Women today have been afforded so many more opportunities and choices than ever before and as a result we are excelling in every area. However, the one area in which women are not excelling in is their own self care.
Now that we are able to do anything we choose, we put so much more pressure on ourselves to do everything. We juggle demanding workloads, hectic lifestyles, family and financial responsibilities as well as unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others. To the point we become chronically stressed, overwhelmed, burnt out, depressed or worse – but unfortunately, we’re “too busy” to listen.
Many of us believe that chronic stress is “normal” and a byproduct of what “I need to/should do” to achieve and get things done. However, this constant state of stress wreaks havoc, not only on our health and wellbeing but on our family, relationships and life.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE’RE STRESSED?
When we become stressed our physiology changes. Our body immediately activates its fight/flight response. This is the same response cavemen would activate when confronted with a perceived threat to survival. Our breathing becomes short, shallow and rapid as adrenalin and cortisol are released, giving our body a sudden burst of energy as well prepare to fight or flee.
This type of response is normal, healthy and appropriate when there is an imminent threat eg: slamming on your brakes to avoid an accident. However, nowadays we’ve become so chronically stressed that our bodies can no longer differentiate between a real or imagined threat. Therefore, what we perceive to be a dangerous or stressful situation, may not be at all. This results in our cortisol becoming stuck in alarm mode, creating hormonal imbalances on the inside. We may experience anxiety, mood swings, can’t sleep, crave sugar or wine and we gain weight around our belly for no apparent reason.
While on the outside we sweat the small stuff like doing the laundry, making kids lunches or getting stuck in traffic. Our temper fuse becomes shorter and shorter as we yell at our kids, fight with our husband/partner and constantly berate ourselves for what should’ve been done, what could’ve been done better and what needs to be improved.
In the later stages of stress as our body enters exhaustion phase, our cortisol levels swing from too high to too low and everything in between which only adds to our already chronically stressed state resulting in adrenal fatigue, depression and other serious health issues.
WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN?
The thing is, as much as our intentions are good, our actions of over achieving, over responsibility and over giving are met with others’ equal reactions of under giving leaving us feeling unappreciated, frustrated and resentful.
“Good girls are seen and not heard”
From a young age, we are taught to always be compliant, obedient and polite. Sooner or later we form the belief that if I’m a “good girl”, keep the peace, comply with rules and excel in everything I do then I will be valued and rewarded.
Unfortunately, we’re not encouraged to discover who we really are, we’re not reminded that our needs are just as important as others and we’re not taught to assert or speak up for ourselves. And, if we do speak up – where boys are seen as “leaders”, we may be frowned upon and perceived to be “naughty” or “bossy”. As a result, we grow up portraying the perfect “good girl” image. We mirror how others want us be to seen: always pleasing, telling others exactly what they want to hear as we become attuned to their every need.
These conditioned patterns of over responsibility and selflessness continue into adulthood. We become disconnected with what’s most true for us, we suppress our feelings because they’re “messy and “don’t have time” and because we don’t want to be seen as weak, we perpetually apologise for showing any sign of perceived vulnerability.
Ultimately, we reject our femininity as we step into a masculine persona of action, productivity and results. We even go so far as to dress in clothes that reflect our masculine image.
The irony is that we forego our self care to achieve more.
And, the more we overachieve the more stressed, overwhelmed and burnt out we become.
SLOW DOWN & BREATHE
The quality of our breathing has a tremendous impact on the quality of our life. Not the short, shallow, chest breaths that many of us experience when we’re in our fight/flight response creating anxiety and stress. I mean good quality, deep, nutritious, healing breaths that sends signals to our brain telling it that everything is ok. Diaphragmatic breathing allows our bodies to release less cortisol giving it a chance to turn on the parasympathetic nervous system, essentially lowering our heart rate and blood pressure and reversing the effects of the stress hormones already present in the body.
It also helps us to relax back into ourselves, reconnect with our bodies and to accept the parts of ourselves: care, compassion, connection and love – which we have been rejecting in order to “get things done”.
EMBRACE THE DANCE
Over the years we’ve stepped into a masculine persona of rules, standards and results. We reject our feminity as a sign of weakness and vulnerability. Masculine sees feminine as weak and fluffy, whereas feminine sees masculine as rigid, inflexible and single minded.
The truth is, masculine and feminine energies are two sides of the same coin – both are necessary for the development of you, as a human being. – Jay Hedley
When we reject our femininity we create an imbalance – we reject the care, compassion, connection and love which is most true for us as women.
By gaining flexibility to know when to step into our femininity, we can begin to let go of our over responsibility. We ask for help, and we let others step up and help us. We begin to delegate rather than “do it myself because I know it’ll get done”. We let go of the need to control the outcome as we begin to connect, engage and relate with others in a way that allows us to influence by creating relationships first and foremost rather than the masculine “my way or the highway” approach.
As we do so, our stress and anxiety will subside, we will lose a lot of ’emotional’ weight, we become more productive at work, happier in our relationships and we experience more joy and connection with our family as well as authenticity in our life.