If you are a woman, this blog post might be just for you. If you are a man, this might pertain to a woman you care about. So, everyone, read on! Recently, I was talking to a patient about balancing her busy life. She was completely overwhelmed with everything on her plate. I asked her where she was on the list of priorities. Her response was that she is not on the list. The list was full of everyone else’s needs. Wow, that says it all, doesn’t it? This problem is rampant today, especially for women.
Women are doing more work outside the home than ever, and they still take on most of the household duties. Women are eight times more likely than men to look after sick children or manage their children's schedules. And it’s only chores and childcare; women are more likely to be the ones who care for sick or elderly family members. Whether we inherit or learn this tendency, it often seems to be the way things are.
I see women as the hub of the wheel. A lot of people and things revolve around them, and they keep it all going. I often see women who are beyond fatigued, and truly exhausted. They know they should take better care of themselves, but they often don’t—until they reach a breaking point. And this is where the wheel comes off.
We’re dealing with an age-old tradition of women as nurturers. If you are like most women, you’ve been raised to take care of others first. It seems like the right thing to do. It may feel selfish to take care of yourself before tending to the needs of others. It feels like a constant battle to find time for yourself when everyone is wanting your attention. When you are in burnout or exhaustion, it is really difficult to make good choices for yourself. You do not feel that you have the energy to do one more thing. This first step is the hardest. Think baby steps.
Start by taking some time each day to pause. We all need activities that promote inner peace and calm, that allow us to unwind from stress and get in touch with our needs. Spend some time in nature, go to bed early, take an Epsom salt bath, practice yoga, listen to a guided meditation, or go for a short walk. Choose what feels best to you. All these practices quiet the mind, balance hormones, including cortisol (the stress hormone), which in turn lowers blood pressure and improves brain health. Chronic stress wreaks havoc on our immune system. It can cause inflammation, weight gain, heart disease, sleep issues, ulcers, depression, and diabetes.
Add healthy foods if you have been eating a lot of processed foods. You can grab a handful of almonds and an apple just as easily as a donut. And the payoff in energy and health is so worth it. Make sure you are drinking enough water. The energy from caffeine is short-lived and ultimately stresses the adrenal glands. You might not crave broccoli when you are stressed, but if it is prepped and ready to eat, you will be much more likely to eat it. Preparing healthy meals and snacks on the weekend will help your week go so much better. Slow down and enjoy your food and you will feel more satisfied. Addictive processed foods will lose their power.
We all deserve optimal health and meaningful life. When women begin to speak up for themselves and set boundaries in order to meet their needs, they develop a new outlook on life, one that is more positive and fulfilling.
If you cannot yet give yourself permission to take time for yourself, think about a larger purpose:
Stop and take three slow deep breaths right now. Listen closely. What do you need to be well today?
And then, put yourself on the list. Eventually, move yourself up to the top. You deserve it and the world needs you at your best.