Had a bath. still stressed.

16 min read

NewStylistresearch reveals a silent epidemic: women are more stressed than ever, yet the world is shrugging its shoulders and offering us bubble baths and candles. It’s time we took the long-term impact of women’s stress seriously, writes Meena Alexander


You’ve had the work day from hell. Meetings about meetings, enough deadlines to make your heart race and your chest tighten until it felt like you might drown at your desk. A friend asks if you want to go out, but you haven’t got the energy to do anything but doomscroll on the sofa (last night you woke up at 2.55am again panicking about the bills you haven’t paid, the birthday you forgot and that weirdly ominous thing your boss said yesterday that could mean you’re getting fired?). You type back that you’re just too stressed right now, and you get back the stock response: ‘Why don’t you have a nice, hot bath?’ Rage floods your body. You know they mean well, but a bath, really? It feels a lot like being handed a plaster for a gaping head wound.

As a generation, we are more stressed, anxious and overwhelmed than ever before, and the truth is, most of us have no idea what to do about it. When Stylist asked hundreds of women across the UK in January how they were feeling, the responses were stark: 73% say stress keeps them up at night, 70% experience physical symptoms related to stress, and 55% say their stress levels have risen over the past year, with work, money and trying to juggle responsibilities among the biggest pressures. When asked what stress feels like, everyone’s answers were variations on a theme. ‘Like a rock in the pit of my stomach. A weight sitting on my chest. A hamster wheel. A whirlpool. A trapdoor. A race I can’t stop running.’

A stressed-out woman has become the rule rather than the exception in 2024, and our culture very much reflects it. We download bestselling audiobooks with titles like Ten Times Calmer and listen to them on 2.5x speed. We book into breathwork classes to regulate our nervous systems for 40 minutes, twice a week. We scroll the hundreds of products advertised to us every day, from skincare to supplements to weighted blankets, all promising the holy grail: a moment of calm in the storm. We share viral posts about having ‘never met a relaxed woman’ and memes about the day we’ll leave it all behind and decamp to a cottage by the sea. We laugh at the way we live, because if we don’t, we’ll cry. But there is a serious problem with treating the stress we’re all feeling as an inevitability

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