I don’t feel like chewing. Looking down at the barely touched slice of pizza, the thought of getting up to feed my empty stomach makes me want to take a three hour nap. What is the use? I’m not hungry anyway. I’m not full. I’m not sure if I am even alive. I am disconnected, unamused, apathetic, exhausted and frankly too busy to even think about relaxing. Yet, my to-do list of responsibilities at work just keeps growing, I haven’t done any laundry at home, and I still have to find time to save the world.
As women, we bare more responsibility than anyone between parenting, work, and relationships. While we may call it normal, members of the mental health community call it “Superwoman Syndrome”. Superwoman Syndrome occurs when a woman is attempting to accomplish tasks perfectly and consequently stretches herself too thin and does not put herself as a priority. In her book, Superwoman Rx, Dr. Tasneem Bhatia, MD highlights five different “power types” of Superwoman Syndrome and health risks that predominantly affect them. The power types, illnesses, and advice to keep them going are as follows:
- Boss Lady: Known for their intelligence and wit, they place high demands on themselves are what ultimately affect their health and happiness. Dr. Bhatia also says boss ladies are prone to IBS, reflux, constipation, joint pain, insomnia, and acne.
Her advice: Take a shot of apple cider vinegar daily to reset your pH, limit your dairy, and up your fiber and protein.
- Savvy Chick: Savvy chicks are equal parts ethereal artist and commander-in-chief. But when out of balance, they have medical challenges including anxiety, migraines, IBS, muscle tension, and insomnia—can be daunting.
Her Advice: Eat a diet rich in vitamin B, iron, and protein.
- Earth Mama: Caring and compassionate, earth mamas are natural caregivers. Because they often put their own needs last, weight gain, depression, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and hypertension aren’t uncommon.
Her Advice: Eat smaller, more frequent meals, more plant-based protein, and fiber while limiting carbs and sugar .
- Nightingale: Nightingales are motivated by a constant selflessness and sense of service and find themselves in a million and one community service projects to change the world. Saving the world can come with some side effects, such as a weak immune system, allergies, insomnia, and hormone imbalances.
Her Advice: Take immune-boosting supplements like vitamin B and probiotics and stick to an anti-inflammatory diet. Prioritize sleep and rest.
- Gypsy Girl: Imaginative and creative gypsy girls spend a lot of time in the air or in a creative space. Some common conditions: anxiety, fatigue, hair loss, missed cycles, and insomnia.
Her Advice: Aim for 50 grams of protein a day, avoid gluten and other inflammatory foods, and prioritize sleep.
I identify with most of these types, but according to the quiz offered in the book and on her website, I am a savvy chick. I work a lot in the creative space, but I place high demands on myself and constantly overcommit. I am no stranger to the health related issues that come with this label either. I suffer from crippling anxiety (social and otherwise) as well as chronic migraines. Still somehow, I try to get it all done. It is important to know that as seasons change in our lives; so can our archetype. We are so amazing at trying to do it all, we manage to shift our focus and still can carry this syndrome at every stage of our life if we are not careful.
At any age, it is necessary to consider our health and needs first. Superwoman Syndrome can be dangerous because of the stress that it induces. We suffer from more stress related illnesses than men such as heart disease, reproductive issues, and depression. In addition to the recommendations from Dr. Bhatia, the National Institute of Mental Health suggests the following tips to cope with stress and overwhelming tasks:
- Recognize the signs of your body’s response to stress, such as difficulty sleeping, increased alcohol or other substance use, having low energy or feeling depressed.
- Get regular exercise. Just 30 minutes per day of walking can help boost your mood and reduce stress.
- Try a relaxing activity. Explore stress coping programs, which may incorporate meditation or other gentle exercises.
- Set goals and priorities. Decide what must get done and what can wait.
- Stay connected with people who can provide emotional and other support.
Yes we have a lot to do, but we can’t continue to pour into other people if our cup is empty. As women, we have a substantial impact in whatever we do. When we aren’t the best version of ourselves, there is a massive domino effect that manifests in everything around us. We’re so accustomed to delivering the strong independent woman mantra to ourselves, and everyone else, that we lose our ability to connect to the human inside the superhero suit. We become afraid to admit that we are struggling, and that our capes are sometimes just too heavy.
I’m grateful to do what I love and be involved in so many things, but my struggles aren’t over. Recently, I’ve been contemplating how my life and this syndrome have affected my long-term health. As with many of us, I’m working to improve my stress management and incorporate more exercise into my daily life. I guarantee that I am not the only one who is slowly, but surely attempting to make a change. It is instrumental to our mental and physical health that we acknowledge that we are already superwomen. We are making things happen, even if it is one small movement at a time. Taking a step to breathe and refocus is what we need to do to help save ourselves so that we can save the world.
For more information on Superwoman Rx, Dr. Bhatia, and to take the archetype quiz, visit her website at www.doctortaz.com. After completing the quiz and receiving the results, Dr. Bhatia’s team will send helpful life tips to help you maximize your potential as your specific type. For a more visual resource, watch her Youtube Channel dedicated to helping women maintain healthy physical and mental lifestyles.