Why Stress Is Killing Women In India And What To Do About It

Hopelessly tired, mental fatigue after a long day of meetings, a 3-minute lunch break, ten cups of coffee, endlessly checking your cell phone to see if your child has called after getting back home from school, thinking about the weekend where you will play host to ten relatives, barely being able to hug your husband when you get back home at 11 pm – does any or all of it sound familiar?

dreamstime_18884743Chances are, you will relate to at least some of it as an Indian woman. Global research firm Nielsen conducted a survey that included 6500 women from developed and developing countries such as Sweden, the US, France, Mexico, Malaysia, Nigeria, India and Russia.

The result – 87% of the respondents from India said they felt stressed most of the time, and 82% said they didn’t have time to relax. Women in Mexico (74%) and Russia (69%) come in 2nd and 3rd respectively in the stress race.

Women have always been known to be multi-tasking goddesses. But the flip side to this is the high levels of stress it is resulting in today.

There are definitely more opportunities for women in India today. But somehow, the expectations of what a woman needs to do at home and her support system haven’t really helped her embrace these opportunities without falling prey to stress.

The changes in social outlook and ideas that talk about equal opportunities for women have not yet been completely able to wash over the age old notions about decision making at home, and who does the chores.

Indian women do have the facilities to appoint a domestic help to clean, or a cook or driver, but in reality this doesn’t help with removing stress from their lives. This is thanks to the fact that expectations from an Indian woman keep rising with all these added benefits.

Workplace benefits like working from home and flexi-hours have been great in helping women look after their kids, and sometimes an ailing parent or spouse. But with these benefits too, come some cons.

A 32 year old IT professional says, “When I work from home, I’m constantly worried about finishing my work fast and then do my grocery shopping, buy medicines for my father-in-law, take my son out to the park, and a million other things.”

Women are expected to adhere to deadlines constantly, at home and at the workplace. The same IT professional says “By the time it’s 11 pm and I’ve finished dinner, I feel so exhausted, all I can do is sleep. But I realize I need to iron my son’s uniform, and I’m nearly in tears.”

One cannot forget the very important phase of childbirth itself that a woman goes through. There are additional parameters like buying a home, a second car, a child’s education costs, and several others that a woman contributes to today.

When not complemented with a sound support system, stress and its side effects become a chronic pain in her life. Conditions like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), Premenstrual Syndrome, and even miscarriages are linked to high levels of stress.

The results of the survey, however, have ramifications for not just a woman and her family, but for the growth of India socially and economically. For the burden of stress on Indian women to come down even a little, age old attitudes towards them need to be changed.

Five Tips For Indian Women To Reduce Stress

1. Stop Multi-Tasking

There is increasing evidence that multi-tasking is not only a most inefficient way to conduct our lives, but also dangerous to in many ways. In July 2006, UCLA published a study showing that “Multi-tasking adversely affects how you learn.” Stanford researchers say even trying to multitask may impair your cognitive control. Numerous studies have shown the sometimes-fatal danger of using cell phones and other electronic devices while driving.

In our lives, we function best when we give complete attention to one task before going on to the next. The book, The 4-Hour Workweek, by best-selling business advice author, Timothy Ferriss, extol the virtues of “single-tasking”. The practice of mindfulness or “single-focus” by followers of Buddhism has shown to benefit the brain in many ways. Be where you are, otherwise you will miss your life, said Buddha.

2. Don’t Be Superwoman

Don’t expect yourself to be super woman all the time. This is not only a very egoistic way to be, it also says something about your need to control everything in your life. Smart women learn to delegate various aspects of their lives and even to train their Indian husbands to take over some tasks (yes, it can be done).

3. Ask For Help

Don’t expect to be able to handle all your emotional stresses alone. Build a support structure to help you deal with it. Talk to your spouse or your girlfriends. If your stress levels are getting too high, talk to a counselor to deal with your life issues. Recurrent stresses usually have an underlying cause which needs to be treated at the root level.

4. Learn to Say “No”

A lot of our problems come from taking on too much responsibility, for our husbands, our in-laws and even sometimes extended family. Learn to say No when it is really not your responsibility. You are not responsible for anyone but your kids and, to some extent, your husband.

Stop being a people-pleaser and give up the pressure of wanting everyone to like you. Click To Tweet If someone is asking you to do something you know will regret taking on, learn to say No in a way they will be able to take.

5. Practice The Art of Self-Care

You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection, said Buddha. When you do so much for others, surely you can take some time and do something for yourself. Take an exercise, yoga or meditation class. Go for a massage or spa treatment.

Allow someone else to pamper you for some time. Even if it seems selfish, it is not. If you are tank is running on empty, you are not doing anyone a favour. Only when you learn to fill yourself up from within will you have something to offer others.

© Priya Florence Shah

Priya Florence Shah is the author of “From Doormat to Devi: 10 Steps To Stop Overfunctioning In Relationships And Take Your Life Back.” 

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