One of my favourite quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt is,
‘A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong she is until you put her in hot water.’
They talk about men being the stronger sex and that might be true when it comes to physical strength but I think women have it all over their male counterparts when it comes to being stronger mentally and being able to cope better with the negatives we get thrown at us in life.
This was confirmed in a study conducted in 2003 by M. Pilar Matund from the Faculty of Psychology at the University La Laguna in Spain.
The study was published in 2004 by Elsevier, an information and analytics company considered to be one of the world’s major providers of scientific, technical, and medical information.
This study examined gender differences in stress and coping and was measured via an extensive Life Event Stressful Success Questionnaire given to a sample group of 2816 people (1566 women and 1250 men) between 18 and 65 years old, with different socio-demographic characteristics.
The results indicated that women have more daily stress with more chronic problems and conflicts and daily demands and frustrations. The men were found to have more emotional inhibitions than the women. And the women scored significantly higher than the men on physical symptoms and psychological distress.
Nearly half of the stressful events listed by men and women were decidedly different with women more frequently reporting family and health related events, while men frequently reported events relating to work and finances and relationships with friends and lovers.
These findings of gender differences in stress are consistent with many previous investigations.
While the women scored significantly higher than the men on the emotional and avoidance coping styles they scored lower on rational and detachment coping.
The survey concluded that even though women cope better emotionally than men to stress; it would be useful to help women achieve a greater sense of control over their circumstances and help them change their social circumstances that cause these reactions. It’s important to help women to engage in problem solving rather than emotionality when dealing with challenging demands and/or threats to an individual’s safety.
It’s inevitable that we will all have our ups and downs in life and there’s no doubt that our mental approach to solving our issues is the key to bouncing back.
I trained with three-time world boxing champion Jeff Fenech for five years and watched Jeff sign innumerable autographs and especially when he was inscribing on his boxing gloves, he would often quote author Robert H Schuller’s adage;
‘Tough Times Don’t Last but Tough People Do’
This was put to the test for me back in the 1990s after Christopher Skase, who owned the Seven Network at the time went belly up financially. As a result of his empire collapsing around 87 people, me included, were retrenched from the Newsroom.
I was able to secure some part time work Newsreading on TV, as well as working full time as the licencee and general manager of a hospitality complex that housed a nightclub, two restaurants and a function centre.
After working up to 14 hours a day, often 7 days a week for almost a year, I found I had run myself down so much from overworking and stress that I contracted a huge bout of glandular fever. This caused me to be flat on my back for ten months trying to recover. It was so debilitating both mentally and physically.
Just walking the few metres from my lounge room to the front door took an inordinate amount of time and left me feeling pooped. Having a shower expelled so much energy it put me back to bed for the rest of the day.
While the physical symptoms were hard enough to cope with, it was the mental state it left me in that was the hardest to combat.
I was so concerned about my mental well-being that I sought help from my fabulous GP, who informed me that depression, which had hit me like a tonne of bricks, is a side effect of glandular fever.
In addition to my loss of energy, there were dark times that stretched for months on end leaving me feeling worried, alone, self-critical and pessimistic. I felt so low mentally that I questioned my very existence and lamented whether my mood would ever lift and if I could ever feel happy again.
As I slowly started my long road to recovery and began to get better physically, I tried to restore my fitness. My walks extended beyond my front door, firstly down to the corner of my street and back and then they slowly increased in distance and speed.
I have no doubt doing this regular exercise was one of the cornerstones to lifting my depression and helping me feel good about myself and the world around me again.
Another mood lifter at the time was receiving a phone call from the Blood Bank asking me if I could come in straight away to donate blood. I’ve been a regular blood donor since I was 18 and I have a relatively rare blood group, which is also my motto in life – B positive.
The nurse at the Blood Bank explained that they had an 8 year old patient with leukaemia, who urgently needed my blood because my blood group makes the best platelets for this treatment. After checking with my doctor to ensure I had the all clear, I went in and gave blood.
I was amazed how just doing that had such a positive impact on my psyche. It made me feel wanted and needed. I have no doubt this helped me ‘tame the black dog’ and regain my inner strength.
Feeling relevant and useful were vitally important aspects to helping restore my health and well-being. Knowing that someone else needed me, in this case my blood was a mood booster and made me realise that while I wasn’t at my healthiest or fittest there were others far worse off than me.
In a Success magazine article written by best-selling author of The Mood Elevator and much sought after guest speaker Dr Larry Senn, he says to be human means we all ride the mood elevator in life and as we will all visit those lower floors, it’s important to learn how to do ‘down’ well, and what we need to do to get back to our real self—our best self!
Dr. Senn says our moods come from our thinking and what we make of people and events in our minds. Worried thoughts create worried feelings, and insecure thoughts create insecure feelings. At the same time, hopeful thoughts create hopeful feelings, and optimistic thoughts create optimistic feelings.
He emphasises that this is not about the power of positive thinking alone. We can’t always change our thinking when we are caught up in it and bad things do happen. It is all about understanding the role that thought plays in our life, and that we are thinkers.
Often a good night’s sleep can be all it takes to help us raise the mood elevator as does taking a walk. Even though nothing has changed in the circumstances, it’s our thinking and approach to the issue that has changed.
Dr Larry Senn says; Moods can be like the weather. We know when it rains that in time the sunny sky will come back and it’s just covered by clouds. Our moods can be the same way.
He concludes that a Better Mood = Better Outcomes.
Susie’s Top Tips to Lifting Your Mood to Help Cope with Stress
- Help somebody else. Being nice can help us feel nicer. Doing simple actions for others can ricochet back to lift our own mood. If you lighten other people’s load by doing a chore for them or being there to physically or mentally support them, it can take our mind off our own issues and makes us feel better too.
- Listen to and sing along to happy songs. It’s quick and easy and costs you nothing to listen to uplifting and happy songs and it’s an instant mood-lifter. It doesn’t matter if you can’t sing in tune, just singing out loud will further enhance your feeling of well-being.
- Get a Cuddle or a Massage. Many of us, especially if you’re single like me, suffer from skin hunger and physical touch has been proven to decrease stress, make us feel happier and even improve our health. If you can’t get a hug from someone close to you, try getting a massage.
- Spend time with a pet. Playing with or nursing a pet has positive benefits to our mood and stress levels. The NSW/ACT division of Guide Dogs Australia has found in the thirty years they’ve been running their Pets as Therapy program that people’s blood pressure has been shown to lower while they are simply patting an animal.
- Go green. Colour psychologists have found the colour green can equate to happiness and help create that feeling in your mind too. Throw on a piece of green clothing, have something green around you and it will help boost your mood.
- Move your body. Whether it’s exercise or dancing, getting your body moving will help to get your happy-making endorphins pumping.
- Smile and laugh as often as you can. You can turn a frown upside down with a smile and laughter is still the best medicine.
- Ask for help. Don’t suffer alone. Talking about your issues with a friend or a professional or even putting pen to paper and writing it down will help get it out of your head and off your mind. By clearing the air it will lessen the emotional burden you’re carrying.
I really appreciate people who can make me laugh, when I don’t even want to smile and I try to be that person for others.
Take care…cheers susie
Susie Elelman AM
TV & Radio Broadcaster