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June 12, 2020

Why Strong Women Have More Anxiety

Your anxiety is not a reflection of your strength and your anxiety is not a deficit in your faith. I put a video out on instagram where I talked about why your anxiety is not a deficit in your faith. I got a a lot of good feedback from women that the video spoke to them. I encourage you to watch it. 

So here’s the thing- we are all experiencing increased level of stress. It’s in the air. Even if you are enjoying your self isolation, even if you are not really affected by COVID-19, the anxious energy is affecting you. And if you are reading this decades in the future it all still applies, because life brings stress.

Stress vs. anxiety

Stress doesn’t have to equal anxiety, but it is definitely the gateway drug for anxiety. So, what’s the difference? Stress is external. It is a bombardment of outside things. Stress is moving, it’s having a baby, it’s losing a job, it’s a global pandemic. It’s happening outside of you. 

Anxiety is internal. When you open the door to stress and say “come on in! Mi casa es su casa”, stress has turned into anxiety. Anxiety is the physical and emotional manifestation of stress.

Managing stress and anxiety

Stress will always be there. I think we should work hard to remove drama from our lives, but it is not productive to try to remove stress. We need to know how to manage stress and manage anxiety when we have let stress in the door. And it’s also not possible to completely rid ourselves of anxiety. The people who seem to have done that are just super good at managing it, so that they are stopping it very early after it’s stuck its foot in the door.

I have a number of clients who judge their own anxiety. They are strong women who feel that if they are strong enough, if their faith is deep enough, if they are smart enough, then they wouldn’t have anxiety. But anxiety is a human condition. If even Jesus experienced anxiety (watch my insta video where I talk about that), then you will too, because you can not escape your humanity until you are dead.

What is a strong woman?

First, let’s just get a working definition of a strong woman. I have begun this definition of what I think a strong woman is. I don’t feel like it’s perfect yet, but it’s a good base for what we’re talking about today.

A strong woman is someone who shares her opinions and speaks her truth-  even when she is afraid. She listens but refuses to accept other problems as her own. She can be leaned on but is nobody’s doormat. She leads well but possesses the wisdom to submit to leadership. She takes calculated risks and makes her failures work for her. She knows when to persevere and when to quit. She prays for wisdom over wealth or power. She is filled with kindness, generosity, faith, compassion, integrity, and a willingness to be vulnerable. No matter what, she is true to herself.

If you are thinking, “but I’m not strong… That definition is not me!” Please know that is an aspirational definition. No one is all of that, all of the time. I am not, nor will I likely ever be on a consistent basis. But that is who I strive to be. And in striving I get closer and more consistent every day.

Why strong women have more anxiety

Strong women (and those striving to be) sometimes have an extra dose of anxiety for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, strong women take on more stress. If you are adept at what you do, if you have grown stronger in an area or multiple areas of your life, you will naturally take on more than a woman who has not, which increases opportunities for anxiety to take hold.

Secondly, strong women are smarter. Why do I say that? Because it takes a level of intelligence to pursue strength. Surviving something is not the same as becoming strong. Becoming strong is a purposeful journey. We have to work through the mind’s natural inclination to acquiesce to life’s burdens. So, strong women are smarter, and guess what? The higher your IQ, the more you are likely to experience anxiety.

It really is true that ignorance is bliss. If you don’t understand all the possible ways that something can go wrong, you are going to be considerably less stressed than someone who is quite aware.

So anxiety is not a weakness, it can actually be a byproduct of strength. Your anxiety is also a not a deficit in your faith, but is a byproduct of allowing stress in the door.

Tools to cope with anxiety

Now we understand the flip side to strength can be anxiety, but the light in this tunnel is that we also have the mental capacity and strength to tackle it just like we do all the other things in our lives.

  1. There’s a great app called Headspace. I have used it and my clients have been raving about it. I highly suggest it for helping to tackle anxiety. 

       2. Worry productively. Part of being a strong woman is having some wisdom. Wisdom sees the big picture. Looking ahead can              cause worry. Looking behind caused depression. When I speak to strong women about staying in the moment, I often get                the push back. “Well, I have to plan. I have to see ahead. I need to plan for what might happen.” And they are right. Yes,                    you do. But we often mislabel worrying for planning. 

            Planning is not the problem. It’s worry. What we often do is come up with all the possible horror story scenarios and we                    never resolve them in our minds, and that causes anxiety. If you are going to plan for all possible outcomes, then you must              also take the time to plan the resolution of those outcomes. If this happens: this will be my plan of action. That is                                productive worrying. 

        3. My next tip is: when you are feeling overwhelmed, you must enlist help. Create a mantra for yourself: ‘done is better than                 perfect, perfect doesn’t exist’. Repeat that please, because good enough can be amazing.

       4.  exercise daily and do progressive muscle relaxation exercises daily. Lay on the bed or couch- you can do it in a chair at                      work if necessary. Identify a muscle group like your arm or leg. Tighten it as tight as you can get it and hold for a 10                            seconds, then release. Do this all over your body once or twice. It helps to relieve tension held in your body.

       5.  Never avoid your fears. this actually grows them. Confront them, while minimize unnecessary triggers like watching the                    news. 

Anxiety can get the best of any of us. Recognize it for what it is, enlist the help of others, and practice tools to take care of yourself. 

You’ve got this!

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