By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Women are more stressed out than men in today’s 24-hour society. Against this background, well-known former Business Woman of the Year 2002, Dr Christina Swart-Opperman, delivered her presentation on “How to Manage Your Stress” at a local resort in Windhoek recently. It turns out that modern society is putting more pressure on women than on men, ultimately resulting in the female population feeling the burden of stress and even burn-out at the end of the day. Although stress may be caused by many different factors in life, it is an inevitability in a 24-hour society. Nowadays where levels of stress are so hyped up due to numerous changing challenges in life, Dr Swart-Opperman says, people should strive towards living a more stress-free life. “Eighty percent of stress starts in our minds, and did you know that every time you drink a cup of coffee, which contains caffeine, you experience a fight and flight reaction in your body, which is stress,” she explained further when addressing a group of women in various leadership positions. With the double role of being a mother, a housewife and a working mother, the pressure on the female population is greater and is thus more prone to stress. “Men go home after work to relax, but women have to go into the second part of their work concerning household duties. The second shift of their work now starts at home. Therefore, twice as many women see the doctor for stress,” Dr Swart-Opperman pointed out. It is therefore not surprising that one in four full-time mothers are stressed out every day. Furthermore, the continuous state of being busy can harm one’s emotional, social, mental and physical state. In worst-case scenarios, there can be “burn out, anxiety, depression and coronary heart disease” which is said to be on the rise in the female population. Other behavioural problems of stress are that one becomes easily irritated, you lose your sense of humour, experience difficulty in concentrating, crave spicy foods and chocolates which is bad for one’s health, constantly feel exhausted while efficiency levels drop and you suffer from frequent spells of cold and flu. “Limit alcohol, coffee, tobacco and sugar – all these heighten stress.” Some of the contributing factors of stress, especially in women, centre around workload, sexual harassment at the workplace, work-family conflicts, perpetual ‘busyness’, and even in today’s modern society women still earn less than men in both the public and private sectors. “You are constantly on the go, and you never take time out to replenish yourself,” said Dr Swart-Opperman, adding that steps must be taken to give vent to this build-up of stress in one’s life. One of the ways, she advises, is to rather stop focusing on things in life, which are urgent and immediate, but rather on those that are important. “We allow the urgent things to override the important things,” and that is where time-management and prioritizing one’s activities come into play. Sixty to eighty percent of one’s time should be spent on important things. Furthermore, time for relaxation is crucial, as are a balanced diet, exercise and spiritual upliftment, amongst others. Since most of the stress comes from the way we think of ourselves, the concept of ‘positive self-talk’and ‘self-care’ is vital. Thus, the key to avoiding stress is to live a healthy lifestyle in all aspects of one’s life. The latest presentation by Dr Swart-Opperman was part of the Economist Business Women Club which creates opportunities to encourage the personal development and management skills of its members.
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