Do you feel like you’re constantly juggling a million things and yet never have enough time for anything? If so, you might be suffering from superwoman syndrome. This phenomenon is characterized by the pressure women feel to juggle a successful career, a happy home life, plenty of exercise, and an active social life. Unfortunately, this often leads to stress and burnout. In this blog post, we will explore the signs of superwoman syndrome and provide tips on how to overcome its negative effects.
No matter where you are on your journey, you’re welcome inside my amazingly supportive community of fellow superwomen—learn more here.
The life of the modern superwoman
Modern womanhood means maintaining the demands of multiple roles: businesswoman, mother, spouse, daughter, sister, homemaker, nurse, school supervisor, chauffeur, personal chef—and so much more.
And whatever roles we fill, we’re supposed to perform them happily, effortlessly, and not looking like we’ve aged a single day.
For women, this do-it-all lifestyle has become so pervasive, that the American psychological association even has a name for it.
‘Superwoman Syndrome’ is a set of characteristics found in a woman who performs or attempts to perform all the duties typically associated with several different full-time roles, such as wage earner, mother, homemaker, and wife.
Related: Adrenal Fatigue in Women: 7 Signs You’re on the Road to Burnout
Health issues associated with superwoman syndrome
Taking on so many roles comes at a cost. Women today show increased rates of anxiety, depression, chronic stress & fatigue, migraines, heart disease, and infertility, and we have the evidence to prove it:
- Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at some point in life compared to men.
- Depression is also 1.5 to 3 times more common in women than men.
- Women are twice as likely to have insomnia as men (1). Much of this has to do with hormones, but some of it has to do with the ebbs and flows of a woman’s life.
- Migraines affect more than 30 million Americans, but women are three times more likely than men to get migraines (2).
Being a modern day superwoman doesn’t necessarily directly cause health issues, but it’s clear that juggling all these different roles takes a toll on a woman’s health over time.
Read: This Hormone Could be Waking You Up at 3 am—Here’s What to Do
Do you have superwoman syndrome?
Self care advice is everywhere, but much of it also feels like an extra burden. When you’re burned out, things that are meant to feel like self care become one more appointment to schedule—and then feel guilty about when you’re not able to work it into your already packed life.
To start to heal in a practical way, begin by recognizing where superwoman syndrome is stemming from in your life.
Superwoman syndrome self-test
Everyone experiences their own version of superwoman syndrome, but I’ve noticed several patterns that affect women most often. Gauge how well you’re handling the obligations and expectations in your life with the following true or false questions:
- I usually have a positive attitude about my day.
- I am able to sleep well and wake feeling rested.
- I don’t rely on food, drugs, or alcohol to cope with stress.
- I am not easily irritated by small things.
- I have healthy hair and clean, smooth skin.
- I have supportive family or friends.
- I eat healthfully and exercise most days of the week.
- I am free of pain.
If you answered ‘false’ to two or more of the above questions, it’s a likely sign that the daily demands of life are exceeding your ability to cope—and taking a toll on your health.
Try this: Sleep Better & Boost Focus with This 5-Minute Nordic Ritual
Symptoms of superwoman syndrome
As mentioned above, everyone reacts differently when faced with increasing stress from daily life. And while occasional tiredness or minor mood changes can be a result of the natural ebbs and flows of hormones, any symptom that is significant enough to disrupt your activities is a red flag.
When your daily obligations negatively impact your health, you may experience symptoms of burnout, such as:
- Bouts of irritability
- Trouble sleeping or excessive sleep
- Difficulty concentrating or with memory
- Sweating when not physically active
- General aches and pains
In addition to physical symptoms of burnout, you may also feel:
- Loss of motivation
- Fatigued or exhausted often
- A lack of satisfaction at work
- A sense of failure
- Isolated or alone
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
How to balance career & family—without sacrificing yourself
It’s time to step off the hamster wheel and start taking care of yourself. By focusing on your own health, you can better manage family, social, and career demands.
Adjust your diet and exercise
Eat healthy, nutrient-rich meals to power hormones and replenish energy. Choose whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables as well as lean proteins like chicken and fish. Adequate protein is essential to maintain physical and mental stamina. Plus, a busy life can quickly deplete nutrients like B vitamins and magnesium, which is why it’s so important to focus on a healthy diet (3,4).
Exercise also reduces stress and improves mood, and in some cases is as effective as antidepressant medications (5). Find a type of movement you enjoy so that you look forward to making it part of your day. High intensity workouts can often increase stress hormones like cortisol, so be mindful of how you feel after engaging in things like crossfit or running. If it takes you an entire day to recover, it’s a red flag that you need to dial down the intensity.
Diet and exercise routines are highly individual—what works for one person may be the exact opposite for another.
You can start to uncover what makes your body thrive by getting to know your Power Type.
Practice active relaxation—and stop scrolling
The mind is capable of the same kind of wear and tear as the body, so it’s important to give yourself a break. Commit to daily relaxation practices like breathing exercises or vagus nerve activation.
As tempting as it is to check social media whenever you have a few minutes of downtime, it’s important to practice mindfulness and choose activities that nourish and relax your mind—scrolling Instagram actually does the opposite. Read something inspiring, take a walk outdoors, do an art project, or just give yourself permission to daydream.
Just like working out and eating right, relaxation is a habit you will need to cultivate. The more consistent you are with self-care practices, the more impact they will have over time.
Try this: Tone Your Vagus Nerve for Stress Relief & Hormone Balance
Adequate sleep is non-negotiable to be able to cope with the demands of everyday life. Sleep deprivation can lead to a variety of issues such as anxiety, decreased concentration and productivity levels, depression, and weakened immunity (6).
Take steps to ensure you’re getting enough rest each night (7-9 hours is ideal). Create a bedtime routine that helps you wind down and disconnect before going to sleep. Unplug from devices an hour or two before bed, turn off lights, draw a bath, read a book, listen to soothing music or nature sounds—whatever helps keep your mind and body relaxed so that you can fall asleep without struggle.
Read: How to Overcome Nighttime Anxiety
Eliminate negative self-talk
We all have inner dialogue, but for many of us it’s anything but kind. Start by noticing how you talk to yourself throughout the day. Do you berate yourself when things don’t go as planned? Do you tell yourself that you’re not good enough or compare yourself to others?
Try replacing negative self-talk with phrases like “I’m capable and strong” or “I can handle anything that comes my way”. Once you start to recognize and challenge negative thoughts, you can begin to replace them with positive messages.
Simplify your care routine
How you treat your body on the inside affects how you look on the outside, and vice versa. You have unique and specific beauty needs based on your age, personality, skin type, hair type, and so on.
Take stock of your beauty routine and look for ways to streamline it. Skip harsh products or treatments as much as possible, and opt instead for natural ingredients that nourish your skin and hair. Choose multitasking products that can help you achieve a variety of desired effects in one go. And don’t forget to take the time to enjoy the process!
Set boundaries and enforce them
We all have responsibilities, commitments, and obligations that need our attention. But as important as it is to prioritize everything on your list, don’t forget to set aside time for yourself. Start by identifying your priorities, and learn to exercise your ability to say “no” to things that don’t align with your goals. It may be hard to say no at first but setting boundaries in life will help you stay sane and stress-free.
Remember, “no” is an empowering word, and can definitely be a complete sentence when you need it to be.
Set realistic, attainable goals
For example, many of my patients want to lose weight. They already know one of their roadblocks is healthy eating, so they’ll tell me they want to eat healthier to help lose weight. But what exactly does that look like?
To hone in on goal setting, we come up with something that’s trackable, like: My goal over the next 6 weeks is to drink 70 oz of water per day, and eat 25 grams of protein with each meal.
Progress over perfection
Do you get caught up in reaching your goals so much that you forget to enjoy the process? Celebrate the small victories along the way, even if it’s just something as simple as getting through the day with grace. Remember that your house doesn’t have to be clean 24 hours a day, dinner doesn’t have to be on the table every night at the same time, and you can’t be the perfect employee all the time.
A note for the Superwoman in all of us: Just because you can have and do it all doesn’t necessarily mean you should. It’s important to identify what you personally want and what is important to you. Superwoman is a fictional character, not a role model, and trying to be her isn’t sustainable or healthy.
Take care of yourself, and you’ll be in a better position to take care of the ones you love.