid)