Women and multiple roles

Women take on multiple roles in today’s society. Some roles are by choice and other roles are chosen for women. Women’s roles often include family obligations, caretaking for children and/or elderly parent and work responsibilities as well as other roles.

As demands increase to fulfill these roles, women can feel overwhelmed with time pressures and unmet obligations. They may feel a sense of failure in not being able to meet expectations for themselves and others. Often times women spend more time meeting the needs of others rather than nurturing their own needs. If functioning at high stress levels, women may not even recognize what their needs are.

Stress in daily life

Stress is a response to daily life, and everyone has stress. Stress can be positive and motivating women to achieve notable goals. But stress can also be negative and destructive taking its toll in many life areas. When stress becomes chronic or excessive, it becomes harder to adapt and cope. Chronic stress builds up so that stress seems like a normal way of life for some women. Often times women are so busy that they do not take time to slow down long enough to think about how stress is negatively affecting them.

Stress warning signs

As stress increases, women develop warning signs in multiple areas, giving them the sense that their lives are out of balance. Here are examples of negative stress signs. Ask yourself these questions. Which areas are out of balance in my life? What are my warning signs in each of these areas?

  • Physicalheadachesinsomnia, fatigue, appetite changes, smoking, alcohol
  • Emotionalanxiety, anger, unhappiness, irritability, depression, frustration
  • Mental—forgetfulness, worry, indecisiveness, negative thinking, boredom
  • Occupational—work overload, long hours, tense relations, unfulfilling job
  • Social—little intimacy, isolation, family problems, loneliness
  • Spiritual—apathy, loss of meaning, emptiness, unforgiving, doubt, guilt, despair

Stress management

Women manage stress by practicing healthy self-care strategies for coping with stress. Examine your negative stress signs in each of the six areas: physical, emotional, mental, occupational, social and spiritual. What would you like to be different in your life? What do you need to do to achieve more balance or potential? Here are some suggestions.

  • Physical – exercise, relaxation, yoga, healthy eating, leisure time, adequate sleep
  • Emotional – emotional expression, positive emotions, healthy self-esteem
  • Mental – positive outlook, realistic thinking, resilient attitude, creativity
  • Occupational – doable goals, home-work balance, limit setting
  • Social – loving relationships, healthy boundaries, friendships
  • Spiritual – meaning/purpose, gratitude, present-moment focus

Personal wellness plan

A personal wellness plan with goals can be helpful. Goal setting can seem overwhelming. These practical steps can get you started.

  • Review life areas. Examine the six areas for potential change.
  • Identify goals. Be aware of what needs to be done and set goals.
  • Be specific. Know what you want to accomplish.
  • Set measurable targets. Move in the right direction.
  • Be realistic. Set smaller goals that are achievable.
  • Identify resources. Use helpful resources and minimize potential problems.
  • Set time-limits. Consider reasonable, specific time limits.
  • Evaluate progress. Make changes as needed

Women will continue to experience stress in their lives. A personal wellness plan with built-in periods of recovery and self-care can help women manage stress and empower themselves to make healthy life changes.

Other helpful hints

  • Confront stress—Face and manage stress rather than avoid it.
  • Face change—Accept change as a challenge and opportunity, not a threat.
  • Focus on the present—Stay in the present. It doesn’t help to worry about the future.
  • Listen to your mind—Examine beliefs and how they influence life.
  • Integrate love, work, and play—Learn how to live fully in each area.
  • Practice acceptance—Accept what can’t be changed and change what can be changed.
  • Accept yourself—Honor and love your inner self for who you are.
  • Seek professional help—Seek professional help in managing difficult stress.


  • The National Women’s Health Information Center. US Department of Health and Human Services. Office on Women’s Health. Stress and Your Health: Frequently Asked Questions.
  • The Association between Role Overload and Women’s Mental Health. Keva Glynn, Heather Maclean, Tonia Forte, Marsha Cohen. Journal of Women’s Health. February 2009, 18(2): 217-223. doi:10.1089/jwh.2007.0783.

© Copyright 1995-2014 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.

Source: Cleveland Clinic

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