How We Can Conquer Stress in the Workplace

Really bad news about my home finances
Really bad news about my home finances

There's an important aspect to workplace wellness that is particularly important for women. Just about everyone feels stress at their job, but for women, work-related stress is directly connected to the gender-based pressures that are part and parcel of most of our jobs.

Pay inequity, economic insecurity, pregnancy discrimination and lack of paid family leave can take a profound toll on women's health. There are things we can do as individuals, like time management, eating the right foods and getting enough exercise. But as Orange Is the New Black star Adrienne C. Moore shows in this short film, that is often easier said than done.

What we need is a national commitment to eradicating the root causes of gender-based stresses women face in the workplace. An important place to start is paid family leave.

The federal FAMILY Act would create a national insurance program for paid family leave. Just 13 percent of the workforce has paid family leave through their employers, and less than 40 percent has personal medical leave through an employer-provided disability program. Only half of new mothers take any paid time from work in connection with the birth of their first child, and nearly one quarter of mothers overall are back at work within two weeks of giving birth.

I'd say that's a pretty stressful situation -- wouldn't you?

That's why Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) have introduced the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act that would ensure people have some income during family or medical leave. Paid family leave would benefit workers, families, businesses and our economy.

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families,

"Paid leave contributes to improved newborn and child health. New mothers are better able to initiate and continue breastfeeding, and new parents can more easily get babies to the doctor for check-ups and immunizations. Paid leave also allows ill or injured adults to get critical care and take needed recovery time, and it enables caregivers to help ill parents, spouses and children fulfill treatment plans and avoid complications and hospital readmissions."

What's more, a guaranteed paid leave program would help keep new parents and family caregivers in the workforce and boost their earnings and savings over time, all of which would contribute to economic productivity and growth.

Women -- and men -- also need and deserve paid sick days from their employers. More than 43 million people don't have a single paid sick day to recover from common, short-term illness. Do you?

Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center says,

"It's shameful that 80 percent of low-wage workers don't have a single paid day off to recover from illness. More women are breadwinners than ever before, and they still shoulder the lion's share of caregiving responsibilities. When a mother welcomes a new baby or takes a day off work to care for a sick child, her family shouldn't suffer financial hardship as a result."

Pregnant workers also need common-sense accommodations, but many employers refuse to make even slight changes that would help them keep working. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would require employers to provide simple things like more frequent breaks or even a stool to sit on. Seventeen states have similar legislation on the books -- nearly a dozen of them passed in the last few years. But the federal law is needed because where a woman lives shouldn't determine whether she can be forced out of her job just for being pregnant.

I could go on and on with more examples, research and facts about the work-related stress faced by women, but I'm pretty sure that if you're reading this post, you already know what I'm talking about. No one should have to make a choice between being there for our families and earning a living. Policies like paid time off and accommodations for pregnant workers will go a long way toward reducing women's workplace stress.

This post is part of an editorial series produced by The Huffington Post as part of our monthlong "Work Well" initiative, which focuses on thriving in the workplace. The goal of the series -- which will feature blogs, reported features, videos, and more -- is to present creative solutions you can use to take care of yourself as you take care of business. The effort is also part of The Huffington Post's "What's Working" solutions-oriented journalism initiative. To see all the content in the "Work Well" series, visit here.