Sunday, May 9, 2010

Why Overwhelmed Women Need to Take Care of Themselves First

In honor of Mother's Day and just in time for Women's Health Week, I decided it's time to unveil the best thing women can do for themselves and their family: take some time to get healthy and stay healthy. It's common knowledge that women are the traditional "caretakers" and therefore, they take care of everyone else first. Then when things start going wrong and their body gives them warning signs, they get a wake-up call. Yet, it often falls on deaf ears. After spending decades putting everyone else (including volunteer work, colleagues, the random "friend" on facebook who asked for advice) first, it's a matter of retraining their thought patterns and practicing this new, yet uncomfortable, behavior.

You see, I've met many women who take on more than their fare share of tasks at home. And then among couples, if I ask the man something his response is often “I don’t know go ask {insert wife’s name here}” Clearly, the wife has taken on all of the holiday duties, scheduling appointments, waking up in the middle of the night taking care of the kids and other tasks that take mental and physical energy.

Not only does this take a toll on their energy levels, but, it takes a toll on their overall health because many of my female clients wait a long time before going to the doctor in fear that they are “complaining.” Aside from the burdens they often take on, women are also more likely to suffer from a variety of diseases and conditions including depression, autoimmune diseases, iron deficiency anemia (making them incredibly fatigued), endocrine and metabolic disorders including PCOS and thyroid problems such as Grave’s Disease and heart disease.

If you are an overwhelmed woman, my best piece of advice is to take some time for yourself without distractions. No cell phone, ipod, TV or conversations. Instead, take a walk, sit outside in a hammock and just think about what you need to take care of you. If it helps, journal about what you need to feel less burdened and live a healthy, joyous life. If you feel like your life has skidded off track, check out this article from Martha Beck (one of my favorite writers) titled: Wait! Stop! It’s All Too Much! Because, after all, as a well known public speaker once said: the best gift you can give this world is a healthy you.

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