Stress: The Universal Feeling

Ah, stress. As a Ph.D. student with two part time jobs, I feel pretty confident when it comes to talking about how the pressures of life can be a bit overwhelming

So, determined to deal with this better, I started seeing a therapist. There was no particular crisis that lead me to her door, I was motivated by the idea that I could find a better way to deal with the stress in my life and better myself along the way (#Goddesstalk). Nonetheless, I did not expect to remain longer than a few months. Now, almost two years later, I could not be more grateful for the ways this process has helped me start seeing things differently

One of the most important tools I have gained is the practice of being more inquisitive about my thoughts and feelings. Through engaging deeper with my experiences, emotions, and the ideas they generate, I’ve started bringing awareness to how I really experience stress…instead of just hearing my spoon hit the bottom of the ice cream bowl! For me, stress has definitely looked like that extra ice cream scoop, or that hour lost on mindless social media scrolling or tv binging, and not surprisingly is followed by a little more stress…about being so stressed! (Hello, vicious cycle). 

“If stress burned calories, I’d be a supermodel” 

– Anonymous 

After coming into the conversation about goddess, un-goddess, and everything in between, I have started bringing these distinctions into my own conversations as well. As I began to consider what exactly my inner-goddess stresses about most, and how to best address this, I also began to wonder if this experience occurs any differently for our male counterparts

So, as any researcher would, I used this as an opportunity to open up a new conversation with the men in my life and, in the process, I learned that really the most important difference is that men are often restricted in what emotions they are “allowed” to express. Ultimately, these imposed ideals contribute to internalized feelings of shame and numbing practices such as use of drugs, alcohol, video games and media to repress and deny the experience of those thoughts and feelings that have been culturally deemed “too emotional” for them to have. Yet, this is not purely a male driven experience. While they may be more likely to experience this due to social constructs about their gender, there are several ways I could find myself relating to this as a woman. 

Thus, as I continued to drill down into how stress is experienced for both men and women, I ultimately found more similarities than differences. As much as my first instinct in writing this article was to list how we face stress differently as women, I’ve come to find that the differences we do have are not so much about how we experience stress but the types of stress we are exposed to based on limited gender-based ideologies that place unnecessary constraints on us due to gender roles. For example, women having to protest and risk their lives to earn the right to vote or men having to save the day by being the fearless knight in shining armor.   

In the end, all we can be certain of is that we are human beings. We have far more in common than we do separating us, yet, stress only contributes to empowering the disconnection. If we can start shifting our perceptions of stress by taking it as an opportunity to inquire about ourselves and our behaviors, then we can begin shifting our practices by disrupting the cycle and taking the time to connect more with others. By finding new ground, between stress and relaxation, goddess and un-goddess, between man and woman, we will be well on our way to reestablishing the connections that ground us in who we are both individually and as part of the whole. I, for one, believe that this is exactly what finding our inner-goddess is all about. 

~ Molly Stillwell