Saturday, May 7, 2011

Superwoman Syndrome

All too often women, especially mothers, use the three dirtiest words in the English language: "should, could, and would".  This type of thinking is an energy-draining, unproductive trap that is important to avoid.

You are likely carrying a very heavy load of responsibilities, which makes it impossible to do anything perfectly. In addition to taking care of yourself, chances are good that you are also caring for several others: a partner, children, an aging parent, a pet, your home, and a business. There is not enough time in the week to perform all of these roles well. It is easy to slide into a negative thought process and focus on what you “should” have done differently- beating yourself up rather than acknowledging the many things you are doing well.

This type of thinking is common in perfectionists. It contributes to exhaustion, high stress levels, and low self-esteem, which can in turn contribute to depression and anxiety.  It is really important to observe your tendency to be self-critical, and work to change your negative thought processes.

Change your thought patterns and behavior for the better:
   Repeat until you believe: "The best thing I can do for everyone is take care of myself." in addition to getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercise, schedule doctor and dentist appointments for yourself religiously.
   Prioritize and be realistic. Studies show we usually under-estimate how long everyday tasks will take. Block out time on your calendar for everything from grocery shopping to running errands to exercise. With practice, this technique may help you break the cycle of always feeling behind and/or running late.
   Think about or write down what you HAVE accomplished.
   Ask for help. It may be painful at first, but you will be doing everyone a favor if children and your  partner become more self-sufficient and you become less stressed.
   Evaluate and adjust relationships. Which friendships are truly genuine and reciprocal? Which ones feel like obligations and are draining?
   Are you being penny-wise and pound-foolish? Unless you really enjoy pulling weeds, your time investment in your job or business will likely eventually reap more money than the going rate for yard work will cost you.
   Review decisions. Some decisions are wonderful in theory but do not stand the test of time. Volunteer commitments, children's activities, certain social obligations, and household rules can and should be re-evaluated and adjusted frequently.

Women are twice as likely to become depressed as men, and are particularly vulnerable after giving birth and during the years around menopause. If you notice your are engaging in an unhealthy habit such as over or under-eating, drinking to excess, abuse of prescription or street drugs, isolating yourself from others, or engaging in an inappropriate relationship, seek help.

You deserve to enjoy some peace of mind and free time long before retirement or your children are grown. It is time to put the Superwoman myth to rest.

Be well,