The juggling actBy Jennifer Arnold-Levy | May 21, 12 09:50 AM
The juggling act - why is it an all female show?
For those of us working women who have seen the recent movie, 'I don't know how she does it', the trials and tribulations of the main character, Kate, as she juggles the demands of motherhood, relationship, and a high powered career in the finance sector, probably hit a few chords. Whilst I alternately laughed and cried in recognition of her struggles, I’m not sure though that it gave me any real answers about how she really did do it. Instead I was left wondering how do we really do it and why is it mainly women who do it?
Well, the fact is that … wait for it … women are different to men! Our biology ensures that we are like the Everready Bunny. Unlike the male physiology that is geared to kill the beast and then promptly sit down in front of the television to rebuild depleted testosterone stores needed to reduce stress, the higher fat-to-muscle ratio in a woman’s body ensures endurance, enabling us to keep on keeping on. But even though we can, why do we fail to sit down and rest? Why is it that I, and most of my female friends, can’t do what men do and switch off?
One answer lies in the greater connectivity that exists in women’s brains that means we are constantly wired! Whether we like it or not, a woman’s brain has, on average, 25% more interhemispheric links than that of a man ensuring our ability to multitask and consider every single permutation and combination of an issue and consider the impact on everyone and everything. The emotional centres of our brains are also larger, deeper and connected to multiple brain centres giving us greater emotional awareness and sensitivity to not only our own internal state but also that of others.
With this strength women often are often the guardians of the relationships within a group, whether it be in the family, with friends or in the workplace. The danger in this though is that women will, more often than not, put everyone else’s needs before their own, but it is when the balance is out that we are more vulnerable to feeling stressed. When we fail to make time for ourselves, it all falls apart. When we are tired and depleted, our to-do list becomes overwhelming and we start to feel vulnerable and alone and more sensitive to the lack of help we might be getting from our partners, friends or family.
So, what reduces a woman’s stress and how can we really do it just like Kate in the movie? Well, suffice to note that where men will get stressed when their testosterone levels are down and when they are unable to solve the problem at hand; women get stressed when their oxytocin levels are depleted. Oxytocin, sometimes known as the ‘cuddle hormone’ is critical for women to manage their stress and keep on keeping on and is raised when we experience nurturing relationships with others and nurture ourselves.
Talking out our problems with others, sharing them with others who are able to just listen rather than provide solutions, making time to have that bubble bath, go shop and have that massage, immediately and effectively raises our oxytocin levels. We do not get tired and stressed because we have too much to do. We get tired when we feel alone and unsupported.
So make sure you ring that friend tonight and have that girls’ night out! Just like the generations of women before us, we need each other. And that’s how we do it!
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Jennifer Arnold-Levy is a human communication expert and gender intelligence specialist. For more than 20 years she has assisted executive leadership teams, business owners and their employees develop gender sensitive communication skills needed for ensuring employee engagement and effective interpersonal relationships both in the workplace and in their personal lives.