I got to speak at length with Dr. Alicia Kaplan who’s the medical director of the Treatment Center for Adult Anxiety and OCD at Allegheny Health Network. Dr. Kaplan counsels women of all ages and says their stress and anxiety vary based on what stage of life they’re in.
Most younger women, who are in their child raising years, are trying to balance work and family life. While midlife women are experiencing changes in their roles at work, at home and with their bodies.
Dr. Kaplan says the pandemic only made stressful situations more challenging as many women found themselves working from home AND playing the role of teacher for their school age children.
Women have the unique ability to have these different roles at the same time, but sometimes we don’t realize we’re holding ourselves to a perfectionist standard. We feel like we have to do everything right…all the time.
That’s unhealthy (and not realistic!) and so Dr. Kaplan shared some strategies that do work across the board for the women she counsels.
When we’re anxious or stressed, we’re usually having those “what if” thoughts. If our thoughts go to the “what ifs” and we overestimate the probability of something bad happening…it can raise our anxiety and we can feel very tense.
In order to feel better, we need to get a better sense of balance. Dr. Kaplan says to reach out to a friend or a trusted person to talk to. This can help redirect your thoughts or put them in perspective.
You can also “calm the body” and reduce any physical stress you feel (like an upset stomach, heavy breathing, rapid heart beat, muscle tensions, etc…) with something as simple as abdominal breathing. You can also work on slowing down your breath and practice positive imagery.
Positive affirmations and gratitude are a great way to start the day in a positive way and help buffer those stressful or negative thoughts.
If you’re really struggling, it’s helpful to talk to a professional. Dr. Kaplan and her team can be reached at AHN Behavioral Health Associates at 412-330-4000.