Stress in the Lives of Working Women

According to "The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything," released yesterday by the Center for American Progress, 75% of Americans report experiencing stress in their daily lives.

I see the impact of stress everyday in my medical practice in the emergency room: Headaches, chest pain, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, diabetes. Even the likelihood of acquiring influenza is greater if your immune system is suppressed due to chronic stress!

High achieving women who break through the proverbial 'glass ceiling' often end up in my ER on what I call the 'glass gurney' - the bed in the ER that you don't even know exists until you find yourself in a gown flat on your back. It happens in a flash. And guess what, suddenly all the things that only you can do; picking up the kids, stopping by your mom's, taking a meeting with a potential new client, negotiating a better price for a deal— all that comes to an abrupt halt! The call of the glass gurney awaits just about anyone—but particularly working women who are doing it all for everyone.

Unfortunately, it happens all to often. It's a knowing look. An instantaneous acknowledgement—the eye contact when I walk into a patient's room, a woman (Sharon) in her 40s or 50s. The first visit to the ER with chest pain. "I know I have to take better care of myself Doc." Self blame and guilt are often so common.

The truth is there always is and will be personal accountability. However, the Shriver Report is asking us as a nation to shift our thinking. For all the Sharon's in our nation, earning 77cents on the dollar compared with the man in the office next to her. The Sharon's who juggle to pick up the kids, shop and stop by to see droop off a package at Grandma's.

I believe a critical part of the remedy for stress in the lives of working women is more about how a gendered society must shift to reap the full benefits of the new normal. It is likely that this is a permanent change in our culture.

My concern is the health and wellness of moms, partners and our collective children. I am hopeful this report will generate conversations about systemic changes to inform and make a difference in stress in the lives of working women.

Stress is at epidemic proportions in our society. And its not a coincidence that heart disease is the number one killer not only of men but also women in the US. There is great joy and privilege to be a working mom, wife, daughter, and sister. I continue my journey in trying to maintain health, get to the gym, eat the right things. This past weekend we saw record numbers of patients and families concerned about H1N1. The ER team was exhausted at the end of 10 or 12 hours. Mostly women. Mostly women who headed back home to care for others in their lives.

Tomorrow I am off to Vegas to present at a National Association and talk about Stress! In my next blog, I will define what stress is and is not. Also, I will discuss specific details about the link between stress and heart disease. What you can do to reduce and even reverse your risks of discovering the glass gurney!

Let's get talking! Pause. I invite you to take moment to share your story about stress in your life. We are all in this together. You must and can find workable solution. I will be YOUR coach! We can spend time with me now—or later.... How do you know when you are stressed? What do you do about it? Do you have any health issues related to stress?

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