Women are spending the equivalent of almost an entire month of the year worrying – and more than half said it is having an impact on their health
Researchers found women spend an average of almost two hours a day feeling worried or stressed, with two-thirds of this time spent feeling anxious about other people rather than themselves.
In comparison, men spend just an hour-and-a-half worrying, with almost one in 10 admitting none of that is spent thinking of others.
And 64 per cent of women have periods of time where they feel constantly worried, with what’s going on in the world at the moment – including the pandemic, protests and fears about the economy – the biggest concern.
But the health of loved ones, their family’s safety and needing to care for older parents is also causing them to feel stressed.
The study, of 2,000 adults also found women are around twice as likely to worry about their children or grandchildren’s diets, health, education and future than men.
Worryingly, 57 per cent of those polled, by supplement brand Healthspan, admitted this leads to them neglecting their own health over fears about how it would affect their family.
And a staggering 72 per cent of women have dismissed worrying health symptoms, simply putting them down to stress or tiredness instead.
Chartered psychologist Dr Meg Arroll, on behalf of Healthspan, said: “Because women’s stress response is all about the ‘tend-and-befriend’, rather than the classic fight-or-flight, women will quite naturally worry about their loved ones.
“Women’s role in our species’ survival is to take care of others, so when there’s constant disturbing news headlines, competing caring responsibilities or concerns over putting food on the table, it’s not surprising that stress levels skyrocket.
“Managing all these competing demands often results in high levels of stress which exhibits itself in behaviours such as comfort eating, poor sleep and anxiety.
“This is why self-care is so very important – Remember the old adage “put your oxygen mask on first before helping others.
“This can be achieved by managing stress through techniques such as relaxation exercises and spending time in nature, eating well and adhering to a regular sleep routine.
“There’s growing evidence that products which include CBD (cannabidiol) oil may help to tackle anxiety-related disorders, which impact our ability to fall and stay asleep.
“In addition, self-care treats like bath salts which include magnesium can boost levels of this depleted mineral during stressful times, plus various non-habit-forming sleep aids such as Valerian and 5HTP should be considered when dealing with poor sleep.”
The study also found that 47 per cent of women feel constantly overwhelmed, with almost a third turning to comfort eating to cope with their worries.
But with 37 per cent of women worried about putting on weight, compared to only 18 per cent of men, this leads to a vicious cycle of feeling stressed, comfort eating and then being anxious about that weight gain.
One in four women have even suffered a panic attack as a result of the stress they are under and 13 per cent have experienced chest pains.
Almost 14 per cent of women polled, via OnePoll, feel they have developed a health complaint as a result of increased stress levels, while another 19 per cent think it has made an existing issue worse.
Not getting enough sleep was also a concern for two-fifths of women.
Dr Sarah Brewer, Healthspan Medical Director said: “We know from research that stress depletes the body of vital nutrients used up during stress responses, including vitamin D.
“Between 30-40 per cent of the UK population have been shown to be deficient in Vitamin D and, as well as reducing immunity, this may also have an adverse effect on sleep.
“Analysis of nine studies, involving 9,397 people, found that those with vitamin D deficiency had a 50 per cent increased risk of sleep disorders, with poor sleep quality, short sleep duration and sleepiness.
“Sleep is a key copying strategy and without enough sleep people may experience low mood, lethargy, less resilience and more stress.
“When people with low levels of vitamin D in their blood were given vitamin D supplements, they fell asleep more quickly, slept for longer, and experienced less chronic pain, for example.
“Other vitamins and minerals which are believed to be important for sleep are B group vitamins, magnesium and calcium.
“Diet should always come first but it may be worth considering a supplement and Public Health England recommends everyone takes a vitamin D supplement and advice is to take Vitamin D3 such as the Healthspan Vitamin D3 10ug once a day during the summer months.”
Top 40 things women worry about
1. What’s going on in the world at the moment
2. Not getting enough sleep
3. Financial worries
4. Putting on weight
5. A relative or friend’s bad health
6. Getting older
7. Family safety
8. Your appearance
9. Being late or running out of time to do something
10. Work/too much/ not done something
11. Whether what I’m doing is good enough
12. Remembering everything you need to do
13. My lack of motivation
14. My own bad health
15. Growing old alone
16. Trying to get through a to-do list
17. Parents ageing and needing care/caring for parents
18. Children/grandchildren staying healthy
19. Children’s/grandchildren’s future
20. Whether or not people like you
21. Your job security
22. Wondering whether you exercise enough
23. The environment
24. Dental problems
25. A heavy workload
26. Job prospects
27. Being in debt
28. Troubles/ arguments with a partner
29. Wondering whether you eat healthily enough
30. My relationship
31. My friendships
32. Having to learn new skills that are out of my comfort zone
33. Wondering if your children/ grandchildren are eating the right foods and doing enough exercise
34. Children/grandchildren getting a good education
35. Computer problems
36. A bill landing on your doormat
37. Your partner’s job security
38. Moving house
39. Your pension plan
40. Having no WiFi/phone signal
Here are some more tips, with a focus on worrying about others but not specifically for women so can be used across the board.
- Create ‘good enough’ reminders – we have a lot on our plate, it can feel like everything we do is below par. This leads to a cycle of worry so set yourself reminders that you are good enough. You can use this phrase as a password (e.g. Iam@goodenough!), smartphone or tablet background or an old fashioned post-it note on your bathroom mirror. This will help you to give yourself a break, increasing self-compassion and reducing damaging perfectionism.
- Fix your location device – when we worry, particularly about others, we tend to focus on events from the past which we’d rather hadn’t occurred, or what might happen in the future. This type of thinking causes a great deal of worry as we cannot change the past or control the future – we can only act in the present. To fix yourself in the here and now, ‘update’ your internal location device by noting down where your worries are situated – past, present and future – then focus your problem-solving skills on what can be achieved in the present.
- Set yourself worry-work – “But I don’t need yet another thing to do!!!” might be your initial reaction – but telling someone simply not to worry is about as useful as a chocolate teapot, so instead schedule time for worry work. Set a timer for 15 minutes and during this time, worry your socks off! This will allow you to remove that background worry noise so that you can concentrate on daily tasks with less interruption from intrusive thoughts.
Nip your worries in the bud: Try and deal with each worry head-on – don’t let them dominate every day, week and month.
Tools to quieten a racing brain. The government-backed Escape Your Anxiety programme (www.good-thinking.uk) offers a whole range of tools and resources to help you manage stress and worry including a range of relaxation and mindfulness apps. Or try the new mindfulness toolkit from ThinkWell-LiveWell (www.thinkwell-livewell.com) which includes a Quick Stress Buster 5 Minute to relax and centre you.
Poetry. It might sound a bit left-field but increasingly poetry is being seen as an untapped resource for improved emotional well-being. Finding a poem that echoes similar feelings and sentiments to our own can help us to feel less alone with our feelings and fears. Take new Monster-proof poetry (Eyewear Publishing, £10.99) by motivational speaker and success coach Judymay Murphy, for example, described as ‘self-help in verse’. One of her poems – ‘A Dream Is a Very Long Piece of String’, for instance – is for anyone who’s worried that they’ve left it too late to accomplish their dreams. Spoiler: you haven’t!
Try CBD oil. THE supplement success story of the last few years, many people successfully use CBD oil as an antidote to stress and worry and there is evidence to suggest it improves the quality and duration of sleep. Kim Kardashian has recently credited its relaxing benefits as ‘saving her life’. A 2015 review concluded it could potentially help ‘prevent the long-term effects of stress, as well as…blocking persistent fear memories’. Try Healthspan’s High Strength CBD Oil, £18.99 – taking one to eight drops up to three times daily (www.healthspan.co.uk) and new sleep CBD product.
Know your vitamins – Our skin needs to come in to contact with sunlight to make vitamin D. “It is suggested that lower levels of D3 reduce the brain’s production of serotonin, which lowers mood. Plus, to help beat low mood it’s important to ensure that your body has sufficient B vitamins (found in quinoa, brown rice and other cereals) and iron (good sources include dark green leafy veg and lean red meats). For a more luxurious foodie treat, try some dark chocolate. It increases brain levels of several chemicals, including mood-lifting PEA (phenylethylamine. Chocolate also contains tryptophan – a chemical converted to serotonin in the brain to lift mood.” Chocolate is also virtually unique in that it melts in the mouth at body temperature, producing a silky, luscious sensation that adds to its appeal and, according to psychologists, is one of the main reasons why chocolate proves. Dubbed ‘nature’s original chill pill’ this mineral is vital for many processes in the body but stress can hammer your stores of it
Your body’s ability to metabolise magnesium can also decrease with age and typically we only absorb around half the magnesium present in food sources. Find it in cashew nuts, Brazil nuts, seeds, dried fruit, fish (particularly halibut), dark leafy green vegetables and pulses or take it in supplement form. Adding muscle-relaxing magnesium flakes (Healthspan Bath Flakes) to your bath can also help.
Write them down – It often helps to write down worries. First, try and break them down into parts, ranking the worry in order of importance. Work out a solution for each task and when to complete it. Plan a reward for achieving each goal.
Giving and doing things for others – Altruistic behaviour releases endorphins in the brain and boosts happiness for us as well as the people we help so giving is good for you
Stop work early: if you work in the evening and give yourself at least ½ an hour of unwind time and avoid watching programmes which may make you worry more.
Exercise for half an hour each day – “In addition to its physical benefits, exercise has a number of important psychological benefits including improved mood, reduced anxiety and increased self-confidence” explains sports scientist Professor Greg Whyte. Good options to boost mood include dancing, swimming, step classes or cycling. They also release mood-enhancing brain chemicals, such as dopamine and serotonin, which help to keep you happy and content
Practice meditation / be mindful – Research has shown that the ancient tradition of meditation can have a big impact on our minds and bodies. Meditation can help reduce stress, help our ability to focus and boosts our memory and alertness. Practicing meditation also helps us get in touch with our feelings and increase our levels of happiness and optimism. Try http://www.getsomeheadspace.com try it out for free for ten days with free 10-minute meditations
A stomach soother. A churning stomach and conditions like indigestion and heartburn are often a side effect of stress and worrying. Stomach-soothing teas like ginger and peppermint can both help but if you regularly suffer from uncomfortable stress-related bloating, indigestion, acid reflux and heartburn try Healthspan Gastri-Soothe (24 x 10ml sachets £12.95), a triple-action formula which helps to fight acid reflux, neutralises acidity and protects the gastric lining.
A gravity blanket. A product that appears to have taken the internet by storm, this is a weighted blanket that could potentially lighten your worry load. The theory is it mimics the feeling of being hugged and cuddled – making you feel calmer when cocooned beneath it. It is thought to increase the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin that decrease anxiety and stress. One small study from 2015 also suggests it leads to improved sleep. Available from gravityblankets.co.uk, from around £149 or from Amazon.
Rhodiola rosea. This traditional herbal remedy can help to reduce anxiety while enhancing alertness, concentration, memory, stamina and sleep quality. Try Vitano Rhodiola tablets, £9.99.
Finally, do seek professional help: Do not be afraid to seek professional advice if you feel you are unable to cope with your worries.