Image: Modern Family’s Claire Dunphy
Women are wired.
Many of them are tired too. Tired yet wired. They’re living in a state of relentless urgency. There’s never enough time in the day, and the to-do lists are never completely crossed off.
This constant need to rush – this feeling that we’re never doing enough – is causing significant health problems in women. The issue is so bad, I had to write about it.
I’ve noticed a shift in women’s health and behaviour over the past 16 years. Never before in my work have I witnessed so many females in a rush to do everything. To be all things to all people. Never before have I seen as many reproductive system and sex hormone challenges as I see now.
The perceived need to rush is changing the face of women’s health in a detrimental way. From PMS to IBS, from losing our tempers to feeling like we can’t cope. Whether a woman displays it on the outside or keeps it under wraps, more are suffering.
Watch: Aussie celebrities share the best advice they learned from their mums. (Post continues after video.)
Not that long ago, women were given the opportunity to do what had traditionally been their father’s jobs. Yet women are maintaining what has traditionally been their mother’s responsibilities. What has unfolded for too many women is a frantic double shift of work day and night, with very little – if any – rest.
We’ve made more progress in the workplace than we have in the home. Research shows that if a woman and man both work full time and have one child, she does twice the amount of housework and three times the amount of childcare he does. So essentially, she has three jobs and he has one. This isn’t fair, and it isn’t healthy.
The consequence? Rushing Woman’s Syndrome. Biochemically this is known as Sympathetic Nervous System Dominance… but as a scientist, I didn’t believe anyone would know what that meant.
Our nervous system plays a significant role in how we respond to stress, and it has a number of parts. The two branches related to Rushing Women’s Syndrome are the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) – also known as the amped up “fight or flight” response; and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), the calming “rest, digest, repair and reproduce” arm of the nervous system.
The challenge for too many women today is that they live in SNS dominance, in a constant state of "fight or flight". This can play havoc with weight management, food cravings, sleep quality, patience, moods, self-esteem, and overall quality of life.
One of the hormones driving this is adrenalin, which communicates to every cell in the body that your life is in danger. As I described in my TEDx talk, science suggests humans have been on the planet for between 100,000 and 150,000 years. For the entirety of that history "life or death situation" is what adrenalin has meant to the body.
Your nervous system doesn't know that the adrenalin pumping inside you is not from a physical threat to your life, but rather your body's response to the caffeine you drink, or your sense of everyday pressure.
When we live on adrenalin we tend not to sleep restoratively. We also constantly crave sugar, because when the body wants to get out of danger, it burns glucose rather than stored body fat. And even though our body is begging for it, we chastise ourselves for succumbing to sweets.
So why do we do it?
One reason is because we care so much for the people in our lives. On one level this way of living comes from such a wonderful place. It comes because we have beautiful hearts. (Post continues after gallery.)
But deeper than that is a story we made up about women a long time ago. A story we tell ourselves that says we aren't good enough the way we are. That we aren't tall enough, slim enough, pretty enough, brainy enough, on time enough. Because who we are is not enough, we spend our lives trying to please everyone around us, putting their needs ahead of our own.
We rush around and do all we can to make sure that others love and appreciate us, so that we never ever have to feel rejected, ostracised, unlovable, criticised, yelled at, or like we've let others down.
It's not just the physical health consequences that concern me for women. It's that they live their lives so out of touch with their beautiful hearts, out of touch with how extraordinary they are. So many are lost in the cloud of false belief that they aren't doing it properly.
It is important to realise that the way we eat, drink, move, think, believe and perceive the world affects our need to rush.
As a scientist and health professional I aim to help people live their lives with more PNS activation. Letting the "rest, digest, repair and reproduce" arm of our nervous system do its job can have the most profound effect on health.
From that place sex hormones are far easier to balance. Our liver function (detoxification processes) and digestion work better, so we experience far less bloating. The thyroid functions properly, which is also important for metabolic rate and our ability to burn body fat.
Bring a sense of awareness into your life. Think about why you do what you do, and what lead you there. Awareness, rather than self-judgment is the first step in this journey to retire from the rush.
Please remember that life is precious, that you are precious, and to treat yourself accordingly.
Can you identify with the feelings Dr Weaver is describing? Let us know!
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