Is Anxiety A Woman's Problem? Research Says Yes..

5min read

The first word I use when I describe myself is not "millennial," "woman," or even "lactose intolerant." It's "worrier." I worry — it's an integral part of my worldview, to the point that I feel compelled to preface every story she tells with, "You should know that I tend to worry."

How else will people understand why I demand that my significant other keep me updated in real time on his itinerary whenever he travels? How else will they understand why I double- and triple-check that the front door is locked every night?

As overwrought as my tendency to worry may seem, it stems from a simple saying that I've been hearing since childhood: "Better safe than sorry." According to Jenny Maenpaa, LCSW, EDM, a psychotherapist and author of Forward in Heels, I'm probably not the only woman who's taken this adage to heart. "We tell girls to be careful, we tell them to be safe; and we tell boys to be adventurous," she says. Women receive the message that they should worry more than men extremely early — and, according to the National Institute for Mental Health, by the time they reach puberty, their likelihood of having an anxiety disorder is almost twice that of their male cohorts.

A variety of factors, including hormonal differences, an increased risk of sexual violence, and genetics, has been thought to contribute to the prevalence of anxiety in women. Although it's often noted that more research needs to be done around why this gender imbalance persists, the power of historical stereotypes and societal expectations should not be disregarded as a key influence.

Maenpaa points out that women have long been painted as the caretakers, the people who get all the nitty-gritty (read: mundane, usually domestic) tasks done. Although these characterizations are broad and outdated, women can still end up playing this kind of role without even realizing it. "Women are often tasked with a greater burden of emotional labor, but [are] not necessarily respected and supported for so doing," Matt Lundquist, LCSW, MSEd, a psychotherapist based in New York City, explains. The implicit expectation is that, since women have traditionally been the caretakers, they're better fit to address others' emotions, even if, as a 2004 study suggested, it comes at a detriment to their own.

For the record, women have plenty of large-scale things that they should be worried about — reproductive rights, the future of our planet, and insidiously pervasive sexual harassment leap to mind. Worrying or acting as a caretaker isn't necessarily a bad thing, let alone a tendency that needs to be squashed, Lundquist says. It's the way that society tends to receive women's personal concerns (and how women, in turn, process this reception) that needs to change.

"Women's needs are historically taken less seriously," Lundquist says, even when they revolve around their well-being. "Legitimate complaints are often dismissed by labeling them as excessive worry."

When women feel dismissed or as if their concerns aren't being recognized (at work, in their relationships, or just in general), they tend to internalize those feelings, Maenpaa says. Where a man might demand that others stop what they're doing and acknowledge his ideas, a woman is more likely to say nothing and, instead, wonder if she's done something to hinder her own progress. Maenpaa adds that, when women turn this sort of treatment in on themselves, their self-worth falls and they draw the conclusion that they're deficient in some way. What usually follows is further withdrawal from others and, you guessed it — further worrying. And, when these feelings of stress go unchecked, they can come to fuel such additional mental and physical health issues as migraines, depression, poor heart health, and irregular menstruation.

Whether a woman is worried about her next promotion, her family's stability, or, again, if she locked the front door, she shouldn't have to carry these concerns silently and without outside support. The first — and easiest — thing women can do to mitigate their everyday worries and stress is to ask themselves what they can immediately do to feel more at ease. That could look like spending a quiet half hour alone, taking a few deep breaths, or making a therapy appointment for ASAP.

But, Maenpaa explains, women will have to look past themselves in order to actually address their worries for good. Yes, this means having to self-advocate and speak up when it isn't a given that their voices will be heard, but the long-term benefits will make this risk well worth it.

"A lot of times, people just don't know what you need," she says, adding that if you explain what you need from those around you in order to feel more grounded and present (and therefore less overwhelmed with worry), they should become more engaged. You can, for example, set firmer boundaries with your coworkers to make it clear that you can't — and won't — take responsibility for every problem they want to bring your way. Or, you can communicate to your housemates or live-in partner which tasks you're willing to take on, and at what point your need for self-care must take priority over the household chores.

Beyond even that, Maenpaa says women can and should demand greater support from such institutions as their employers and the government. This means finding other women who share your concerns and calling for change as a group. Alluding to the need for better maternity leave and greater protections against assault and harassment, Lundquist echoes the importance of systematic changes for the sake of women's mental health: "It would be irresponsible to try to treat the anxiety without addressing what's causing it."

If we look at history, at how girls are raised from an early age, and at how systems of power continue to target and minimize women, we can see that, to a rather grave degree, worrying is a woman's problem — but it does not have to be her life sentence.


How This Twice Bankrupt Founder Built Herself Up To A $240M Net Worth

Nobody knows what it's like to be sh*t out of luck like Suzy Batiz. Maybe that's why her million-dollar idea was a spray to stop your sh*t from stinking.

Yes, this woman is on a mission to keep your bathroom dos (and don'ts) on the DL, and she is doing it all with a hefty dose of personal philosophy and spirituality. It's hard to pick just one place to start with a maverick like Batiz. Though, maverick doesn't quite do her justice.

We could talk about her early life, growing up poor in Arkansas with two parents struggling with addiction and mental health problems. Or we could discuss her two bankruptcies and a lifelong history of failed hustles and side-hustles. Then there's her personal life; she's been divorced twice, has three kids, and is a survivor of abuse. You could say she's been through some sh*t. (Okay, the poop jokes end here, I swear.) If this all sounds too crazy to believe already then you better stop reading now because it gets wilder. This woman is all that and then some.

But, there's no time like the present, so I guess we'll start there.

Suzy Batiz is one of the richest self-made women in America with a net worth of $240 million. She's currently working on uplifting other business owners and creative-thinkers with her personal and professional philosophy of "alive ideas" as well as running her own companies, Supernatural, a 100% natural cleaning product company, and Poo~Pourri, the famous odor-eliminating toilet spray line that started it all with a bang (or a plop). (Okay, now the poop jokes are really done.)

Poo-Pourri's first commercial, which has now garnered almost 50 million views since its release in 2013, absolutely blew away viewers with its hilariously crass yet poetic verbiage surrounding this lovely woman's "cavernous bowels." Even I remember first seeing it almost seven years ago. Though I wasn't even sure if it was a real product at first. I was so busy laughing that I almost missed the line: "Yes, it is a real product. And yes, it really works." No one but Batiz could have thought up an idea so new, so wild, and at the same time so deeply necessary for people everywhere. It seems that poop is the market's natural equalizer.

(Seriously though, how good is this commercial?)

She's reached some of the highest peaks of success when it comes to consumer goods, but Batiz's newest venture asks people to turn inward and evaluate their thoughts and personal processes to support a culture of deeply conscious creation. Alive Ideas represents all of the lessons in both entrepreneurship and spirituality that Batiz has learned firsthand. Because, for her, the entrepreneurial and the spiritual are often one and the same. In her own words:

"Your external reality is just a reflection of your internal reality, so you have to do your personal work to shift from the inside out."

She takes this marriage of philosophies very seriously and infuses it into every level of her business, offering her employees training in transcendental meditation (a non-negotiable daily activity for Batiz) and Headspace app subscriptions. Batiz knows that good work has to start from the inside out, and that's why she's so keen to share this philosophy with the world and help other people realize that, too. That's what this new enterprise is all about.

Alive ideas are those twinges of inspiration that you can feel in every inch of your being — the ones that are just bursting to take shape in the world. Take Poo-Pourri as a perfect example, it was something that no one could have expected. A product that needed to exist, but a need that had never before been conceptualized (let alone actualized) by anybody. Until Batiz, that is.

Suzy Batiz

She's always been a "natural creator," so it's only natural that her current state of being revolves around bringing to life new ideas and products. But even that could only have come about through what she describes as the "luxury of losing everything."

It took 38 years and a lifetime of both personal and professional hardships before Batiz was ready to call it quits. After all the hustles, there was just no hustle left in her.

So she took a four-year spiritual sabbatical, during which she realized that she'd spent her entire life thus far "selling out" and "making deals" for all the wrong reasons. "Basically, I'd lost it all and didn't even have a good time doing it!" That was what really set her off. "It was only when I changed my mindset to only follow ideas that lit me up that the real success started flowing." There's those alive idea's she's talking about!

Suzy Batiz is the antithesis of your stereotypical entrepreneur. She wears flowing skirts, makes poop jokes, and has the vibe of a fun-loving guru. She basically spent her entire life trying (and failing) to find success through financial means, only to lose everything and then some. It took hitting rock bottom to realize that she needed to start fresh. It was only once she'd chucked all of the typical toxic motivators out the window that her real genius could shine through all the bullsh*t.

Full Interview Transcript

1. How would you describe your climb from growing up, to bankruptcy, to millionaire? And how does it feel to have come so far?

I grew up in Arkansas very poor, with a mother that was depressed on pain pills and a father that was a bipolar alcoholic. From an early age, I had the impression that money was my way out. If I could just make money, I would be somebody and I would mean something in the world.

By the time I was 22, I'd already been married, bankrupt (for the first time), divorced and attempted suicide. Shortly after that, I met and married a wealthy man who turned out to be abusive. I clawed my way out of that terrible situation to find myself divorced again and homeless with two boys under the age of 2. I continued to work multiple jobs and soon met my ex-husband of 26 years. He was a drummer who didn't have much to offer aside from his love at the time, which sounded like a dream after the last situation I was in. I constantly hustled and side hustled, but all my business ventures typically ended in failure. At 38 years old, I lost funding for a dot com recruiting platform that I'd invested our life savings into, leading to my second bankruptcy and what I call "the luxury of losing everything".

I vowed to leave business behind entirely and went on a four-year spiritual sabbatical. I looked back and realized that I'd spent my whole life husting, selling out and making deals that felt wrong in order to get something I thought I wanted. Basically, I'd lost it all and didn't even have a good time doing it! This is when everything changed for me. It was only when I changed my mindset to only follow ideas that lit me up that the real success started flowing. I was no longer living for external validation, but rather from the inside out. Ironically, it was once I'd sworn off business and chasing money that my success and wealth came.

2. You seem to be innately entrepreneurial person, was there any moment or experience in your life that made you really think: "This is what I have to do."

I've always been a natural creator. Growing up we had very little, so if I wanted a new outfit for my Barbie, I'd sew it myself. I've always had that spirit in me — but at one point I actually believed I was the worst entrepreneur in the world. I had more than a dozen failed businesses and two bankruptcies by the time I was 38, so I swore off business altogether. It wasn't until I realized chasing money and success wasn't making me happy and I did my internal work that Poo~Pourri was born.

A few years later, a friend of mine was interviewing and asked how I knew which ideas to follow — how could I tell which ones would turn out to be successful? The question piqued my interest. I realized it had nothing to do with the analytical or rational reasons a business should succeed. Rather, I remembered the feeling in my body when I first got the idea for Poo~Pourri. I felt a zing up my left arm, I got chill bumps, it felt like everything went into hi-def and I had so much energy to research and create because the idea wouldn't leave me alone. My curiosity continued and I had a conversation with Dr. Bruce Lipton to ask him a burning question: Can ideas be alive? His answer, in short, was: absolutely! He said that everything, including thoughts and ideas, has energy, and "every living thing is seeking more life-force energy." This was my aha moment. When I focused on ideas that gave me energy, that felt ALIVE, they turned out to be more resilient and successful. I followed the breadcrumbs of what made me feel alive and it's led me to here — what a wild ride!

3. What drives you to keep moving forward in life and in business after all the success you've attained thus far?

My ultimate goal is to reach my highest evolution in this lifetime. I strive to be lit up daily in my personal and business life and follow only things that resonate (though it's a practice and I misstep all the time). I love bringing alive ideas into physical form, and my businesses are those manifestations. I truly believe that I was lucky enough to have the luxury of losing everything. I know that at any time I can lose it all, and if that happens, I want to make sure I can look back and know I had a damn good time.

4. A lot of people feel that there is a big disconnect between capitalism and spiritually, but you seem to have found a sweet spot for both yourself and your business ventures. How closely intertwined is your spirituality with your entrepreneurial ventures? And why?

I don't think of things as being a part of my work life or a part of my personal spiritual life. It's all the same for me. Your external reality is just a reflection of your internal reality, so you have to do your personal work to shift from the inside out. Daily transcendental meditation is my number-one non-negotiable. Starting my day with space to clear out the noise of the outside world has been just as essential for my business as it has for my personal wellness. I share this gift with Poo~Pourri employees as well by offering TM training and Headspace app subscriptions and providing only healthy fuel and snacks in the office so we are all operating at optimal levels.

I also believe that there's nothing wrong with wanting money and success. Who wouldn't? But where I've found the most impact is in my actions. If I'm doing something or chasing an idea only to get money, it doesn't come. When I do my internal work and follow what's resonant because it feels good within my being, wouldn't you know that's when the money flows.

5. If you could go back in time and tell your younger self that you'd one day be one of America's richest self-made women by way of selling poop products, how do you think you'd react?

I'd lose my shit and probably laugh in your face because it would be so far beyond what I could have imagined. When I was little, I had the dream of working in a factory or at the post office because those were steady and consistent jobs. I wouldn't have ever even known to dream of being the one to finally break a pattern of generational poverty.

Breaking these types of patterns, the ones that are outdated and no longer serve us, is a huge passion of mine. I've got the world comfortable talking about shit, now what else can we get people to talk about?