When you think of a woman who's stressed, do you picture her sobbing into a bag of chips? And do you believe that men are the only ones who worry about money?
Well, these stereotypes, and other common beliefs about stress, are wrong, according to a new nationwide survey of 1,600 adults, conducted for a consortium that included the American Psychological Association, National Women's Health Resource Center and iVillage.
The survey found that more women (28 percent) than men (19 percent) call money "a very significant source of stress." And men are more likely than women to turn to food as a source of comfort. Another surprising revelation of the survey is that stress levels are higher for frequent eaters of fast food than for those who don't eat fast food.
"We've found that people with stress have increased levels of obesity, hypertension, anxiety and depression, and trying to work through your stress with empty calories and fatty foods doesn't do any good," said Russ Newman, executive director of professional practice at the APA. "In fact, it makes it worse, which makes you all the more stressed."
The survey also found that men and women handle stress differently, which should come as no great shock.
Stressed "women tend to feel nervous and like they wanted to cry," Newman said. "Men tended to lose sleep and feel angry and irritable."
In general, women are more stressed out than men, the survey found. Single mothers suffer from the most stress, and single fathers were next. More women (27 percent) than men (20 percent) worry about the health of a spouse or child, and more women (25 percent) than men (15 percent) say children are a very significant source of stress in their lives.
Newman offered these tips for alleviating stress in your life.
Identify what is stressing you out. This seems pretty straightforward, but often people are not very honest with themselves, not wanting to admit that their kids or their aging parents are driving them crazy.
Craft a plan of attack. Asking someone to help you with what is causing your stress is a great idea.
Make time for yourself. Do something, such as exercising, reading or indulging in a hobby that you enjoy.