Women today are under more stress than ever before. I mean, after all, didn’t the generation before us stand up and fight for the right for us to have it all? Remember the Enjoli commercial that was so popular?
“I can bring home the bacon,
fry it up in the pan,
and never let you forget you’re a man,
‘cause I’m a woman,
You can have it all!
Well, we wanted it all, and by golly we got it! We are expected to have a career, a husband, 1.8 children (how IS that possible, LOL!), a nice house in the ‘burbs, 1 sports car and 1 SUV. Our kids are expected to be smart, well-behaved, play sports. We are expected to look nice all the time, keep our house clean, volunteer for the PTA, teach Sunday School, and the list just goes on and on.
All the while, we are watching everyone else in their “perfect” lives having it all and wondering why am “I” having such a hard time? I mean, Susie makes it look so easy! Her house is always clean, and her kids are so well behaved. She has a great job, they go on vacation twice a year. And they always seem so happy! There must be something wrong with me. I am just going to have to work harder. I don’t want everybody else to know that I am struggling. I mean, if they are doing it, why can’t I? I just have to wear my happy mask and push forward.
I know this, because this is what I did. I had a great corporate job. I had a company car. I had nice clothes, jewelry, and I had all the answers. I had great kids (albeit almost grown at this point). I had a sweet husband. I attended a large church and we went out to eat 2 or 3 times a week. My team (I was a district manager) looked to me for all the answers, and my company expected me to have them. On the outside, it looked as if I had it together, but under the surface, there was trouble brewing.
My psychologist told me a little story about the swan this past week. When a swan is gliding across the water, they are so beautiful and poised, and they make it look effortless. However, if you were to be under the swan, under the water, their feet were paddling like crazy. All that extra work and effort under the surface to keep the swan looking good to others looking from the outside. Dr. Jones had me pegged so well.
I think that even the strongest swan will eventually get tired, but this here swan was paddling 80+ hours a week at her job. I felt that what I did was never enough, that I had to come up with some new strategy or program that would help increase my numbers to what corporate was requiring. I was burning the candle at both ends and the middle. I tried medication. I tried counseling but quit because I didn’t feel I had time to go. I lost weight, which I needed to, but it was from just plain ol’ not eating. Not a good thing. I only slept about 5 or 6 hours a night. My laptop was permanently attached to me, as was my cell phone. I did not exercise, I did not unplug, or even if I did, I could not rest. I even went on vacation with no internet access, and it took me 5 days to even begin to unwind.
I needed help, I needed someone to help me slow down. I needed help with my perspective on my job, I needed counseling. I needed to rest! I actually considered checking myself into a hospital once or twice, but I didn’t even know where to go. I needed to gain control of my life, but had no idea what to do.
This is where many women find themselves today. They are stressed to the max. If you were to look under the water, their feet would be going 120 miles an hour, just trying to stay afloat. They don’t know what to do, they don’t know where to turn, so they just keep the happy face mask on, and just keep swimming.
If you or or someone you know is struggling, here are some things you can do for a start.
1. Admit you are in trouble. And you have to tell your loved ones you are in trouble, and that you HAVE to have help. This is a HUGE one! We don’t want to admit that we can’t do it, whatever IT is. We have to admit that we can’t.
2. Refuse to continue in the same way you have been. You have to be committed to changing your life.
3. Consider medical care. Do you need to be under a doctor’s care? Do you need medication, even if just for short term?
4. Make yourself a priority. You have to get enough sleep, you have to eat right. You have to cut back to bare minimum responsibilities.
5. Resign, walk away from or say NO to any responsibilities that are not absolutely necessary. With the holidays coming, you have to be prepared to do a VERY scaled back version.
6. Drink plenty of water and get some sort of exercise. I am not talking about starting a major exercise regimen, you do not need to add another stress to your life. I am talking about a walk around the block, 10 minutes a day. Something.
7. Find a source for inner strength. For me, that is prayer and my relationship with God. Whatever that means for you, do it.
8. DON’T BE AFRAID OF WHAT OTHERS WILL THINK! ASK FOR HELP!
I didn’t do these things soon enough. It didn’t go so well for me! If you want to know more about my journey and struggle with depression, anxiety and burnout, you can visit my blog at Living the Balanced Life. My goal is to help others through burnout, or to help them avoid it in the first place!
I believe that women in general need to be more kind and accepting of one another. We need to give each other a break and stop being so judgmental. We need to help and love one another. Is there someone in your life who may need help that you can reach out to today?
Guest writer Bernice Wood is a mother of 4 young adult kids, plus Nana to 7 grandchildren. After a major life change summer 2010, she began blogging to journal her personal struggles and transition. To help others avoid the pitfalls of stress and burnout and learn to live a more healthy life, she recently launched her new blog at Living the Balanced Life. She and her husband are also beginning a new blog at Empty Nesters Off the Chain.