Stress on the Job: 4 Tips for Working Women

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Emails that arrive day and night, a travel schedule that interferes with family life, the age-old struggle with work-life balance — data from the American Psychological Association show that 65 percent of Americans cite work as a top source of stress. It can happen, even if you usually love your job.

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Women in particular face a unique set of challenges at work due to issues like childcare and interpersonal relationships, explains Johns Hopkins psychologist Jennifer Haythornthwaite, Ph.D. , director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Mind-Body Research .

Stress happens when there’s an imbalance between the demands of a situation and a person’s resources for managing it, says Haythornthwaite.

“Think of the brain as stress central,” she says. It’s responsible for organizing the stress response that happens throughout your body.

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Stress may be a part of life, but it doesn't have to get the best of you. Follow these everyday ways to stay calm, happy and healthy, from a Johns Hopkins expert on managing stress.

The Most Common Sources of Work Stress

Stress produces physical symptoms, and many of its roots can be traced to the workplace. Here are Haythornthwaite’s top sources of on-the-job stress.

  • Work-life balance. American women are spending more hours working than ever before, leaving less time for personal obligations. Meanwhile, they shoulder a large caretaking burden, she notes. “More often than not, women are still the caretakers for children and are involved in elder care,” says Haythornthwaite. “We have caretaker obligations at both ends of the life span.”
  • Relationships. “The inflexibility of work environments is a huge stressor for women,” says Haythornthwaite. For instance, some women might want to telecommute or maintain nontraditional hours to enable them to fulfill personal obligations, but many employers still dislike flexible working arrangements. Other women struggle with pervasive issues, like sexism or discrimination.
  • Technology. Mobile devices, like laptops and smartphones, creep into our personal time. “Some people may leave the office at 6 o’clock, but they’re checking their email in bed,” says Haythornthwaite. Ever-present technology makes it more difficult for already time-strapped women to unplug from work and to have any real downtime.

4 Ways to Cope with Stress 

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