More and more, I’m hearing my women friends – many of them mothers, but not all – complain about fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, chronic pain or stress-related health issues. Not surprisingly, many of the women who see me for Reiki treatment or wellness coaching report list those as reasons for their visit as well.
The demands of modern society are relentless, and the environmental toxins we are continually exposed to upset our complex, fragile endocrine systems. Yet, the image of “Superwoman” is one we are somehow conditioned to believe we should emulate.
You know who I mean: the woman we idolize who successfully manages a career and/or a household, a social life and possibly some volunteer activities with seemingly little effort. And of course she’d never be caught dead with bedhead and wearing sweatpants while in line at the grocery store.
We think some other person is “Superwoman” as we slog along, powered by caffeine and adrenaline, desperately trying not to collapse as we multitask our way through the day. But the truth is, on some level, nearly all of us are “Superwomen” because society expects that of us, and we expect that of ourselves too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen status updates on Facebook or tweets where women I know list all of the tasks they’ve completed – or need to complete – that day as if it’s a badge of honor. (I rarely, if ever, see men do this.) Some of us accomplish this ridiculous task overload wearing sweatpants too, because as we know, there’s no time to put on the cape.
The one thing that many women do not prioritize when they are powering through their task list is self-care. And the end result is that they can’t sleep at night or suffer crippling panic attacks. They’re exhausted from lack of sleep, from not stopping, and the combination causes weight gain, chronic pain or flare up of other symptoms. They get sick and stay sick.
And how do I know this? Because I’ve been there far too many times. I lived with chronic pain from several different health issues for over a decade before finally learning self-care practices and committing to regular wellness care. I still have to remind myself to slow down and prioritize what is truly necessary or what is an expectation or obligation I’ve placed on myself that I can let go of momentarily or for good.
I used to travel a lot for business, and sat through countless iterations of the pre-flight safety instructions. We really don’t like to think about the possibility of having to pull down the oxygen masks in case of an emergency, but the metaphor is a good one.
Those of us who routinely care for others – whether it is a team or group of employees at work, patients, our children, or aging parents – need to put the oxygen masks on ourselves first before taking care of another person’s well-being. If we’re constantly gasping for air, how can we be of service to anyone else?
Sometimes we pull down the oxygen mask for a few whiffs of air to stay balanced and alert. And sometimes we pull down the oxygen mask to save our lives before it is too late.
(Photo credit: http://drawedit.wordpress.com/tag/airplane/)