Advice for Women on Reducing Stress Misses Key Opportunity

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As National Stress Awareness Month draws to a close, a work-life balance specialist and life skills coach, Dr Cathleen O’Connor, voices frustration at the lack of new information offered to change the average woman’s experience of stress.

Westchester County, NY USA April 23rd, 2014

Concerned with recent news about the effects of stress and infertility in women, work-life balance expert and life skills coach Cathleen O’Connor, PhD offers valuable new insights on how to re-wire daily life so women can get off overwhelm and back in balance.

According to Dr. O’Connor chronic stress is not inevitable – just the opposite. “Stress is, after all, an abstraction; a term with no tangible reality yet we all speak about it as if it were something we could touch, or see or even give to each other like a bad cold,” Dr. O’Connor says. “And we completely miss the boat on how to not just manage stress but to literally change our experience of stress  and even eliminate it completely.”

O’Connor cites alarming statistics provided by the American Psychological Association on the numbers of women reporting rising levels of stress (49 per cent of those surveyed). As a group women report feeling more stress than men and also report feeling less able to manage it. A 2014 study on how women spend their free time, commissioned by Real Simple Magazine through the nonprofit Families and Work Institute revealed that even when given the opportunity to do whatever they might enjoy, almost 2/3 of the women surveyed (ages 25-54) spend their free time doing chores, unable to relax.

And that is where all the advice aimed at women misses the mark, Dr. O’Connor believes. According to O’Connor, “The reality is that each of us has a unique prescription that we follow when we are under stress. And that prescription is one that was started in childhood and expanded through every life experience since.  It’s time to throw that outdated prescription out and write a new one for daily life.”

In order to do that, Dr. O’Connor offers 3 steps to empower any woman struggling to manage stress:

  1. Use clear emotional language. Instead of saying, “I’m stressed,” figure out what the real emotion is (often anxiety) and state that. Saying “I’m frustrated because I can’t seem to figure out how to meet my deadline at work,” brings clarity and the empowerment to problem-solve or get help with the situation. The longer an abstraction like the word “stress” takes the place of being able to identify the true emotion, the less skills can be brought to bear to shift the emotional state. Taking action shifts the experience from one of helplessness, immediately reducing stress.
  2. Prioritize, delegate and choose. Life isn’t lived in components – it is lived within the borders of a  single day. And each day holds the potential for fulfillment – not perfection – fulfillment. By getting clear on what matters most, choices can be made that allow for less stress. A practice like meditation or deep breathing done daily finds the still point within, but is only useful if conscious choices have been made that make such a practice a daily priority.  The power of choice in the small matters of life is often overlooked yet it is one of the greatest powers every woman has.
  3. The modern world sees busyness as a sign of a productive life and the boundaries between work, family and private time are getting increasingly blurred.  Yet without those borders, life is a distracted, stress-filled treadmill. Women with healthy boundaries report greater happiness and less stress, and the best way to create healthy boundaries is to own the power of “yes” and “no.”  Boundaries are fundamental to self-care and self-esteem especially for women and it is the inability to say “no” that causes many women to feel overwhelmed and chronically stressed. Owning “yes” and “no” takes practice but once mastered brings a clarity and focus to life that calms and strenghens.

Dr. O’Connor is such a believer in the importance of a woman’s ability to say “no” that she has written an e-book entitled The Secret to Saying “No:” 7 Steps to Get Clear, Gain Time and Get More Done. It is a theme she elaborates on in her 2014 Amazon International Bestseller, High Heels on the Hamster Wheel: A Fable for the Modern Woman (Balboa Press). “Most of my work with women is around helping them find their voices whether in their personal or professional lives,” O’Connor says.  “It is an approach that once learned and put into practice not only helps the individual but also the entire family, especially if the woman has children dealing with their own experiences of stress.”

For more information on how to use the approaches mentioned here or to get Dr. O’Connor’s free e-book, visit

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