High Octane Women

How superachievers can avoid burnout

Dealing with Stress in Today's Crazy World

Challenges faced by women in today's hectic world

As a psychologist for the past seventeen years, I've encountered my share of personalities, ranging from the kindest, most considerate people you'd ever want to meet to the most evil you could ever imagine. I've witnessed people overcome unfathomable losses, succeed against all odds, and find strength they never knew they had while others who seemed to be living charmed lives let it all slip away. But if I had to sum up what I've learned from all of these experiences, it would be that regardless of what happens to people, whether it is good or bad, it's their attitude and resiliency more than anything else that determines their direction and their future. And it is from this perspective that I introduce myself and give you a sense of the types of topics I'll be blogging about here on Psychology Today.

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My career path, like many, has been more of a winding road than a straight line. But it's been quite an interesting journey, beginning as a rape crisis counselor which led to a successful career as a forensic psychologist, then as an author of several books on forensic psychological issues, and most recently as an author of my newest book, High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout. Throughout it all though, my focus has always been on stress, particularly its impact on women and children. So when I was asked to write as a blogger for Psychology Today on the topic of high octane (i.e., high-achieving) women, I jumped at the opportunity.

Women today are living during an exciting time in history, with opportunities that our foremothers could barely imagine. However, with these opportunities come unique challenges, and I strongly believe that how we face these challenges will not only shape our futures, but those of generations to come.

Never before has our world faced the economic, social, and psychological crises it faces today, and unfortunately women are bearing the brunt of the stress associated with these crises. According to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, women are not only reporting more stress than men over money and the economy, they're also experiencing more stress-related symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, irritability, and depression. In addition, researchers at the Center for Work-Life Policy recently discovered that although men and women both report feeling stressed at work, women disproportionately feel stress related to their families' well-being because, unlike men, they see a direct link between the time they spend at work and the negative effects on their families (more junk food, more time in front of a TV, less parental supervision). And what does prolonged stress lead to? Nothing good, that's for sure.

Unchecked stress increases the risk for serious illnesses, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It also can lead to other problems, such as infertility, ulcers, sleep disturbance, chronic fatigue, severe depression, overeating, memory loss, substance abuse, and lowered productivity. These and other stress-related problems represent the very real problems women are facing today.

However, it would be a mistake to see this as a woman's issue. In fact, with women exceeding men in today's workforce, we, as a society, are being dangerously short-sighted if we continue to view it as a woman's issue. It's a societal issue, and therefore, the burden to address and solve these challenges should be born by society as a whole.

But before major change can come about, the message has to get out, which is why as I begin this new journey with Psychology Today, I invite you join in, ask questions, and share your views on topics that affect you and your psychological well-being. Help bring about change by not only being a smart consumer of information, but also by being a messenger. Start a dialogue about the issues I'll be discussing, such as the sources of stress in our increasingly hectic lives and effective strategies to manage them. Find your own voice and make it heard by sharing your views, feelings, and concerns. Do whatever it takes because by getting the message out, you can effect positive change and be a part of the solution. In the words of Ayn Rand, remember: "The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me."

Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D., psychologist and author of "High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout," specializes in the area of women and stress.

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