Monday, January 1, 0001

All is not equal in love and war – or when it comes to the effects of stress on men and women. Several recent studies have come to the same conclusion; that at work, at home and everywhere in between, women are feeling the effects of stress more than men.

A new survey by the American Psychological Association, conducted in January and released on March 5th, found that "one-third of employees experience chronic work-related related stress” and that stress is especially acute in women.

“According to the survey, women are more likely to feel tense during work and are less likely to feel there are enough opportunities for internal career advancement, with 43% of men saying they see opportunities for them to advance their careers and only 35% of women saying the same. Also, only 48% of women, versus 54% of men, report feeling valued by their employers,” says Robyn Farrell, managing director of 1st for Women Insurance.

In South Africa, home to the seventh most stressed women in the world, no less than 64% of women report feeling stressed every single day. Global research by Accenture also found that more than 50% of women executives across South Africa’s business community are dissatisfied with their jobs and plan to leave their current employers. Reasons cited for dissatisfaction include no opportunities for growth (36%), feeling underpaid (36%) and no opportunities for advancement (32%).

Farrell says: “You have to be a tough cookie to thrive in South Africa where crime, political issues, gender discrimination and inequality, racial tensions, violence against women, and economic factors are prevalent. It’s only natural to feel stressed sometimes, if not most of the time, against this backdrop and while trying to keep work and home life in balance.

“Women in South Africa appear to share a great sense of dissatisfaction and this unhappiness is evidently a contributing factor to their high stress levels. In small doses, stress is a good thing. It can energise and motivate you to deal with challenges. But, we all know that sustained, unrelenting stress can seriously affect your professional and personal relationships, your livelihood, and your health,” says Farrell.

Experts agree that the first step in coping with stress is identifying stress triggers. Some causes of stress are obvious, such as financial problems. However, small, daily hassles such as being stuck in the traffic for two hours every morning can contribute significantly to feeling stressed. In fact, over time small stressors can raise stress levels higher, and do more damage, than a sudden stressful event does.

Farrell says that women need to pinpoint what triggers their stress, recognise the signs and symptoms of stress, and find ways to manage it before it starts to negatively affect their wellbeing and productivity.

She offers these tips for coping with stress:

  • Talk to people and stop internalising your stress - Speak to a friend, colleague or family member that you can trust about your feelings of stress and unhappiness.
  • Speak to a professional – Consult a doctor, counselor or psychologist if necessary.
  • Take care of yourself - Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, and exercise on a regular basis.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Don’t overdo it and leave work at work – leave work at close of play, switch off your cellphone and don’t respond to emails after hours or on weekends.
  • Socialise with friends regularly – arrange a dinner with friends and get out on a regular basis to avoid getting stuck into work rut.
  • Take control – Find solutions to your problems and try to eliminate stress triggers if you can.

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