Stress Symptoms in Women and How It Affects Their Health

By Rebalance Health

October 05, 2022

It’s no wonder women are stressed out. Juggling the demands of work, family, finances, relationships, friends, and the daily grind can be downright overwhelming on a good day. Throw in illness, caring for elderly parents, or an unexpected job loss, and you have a recipe for disaster.

The effects of stress on women are far-reaching and can wreak havoc on their physical and psychological well-being. And the quiet impacts of 50% of the population living with these effects can be subtly catastrophic for all of us. So, let’s take a deeper dive into stress symptoms in women, causes of stress, and ways in which women can help manage stress in a positive way.

In Case You Don’t Know, What is Stress?

Stress is your body’s natural response to an event or thought that causes physical, emotional, or psychological tension. Despite the cause, stress usually triggers your body’s fight-or-flight response. The fight-or-flight response is your body’s reaction to a threat that was designed to help you survive life-threatening situations.

The fight-or-flight response was a wonderful survival tool for our ancestors. Survival was much more difficult during caveman times when predators like lions were a threat, and food was scarce.

However, in today’s world, these real threats are mitigated but our fight-or-flight response remains very much intact. Rather than being chased by a lion, your fight-or-flight response may be triggered by something as simple as running late to a meeting or getting the kids dropped off to school.

Unfortunately, your body cannot distinguish between actual life-threatening events and the stress caused by a delay in your commute. During a stress response, certain hormones like cortisol are released. This increases your heart rate, slows digestion, shifts blood flow to major muscle groups, and provides your body with a boost of strength and energy.

When a perceived threat has passed, your body is designed to return to normal by decreasing stress hormones like cortisol. This system works well for short-term stress like slamming on the breaks to prevent a car accident.

So, What is Long Term Stress?

What happens when you can’t catch a break? Like when you’re feeling constantly overwhelmed by work, kids, finances, current events, illness, injuries, etc. Sounds a lot like everyday life, right?

Long term stress is any type of stress that continues for weeks or months at a time. Examples of long term stress may include slogging through a grueling career or trying to work through a challenging relationship. Trauma can perpetuate long term stress when the trauma event is still very present – think school shootings, environmental disasters, financial unpredictability.

Being in a near-constant state of fight-or-flight, and being exposed to near-constant elevated cortisol levels, can take a serious toll on your health and wellbeing.

Stress in Women’s Health

While both men and women share many of the same sources of stress, women’s roles tend to be broader and may encompass caregiving for children and aging parents. 

Additionally, according to a 2020 report from The Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women in the US spend two hours more each day than men doing unpaid work like cleaning, cooking, and taking care of children.

Furthermore, research has found that women are twice as likely to suffer from severe stress and anxiety as men.

Symptoms of Stress in Women

Stress symptoms in women may be physical, emotional, or mental and can range from mild to severe. Signs of stress in women and symptoms of stress in women can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Back pain
  • Skin issues
  • Upset stomach
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Feeling like you have no control
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of focus
  • Trouble with decision making
  • Boredom 

What Can Stress do to a Woman’s Body?

Stress symptoms in women extend far beyond mental health when you consider the link between chronically elevated cortisol levels and chronic disease. Here are some of the ways stress affects a woman’s body:

Hormone Imbalances

Chronic stress can disrupt hormonal balances which can increase cortisol and can lead to menstrual issues and fertility struggles. Research has found that women who experience long-term stress may have more severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms or irregular cycles. 

Furthermore, one 2018 study analyzing the relationship between stress and infertility found that lowering psychological stress for women experiencing infertility was associated with increases in pregnancy rates. 

Gastrointestinal issues

Your gastrointestinal functioning is connected to your brain functioning via the gut-brain axis. When chronic stress is left unchecked it can trigger a variety of digestive problems including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). 

Compromised mental health

Studies continue to find a link between chronic stress and increases in anxiety disorders and major depressive disorders. One older study found that women may feel more elevated symptoms of stress than man which can further increase their risk of depression and anxiety.

Increased risk of heart disease

Chronic stress accompanied by elevated cortisol levels can increase inflammation, raise blood pressure, and place additional tension on the heart. One 2021 study found that the association between psychosocial stress and heart disease may be stronger in women than in men.

Weight gain

Unfortunately, the link between stress and weight gain is stronger for women than for men. Chronic stress can increase your cortisol levels which can lead to overeating and cause your body to store fat, particularly around the midsection.

How to reduce stress

It’s not all doom and gloom. There are ways women can reduce and manage stress in a positive way:

  • Daily exercise: Working out can boost the levels of “feel-good” chemicals in your body which can help combat stress.
  • Adequate sleep: Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
  • Meditation: Reduce stress levels by focusing your mind on a positive or neutral thought.

Consider supplementation

Ashwagandha, is an Ayurvedic herb, that has been used to reduce stress and enhance wellbeing for centuries. A study found that supplementing with Ashwagandha reduced cortisol levels and was associated with a significant reduction of stress in individuals while improving their overall quality of life. 

Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by your body that helps control your sleep cycles. One 2019 study found that melatonin supplementation improved mood, anxiety levels, and quality of life all while decreasing cortisol levels for patients with fibromyalgia.

Both the Hot Flash System and Anxiety System are uniquely designed stress control lozenge containing both Ashwagandha and melatonin to help reduce stress and balance your hormones, leaving you feeling relaxed and ready to tackle the day's challenges with ease.