A survey of over 26,000 Australian professionals shows that over a quarter of women experience chronic stress symptoms as opposed to less than an eighth of men.
The study by Springfox, a workforce trainer in resilience, also shows women are more susceptible to feeling distressed, vulnerable and withdrawn at work, despite scoring higher on EQ factors than their male counterparts.
Springfox’s Chief Knowledge Officer, Peta Sigley, says this is due, in part, to the unique challenges that women face, particularly when they are the primary caregiver in the family, and also in the workforce. The fact that 82% of Australia’s single parent families are headed by women is relevant, as is the fact that, according to Sigley, an inadequate number of workplace measures address the needs of this group.
“Women give so much time away that there is little time for themselves, and if they do take time for themselves they feel guilty because they are pulling away from the people they want to provide for,” Sigley explains.
Despite knowing that stress among women has risen steadily for the past six years Sigley admits to being surprised at the gap the study highlights.
“I didn’t appreciate the difference between men and women in this realm,” Sigley says. “The profile for a resilient woman hinges on thing factors including the quality of sleep, nutrition, relaxation. Women suffer here because of the demands on their time at work and at home.”
Modern family structures no longer mirror the nuclear family which inhibits the ability for women to master stress at work.
“What we see in this reporting is there is a higher level of numbing for want of a better word. Women get home with the best of intentions with nothing in the tank to invest in themselves and disproportionately do more overeating, overdrinking and overmedicating and sit in front of a device. The idea of recovery through Instagram or Facebook with a glass of wine feels good temporarily but isn’t the fuel we need for the body and mind.”
The good news is Sigley says the solution is not creating a stress-free environment, but rather, integrating practices that build resilience and master stress into your days. Sigley recommends three techniques for combatting this.
Be aware of what you are doing
“Tie strategies to habits. People are cognitively smart enough to know what we need to do and why. Monotasking is particularly important because the concept of multi-tasking is a fallacy. We hit strained performance when we try to do too many things. Working in finite blocks of time is a really good for getting through complicated work.”
Delete, prioritise and delegate
Start each working day with a clear idea of what needs to be achieved and stick to it.
“Ask yourself ‘What are the 4 things I need to get through today?’ As women we tend to have multiples lists for multiples parts of our lives – work, family, social. Keep your work priorities in mind and reassess throughout the day with a view to finishing, being able to say ‘Tick, tick, tick’.”
Master the transition between work and home
“Allow your thinking brain to unhook at night and give yourself an opportunity to reconnect at home with the people you live with. The way you transition between environments really matters.”
Before you walk through the door at home, Sigley recommends consciously letting go of your working day.
“Even if you know you might need to reconnect later in the evening if that is necessary, make an effort to be fully present when you arrive home. Be mindful of not getting caught up in distractions, worry and stress. Take a moment to choose your emotions and mindset.”
Take some time to be aware of what you are feeling and why. Sigley recommends asking yourself these questions:
What are my emotions?
What is my thinking?
Is it working well?
What is my motivation?