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Under Pressure

Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls

By Lisa Damour
12-minute read
Audio available
Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls by Lisa Damour

Under Pressure (2019) explores the particular challenges that school-aged girls face throughout their education, at home and in society at large. Drawing on her wealth of experience as a clinical psychologist, Lisa Damour explains how parents, teachers and mentors can help girls overcome the stress and anxiety that disproportionately affects young women.

  • Parents hoping to brush up on their skills
  • Feminists looking for fresh insights into female psychology
  • Education professionals seeking to support female students

Lisa Damour, PhD is a clinical psychologist specializing in education and child development. She is also the Director of the Laurel School’s Center for Research on Girls and the New York Times best-selling author of Untangled.

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Under Pressure

Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls

By Lisa Damour
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls by Lisa Damour
Synopsis

Under Pressure (2019) explores the particular challenges that school-aged girls face throughout their education, at home and in society at large. Drawing on her wealth of experience as a clinical psychologist, Lisa Damour explains how parents, teachers and mentors can help girls overcome the stress and anxiety that disproportionately affects young women.

Key idea 1 of 7

Depending on the circumstances, stress and anxiety are not always unhealthy.

Being a girl can be tough. Even in the twenty-first century, when many of the legal, social and political barriers to female advancement are being removed, girls are still under pressures that their male counterparts aren’t. And these pressures take their toll. Over the last few years, stress and anxiety among girls have skyrocketed. But before moving on to the real and damaging pressures that girls face, first, it’s crucial to understand that a little stress is not always a bad thing. In fact, it can be helpful.

For instance, psychological research has found that the stress caused by pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone can result in personal growth. We experience helpful stress when we undertake unfamiliar challenges, like speaking in front of a large group of people. These sorts of challenges help us build resilience so we can face future hardships with strength.

Similarly, experiencing some anxiety from time to time, characterized by feelings of dread, panic and fear, is not necessarily a cause for concern.

Why is this? Anxiety lets us know that something’s wrong. Sometimes this is an appropriate reaction. For instance, if a teenager expresses anxiety at the thought of an important upcoming exam, it may be because they haven’t revised enough yet. Ultimately, though, there is a tipping point at which stress and anxiety become unhealthy.

This is when anxiety negatively impacts one’s mental wellbeing. Importantly, this impact is determined less by the actual source of stress, and more determined by whether or not the individual has adequate emotional, financial or social resources available to tackle the issue.

For instance, breaking an arm could be a resilience-boosting source of stress for a girl who has friends to take notes in class for her. But what about a girl whose university hopes are riding on an athletic scholarship? Chances are, that same broken arm could severely interfere with her mental health.

When it comes to anxiety, we can distinguish between healthy and unhealthy levels by noticing if our alarm system is going off far too frequently. If this happens, we find ourselves constantly feeling panicked and fearful, and our thoughts race from one anxious thought to the next – will my teacher make me look stupid in front of my classmates? Will my ride home leave without me?

When our anxieties go into overdrive, it interferes with our sleep, happiness and concentration, and quickly becomes unhealthy.

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