Episode 24: "The Modern Woman’s Guide to Stress Relief" with Louise Lowry
Louise Lowry, “The Modern Woman’s Guide to Stress Relief”
This program is brought to you by personallifemedia.com.
This is Part One of a two-part series.
Alissa Kriteman: Welcome to “Just for Women: Dating, Relationships and Sex”. I’m your host Alissa Kriteman. My show is dedicated to bringing you the most insightful and provocative experts on the issues that are most important to you. Today on our show we have Louise Lowry, stress and change management consultant, who is dedicated to helping professional women stay healthy, balanced and empowered. On the show today we will discuss with Louise the massively damaging effects of stress on the mind, body and spirit, and how we can find some relief. Today we’re gonna find out about the main causes of stress, and what is stress.
Louise Lowry: So that’s why sometimes that you find that there are some people that deal with stress really, really well, especially in high-pressure jobs, and there’s other people that can’t deal with it, and it all comes down to our coping skill and how we actually react to the actual situation. If there’s a woman who has been able to cope with everything in life and all of a sudden has been faced with grief and bereavement, that will have a massive impact on her body, on her system, and how she copes in the future. But that’s the problem that we have nowadays, is because women are now more in the workplace, and they are now in a situation where they are controlling some of these bigger companies. And they’re losing a little bit of the emotional attachment that they have been brought up, which is, you know, their children, how they’re supposed to emotionally react, and they’ve become quite a harder character, which isn’t really what the woman-empowered leader is supposed to be about. People are just feeling a lot more stressed out and burnt out at work really because they don’t have the time, and then that sort of, for a lot of people especially in the work at the moment and the way the workload is in the workplace, they’re taking work home with them, and when they take that work home they’re taking that pressure home, to be able to... They’re not really being the mother that they’re supposed to be to the children, and maybe not being the partner or the wife they’re suppose to be with their husband. People think that alcohol, using drugs, maybe smoking, is a way of coping, and actually that’s just having a greater damaging effect onto their body, their health and their mind.
Alissa Kriteman: Welcome Louise, thank you for being on “Just for Women”.
Louise Lowry: Thank you very much.
Alissa Kriteman: For those of you don’t know Louise she is principal of her own stress and change management company called One2XL. She’s a highly credited and skilled international business coach. She’s a member of many professional organizations, including the International Coaching Federation, International Master Coaching Council, the American board of Hypnotherapy, the American Association of Behavioral Therapists; she’s a master neuro-linguistic programmer; and on the board of International Stress Association [laughs]. I hope I got all that right, and if I didn’t... [laughs] That’s a pretty hefty list, and it’s one of the reasons why I wanted you on the show today because your insight and depth of knowledge on not only stress but how it pertains to women specifically is really, really valuable, so thank you for being on the show today.
Louise Lowry: Thank you very much. It’s... I’m absolutely delighted to be here, and thank you for asking me along.
Alissa Kriteman: Awesome. So, we’re gonna get right into it. Can you tell us – what is stress?
Louise Lowry: I think the best way to describe stress, it is an emotional response to a situation, whether that situation is real, or whether you’ve imagined it. Basically the body has inbuilt physical responses to any stressful situation that we have. So when we’re faced with any sort of pressure, danger or any challenge, we need to react very quickly as the body releases hormones such as corsitol and adrenaline that help us deal with that particular situation. Now, these hormones are part of what they call the “flight or fight” response that a lot of people are quite ... they know a lot about that in terms of medical responses, but that effect affects the heart rates, the blood pressure, the sweat glands, the pulse rates, and it prepares the body in how it actually reacts to that. So that’s why sometimes that you find that there are some people that deal with stress really, really well, especially in high pressure jobs, and there’s other people that can’t deal with it, and it all comes down to our coping skill, and how we actually react to the actual situation. So if there’s a massive deadline to be reached, some people can take it in their stride, reach that deadline no problem whatsoever, and there’s others that will absolutely stress out, have heart palpitations, sweat to no extent, and absolutely maybe not even reach that deadline and are in a very, very stressful situation because of it.
Alissa Kriteman: So are you saying that we are pre-disposed to our ability to be able to handle stress or not?
Louise Lowry: Yes, because it is a coping skill, all stress, depression, anxiety, are all part of our coping skills, and that’s just the reason why some people cope better than others. It is just how we react to it, because it is an emotional response, so we have control of all of those emotions and we have absolute control within us how to handle any stressful situation no matter what that is.
Alissa Kriteman: Alright, so give us some examples of how, when we are faced with a stressful deadline, all these hormones are being flooded into our systems, what are some things we can do? Because it sounds like it’s a learned response. It sounds like some people are better able to cope naturally anyway, probably from their background/upbringing, but if we’re not, which I’ll say the majority of people, what are some things we can do?
Louise Lowry: Well, there’s a lot of things that can be done. First of all, as we talk about coping skills, there can be the... people, especially leaders, can really, very empowering women, can really hold that stress level and be able to cope with any sort of pressurizing situations. The one thing that can happen, if there’s a situation that happens in their life, for example they lose a partner or husband, or wife, maybe bereavement, grief or loss, that can actually put a lot of pressure onto those coping skills, and all of a sudden, if there’s a woman who has been able to cope with everything in life, and all of a sudden has been faced with grief and bereavement, that will have a massive impact on her body, on her system, and how she copes in the future, because there’s a lot of things that happened like the loss of concentration, there’s a lot of control... loss of control, all of those things actually happen within the body. So even the most… person who’s in the greatest amount of control, will at one point in their life, due to those stressful situations, especially bereavement because it’s going to happen to all of us, will eventually lose some of that control, and stress will affect the body, and will affect the mind and the spirit.
Alissa Kriteman: How do women deal with stress differently than men?
Louise Lowry: Well, women have been brought up to really be able to show their emotions more. So, they can deal with things a lot more because they can release it. And women crying, you know, they actually release a lot of that, so tears is one way of releasing emotions. Where men are taught to be... act like a man, you can’t show your emotions, so it builds up inside them. So if something is completely building up inside, it’s going to explode at some stage, whereas women, even through our own monthly cycles and everything we have, we release a lot of that emotional build-up. So we could cope better under certain situations. When I say certain situations, women are not coped… do not really cope as well in really stressful situations at work, but when it comes to family, and when it comes to situations belong to children or anything like that, they are the ones that cope extremely well, whereas a man doesn’t, because he represents his work as his powerful emotion, and how he can handle that, because that’s what he wants to do. But that’s the problem that we have nowadays, is because women are now more in the workplace, and they are in the situation where they are controlling some of these bigger companies, and they’re losing a little bit of the emotional which they have been brought up which is, you know, their children, how they’re supposed to emotionally react and they’ve become quite a harder character, which isn’t really what the woman-empowered leader is supposed to be about.
Alissa Kriteman: So what happens to a woman when she is in the situation, she’s in the workplace, her natural tendency is to maybe cry, emote, you know, feel her feelings, but she’s shutting them off because that is not really healthy or acceptable in the workplace. I mean she’s gotta just keep moving, get the deadline. What are the effects of that happening over time?
Louise Lowry: Well, first of all, in the workplace is not the best place to have any sort of emotional response, so women do have to keep that in. Over my time of dealing with a lot of managers and leaders back in the UK and Ireland, women tend to be a lot more emotional, even at a crisis point, where they are feeling that it’s all about them and they’re responsible for this particular project, and they get very personally involved in it – they don’t realise that it is actually just a project, it is a piece of paper, it is a deadline, it’s not personally about them, and men tend to handle it as it’s not a personal thing to them, it’s more in a work... it’s a business relationship, and women seem to just do the opposite. I’m not speaking about every single woman, because there’s a lot of women out there, a lot of very, very empowered women who are in leadership positions that can handle these situations very, very well, but they’re going to release it somewhere. And there may be a tendency to release that at home, rather than releasing it at the workplace, and that may be that they don’t give that time to their children, or they go back and they’re irritable and they’re angry and they’re... because of work, they take it out on loved ones at home, which can have a damaging effect in longer terms, especially when children grow up, because that’s what they learn, and that’s what they see, and that’s how they think that that’s how you actually cope with stress when it’s not.
Alissa Kriteman: Yes, so I can see that how we cope with stress, I mean I know from myself I didn’t develop very good coping mechanisms to deal with stressful situations in life until I became an adult and I saw, wow, this… there are better ways to deal with this, so I think yes, you make a great point: it’s important for us as empowered women to identify stress, know what stress is, identify the symptoms so we can deal with it, and then you know, here’s a question – many times when we are under intense stress, we let go of the things that would actually decrease the stress, because it becomes a matter of, “Oh, I don’t have enough time,” and yet the stress keeps building and building and building. So what do you tell women who aren’t making the time to release that pent up stress?
Louise Lowry: Well, for any woman, I mean, they have ... you know, I really will tell them they have to make the time. I mean, this is the problem that is throughout any workplace now or anything, no one has time. They haven’t got time to even have lunch. You know, some day these empowering women will have time to actually use their lunch break to actually eat lunch and have lunch, rather than working. But most of that is... really comes down to time management, especially in the workplace, where because the deadlines are just getting increasing, the workload’s a lot more, people are just feeling a lot more stressed out and burnt out at work really because they don’t have the time, and then that sort of, for a lot of people especially in the work at the moment and the way the workload is in the workplace, they’re taking work home with them, and when they take that work home they’re taking that pressure home, to be able to... They’re not really being maybe the mother that they’re supposed to be to the children, and maybe not being the partner or the wife they’re suppose to be with their husband. And maybe not living the life that they really, really want to, but they still want to have this empowering and leadership, they still want this control and this type of role. But my thing is, it’s very difficult to have it all, you can have it all, but you have to very, very much be in control of knowing how to release those emotions, and knowing how to really be emotionally managed. And so that means that you’re aware of yourself, you’re aware of your relationships around you, you know how people react to you, and you know how to be a really good relationship manager, because all of that makes a really good leader, and that’s the biggest empowerment that any woman can have, is actually having control of those emotions.
Alissa Kriteman: So you’re saying it’s very important to allow ourselves the time to debrief, cry... I wanna get back for a second, though, tell me a little bit more about this process of how stress works in the body. You talked a little bit about the hormones and is there something else you wanna say about that, because I think it’s important for us to understand what is happening. We all know, “Oh, I’m stressed out,” but I don’t know if we necessarily know what is actually chemically going on in our body and then how to alleviate that.
Louise Lowry: Well I think, as you said, when your body’s stressed it releases hormones which is the corsitol hormone and you have the adrenalin. The corsitol is known as the negative symptom of stress, so the more corsitol levels you have in your body, the higher your stress is going to be. So if you are feeling anxiety, you’re frustrated, you’re feeling your worry or anger, or any of that that means that you will have a lower performance rates if you have any of that, because that creates stress, burn out, you know, depression, you can be withdrawn, and even boredom, because that’s the negative sides of having too much corsitol in your system. So the idea is to have more positive symptoms in the body which would be the DHEA, which are the real... that’s like the antidote of stress, so it’s a little bit like having the flu. If you have the flu, you have all these symptoms of the flu, and then you have, like, a tablet or as they call the antidote to take away those symptoms. Well, that’s what the positive symptoms is about, and how to get that, because that means that there’s some people are, you know, they celebrate joy, it’s happiness, they’re, you know, when they get a lot of DHEA in their body, they have... they’re more energized, they’re more passionate, and even for the high performers they would have that. And then when they have… they’re able to balance that DHEA, they can have inner peace, balance, they’re able to reflect more, and they are very much more contented. So, the idea is about balancing, having enough corsitol not to have you going into complete boredom threshold, but having enough DHEA to bring you the joy, the happiness and things like that. Now some people will experience this maybe short term, where if somebody won the lottery, say tomorrow, they would have high DHEA of, “Oh my God, my whole problems have just been resolved. I am rich.” They will be so happy about all of that, so their DHEA goes up straight away, and then maybe it can drop and get more corsitol level coming into their body where they start thinking, “Oh my God, what’s this money going to do? Am I going to lose my family, am I going to lose this?” and that can happen over a period of time. And that’s a little bit like celebrities, entertainers, you know, you have ones that can go on to the stage, and you’ve heard this from a lot of them, they can go on to stage, be an absolute fantastic performer, the most confident individuals, they can sing, they can entertain those people, and when they come off stage they have a real fear factor where they don’t want to talk to anybody on an individual level. So that’s a little bit about trying to cope with those particular stressful situations. So our job, as a stress consultant, is showing you how to balance that, how to cope with those situations, and we do that via the training, and you can also do it through hypnotherapy and a lot of other alternative therapy treatments as well. So it’s all about balancing it, and allowing you to know what those coping skills are. Now, everybody has different coping skills, not everyone has the same, so it’s the coping skills that suit you that we train. We don’t get like, “Oh, I’m gonna just train all of these people in one.” Your coping skill’s different than my coping skill would be. So I just work with the levels off your coping skill, and we bring that to a level that you can manage, and you can balance in your life. And that’s how you will create and find your peace of mind and still be happy in your job and still, you know, deal with pressures and deadlines and everything else, because that’s not going to change. You know, if anything it’s going to get worse. You know, so the more you learn to cope with stress, the more you’ll be able to cope with anything in the future.
Alissa Kriteman: Great! We’re going to take a break and support our sponsors, and when we come back we’re gonna talk a little bit more about these alternative methods you mentioned for helping support our natural coping skills, and maybe developing some new ones. This is Alissa Kriteman your host of “Just for Women: Dating, Relationships and Sex”. I’m talking with Louise Lowry, stress relief expert, and we’ll be right back.
Alissa Kriteman: Welcome back to “Just for Women: Dating, Relationships and Sex”. I’m your host Alissa Kriteman. We’re talking with Louise Lowry, stress management expert, about how we can cope better with the damaging effects of stress. So Louise, tell us some of the main causes of stress today.
Louise Lowry: The main causes of stress, first of all workplace, you’ve got the pressure of workplace; you’ve got the downsizing and restructuring of companies, it’s happening on a regular basis now; the threats of physical violence that are out there; money worries; you have the arguments and family conflicts; divorce or separation; bereavement, grief or loss; unemployment; moving house; and the increase in alcohol and drug abuse, are really are the main causes of stress today.
Alissa Kriteman: Wouldn’t you say, though, that with the drugs and the alcohol, that it’s kind of like the chicken and the egg. Wouldn’t the stress come first, and we use that as a way to numb out?
Louise Lowry: Yes, but we talked just about the coping skills of stress. People think that alcohol, using drugs, maybe smoking is a way of coping, and actually that’s just having a greater damaging effect onto their body, their health and their mind, really, and it’s not a way of coping, it’s just something that they think is helping them and it’s not, because it’s doing greater damage. So, raising the coping skills through all of the stuff that we’re going to talk about is a much better way of doing it. And obviously with increased alcohol and drug abuse, that’s what’s costing a lot of money, not only on the U.S. economy but also at work, where there’s, you know, five hundred million working days lost due to stress and it’s due to the increase of alcoholism and drug abuse. So, companies have got a big part to play in this as well, because if they want to increase their bottom line, not to have that draining, and to help other people, because the cost to fund alcohol and drugs for a person will also cause a lot of stress. So it’s not the answer, but it is something that people are doing and everyone knows about it, so the quicker people learn how to cope with stress the better.
Alissa Kriteman: What are some of the damaging effects that stress have on our mind, body and spirit?
Louise Lowry: Well, on the body itself you have heart attacks that can happen; you have the risk of higher blood pressure which can cause strokes; you have liver problems with the extra alcohol you would take; cancer with lungs, etc., with smoking; and obviously major depression. And major depression is obviously a recognized disease now, and that’s a real problem that you can have on the body. On the mind you have, you know, you’re just overly tired all the time; depression can be a lower state at that stage; lower self-esteem; your confidence is lower; more fears come in and so that pushes the anxiety higher. And I suppose when you look at it on the spiritual end of it, you know, you start blaming other people; you don’t know yourself any more; you may fall out with God, and not feel good and feel trapped, and you’re not maybe able to fight any more, your spirit’s just so weak. So there’s a lot of damaging effects on stress if you don’t cope with it.
Alissa Kriteman: How would we know if we were stressed-out versus depressed?
Louise Lowry: Well, depression is obviously an imbalance in the brain which is like a chemical imbalance, which is a very treatable disease, and I have to really emphasize that to people: depression is treatable. Untreated depression is absolutely worse. But normally when you get to that depression state you have the signs of stress first, then, you know, constant anxiety, and then will major depression set in. Now, some people, depression is something that has been going on for many, many times, or for long, long times, should I say, but for people to be stressed, they may not have gone to real depression yet. Well, that’ll start with irritability; a little bit of anger, you know the constant anxiety, maybe the fear that something’s gonna happen but there’s nothing’s really going to happen; heartbeat, you know, you find, “oh my God” heart palpitations and all those types of things happen; a bit of irrational behaviors in ways that you may deal with these things; you may have an increase in appetite, you may even lose your appetite; you certainly will lose focus and concentration, where you maybe can’t concentrate on something that you used to be able to do; loss of sex drive, which has a problem with a lot of people; of course we did discuss the increase in alcohol and smoking; and then for women, the extra parts are the tiredness, the skin problems, maybe missed periods, and other pains and ailments. So, if your body has a certain pain that you don’t know what it is, and it can be down to a stress-related issue, because when you go to the doctor, 90% of doctors’ visits at the moment are stress-related at the moment, and so if you go to your doctor with this pain then he could put it down to stress-related. He may give you an anti-depressant, he may not give you anything, but if you do have any… you know, you’re on any medication, that’s fine if it’s for depression and you’re balancing this chemical imbalance that’s in the brain, because that is fantastic for that, but do the rest of the stuff that we talk about, and the therapy, the alternative therapy, in order to deal with the root cause, so that you can bring your coping skills up, because the pill or the tablet that they give you really only copes with… goes with… really copes with the imbalance in the brain, not anything else.
Alissa Kriteman: And so, basically what you’re saying, the imbalance in the brain may be coming from outside stressors, which is why this is so treatable. Stress is treatable and depression is also treatable. And the pills, the Western medicine that we might be taking is actually just kind of a, maybe, bridge, or a Band-Aid, but we really have to deal with the root causes with our coping skills that we’re gonna talk more about.
Louise Lowry: Absolutely, yes. But that’s not to say those that are on medication still have to have the doctor’s advice, so I’d always advise people to go to their doctor first, and that’s obviously for that medicine-wise. But for anything else, you can deal with it through cognitive therapy and all the therapy approaches that we’re going to talk about.
Alissa Kriteman: How do you know where you’ve reached the point where, because I know many women come to the point where they think, “I’m so stressed out, I think I should be on some kind of medication.” So, what do you advise women before they actually do that. And I don’t know, like you’re saying, go do a doctor, because you might need that. What are… Where would you send them before… or, what are some questions a woman can ask herself before she actually maybe goes on a medication, because that has a lot of effects on the body as well.
Louise Lowry: Yes, well, I mean, the side effects of some of these pills can be really, really great, but actually the side-effects of untreated depression is worse, because the biggest side-effect of untreated depression is suicidal thoughts, and for a lot of people they either attempt it or they actually go through with it, and that will add to everybody that’s left behind. And so, if anyone has got really major, extreme stress, I do advise them to go to their doctor and to seek that help first, and then my advice is to look at all of the alternative therapy while you are on that medication. You know, you don’t have to come off any medication if the doctor prescribes you that, but you can do all the alternative and complementary therapy, as… because that’s exactly what they are, they’re complementing what you’re doing with the medicine. And eventually you can be able to wean yourself off this with your doctor’s advice, and be able to have your coping skills up. But the first thing, in order to get your coping skills up, we’ve got to get you to a level where you can actually cope, and if you can’t cope at the moment, then raising the coping skills isn’t the right thing for you. We’ve got to tackle that root cause first before we can raise that coping skill up.
Alissa Kriteman: You have to get to a place of at least some sort of happiness and “I can deal”…
Louise Lowry: Not so much happiness, but a place where you are able to start dealing with it. If you are in a very deep, depressive state you can’t deal with it, and no amount of therapy will help you. So you’ve got to deal with the imbalance first in the brain, and right now that is medicine, and that is the pill that you need to take, the anti-depressant, because that will help, that will help get you into a state that we can now do therapy and alternative therapy work with you to find that root cause, and to help you right out of it. Because one thing I really do want to emphasize is that all of this is treatable and it is curable, you know, and that, like any other disease, like heart disease, and cancer, you know, they’re different. You know, you’re now looking for, you know, prevention on those because trying to prevent those diseases can be hard, but stress can actually play a big, big part in bringing any of those diseases onto the body. So the better… the quicker you learn to deal with stress, the better that will be for your whole peace of mind and your well-being.
Alissa Kriteman: Thank you, Louise, for being our stress relief expert today. So great to have you. Listeners, I just want you to know that you can e-mail me at [email protected] Please, give me your comments about the show, your questions, offer any ideas, I would love, love-love to hear from you. And also texts and transcripts of the show are available at personallifemedia.com. And that brings us to the end of the show, thank you so much for tuning in. I’m your host Alissa Kriteman, always empowering you to make the best choices so you can live the life of your dreams, here on “Just for Women: Dating, Relationships and Sex”. See you next time.
This concludes Part One. The interview will be continued in the next episode of the show.
Announcer: Find more great shows like this on personallifemedia.com.