Don’t be a superwoman! It’s good for your health

© Glow Images. Models used for illustrative purposes

© Glow Images. Models used for illustrative purposes

If you’re a mother then you may often find yourself juggling tasks – raising children, managing a household, holding down a job, caring for elderly relatives and participating in family and community activities. Trying to fit everything into the daily schedule while remaining happy and healthy is demanding. It can cause a seemingly normal female, to try and become a superwoman.

While no one is expected to “leap tall buildings”, the desire to be a super-individual and effectively accomplish every task, can be tough to surrender. Hanging on to it, can often lead to self-inflicted pressure, a false sense of responsibility, and feelings of guilt or failure if every job isn’t successfully completed. It can also make saying “no” that much harder.

Being an “I can do everything” type of person, and taking on too much each day, can also be unhealthy. According to psychologist Lynn Bufka, Ph.D., stress can occur because “Mothers often put their family needs first and neglect their own.” Admirable though this may be, keeping on top of everything can lead to burn-out. That’s why “It’s okay”, Bufka says, “to relax your standards – don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself to have the ‘perfect’ house or be the ‘perfect’ mother. No one expects you to be Superwoman.”

To get life into balance, maintain good health and beat the stress factor, Dr. Bufka offers these suggestions. Put things in perspective–make time for what’s really important. Prioritize and delegate responsibilities. Identify ways your family and friends can lessen your load so that you can take a break. Delay or say no to less important tasks.”

Stop the world. It’s time to get off.

It’s helpful advice to take on board, especially if you’re inclined to say yes to everything that’s asked of you. I once tried being a superwoman, until burdened-down, tired and unhappy, I was forced to review my “to do” list. In writing down all, and I mean all, of my regular commitments, it was a shock to find there was no time left to draw breath. The list was cut.

TIP:

● Regularly check your “to do” list. It doesn’t have to keep building up.

● A good rule is: if you add something to it, then drop something off.

● Overhaul your thinking and actions.

● Take a break from the treadmill of life.

● A poem by W.D. Longstaff, offers this advice. “Take time to be holy, Be calm in thy soul; Each thought and each motive beneath His control.” This can mean slow the pace down, take time for quiet contemplation. When asked to do something, pause, think calmly, consider your schedule, check your motives, ask yourself if it’s right for you to accept yet another request.

Learn to say no. It’s ok.

Good people, busy people, and those who believe they’re the “can’t say no” type, are often asked to do things for others. On such occasions, it’s useful to remember that it’s more than possible that your assistance may not be their only answer. It’s OK to decline.

One night at 11pm, my telephone rang. An acquaintance begged me to come immediately and back her car down her narrow driveway.  As I was deciding whether to get out of bed and drive 45 minutes to her, the thought came to pause and think before answering. My own genuine needs had always been met and often in most unexpected and wonderful ways. So I told her I wouldn’t be coming while reassuring her that there would be a solution. Her need would be met. As she angrily banged the phone down, I felt a pang of guilt for saying no. Ten minutes later, she called to say the problem was solved. A neighbour had seen her porch light on, and kindly moved her car.

TIP:

● Be kind to yourself.

● Resist saying yes to everyone.

● Don’t feel bad if you decide to say no.

● Keep a sense of balance.

● You’re worth looking after too.

Doing this may take practice, but the good news is that it can help you not to overcommit. Best of all, it can stop you trying to become superhuman. Instead, you’ll remain a normal, healthy, stress-free woman.

This article also appeared as “ Forget superwoman!: Don’t try to be a superwoman – it’s good for your health” on Motherpedia - an online community for Mums by Mums.

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I'm a Melbourne based health writer who provides a perspective on the connection between spirituality, thought and health. As a keen blogger, my aim is to provide the public with a diversity of health content including research into the mind-body connection and how thought affects health.

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Comments

  1. Arthur says

    Your good advice about overhauling one’s thinking is helpful for guys like me too! For example, “If you add something to your ‘to do’ list, then drop something off”, and “Resist saying yes to everyone”, are great suggestions for achieving a healthy, balanced approach to one’s commitments. I also like the tip to “take time for quiet contemplation”. That’s something I often neglect to do.

    • says

      Thanks Arthur for your comment. So glad you found the ideas helpful not only for mothers but for you guys too. Not matter what you do in life, resisting acting like a superhuman is good for your health. It’s so tempting to fill our days with business and not leave time to pause and make space for that quiet reflection. Slowing down, certainly allows one to mentally breathe.

  2. says

    Thanks for this, Beverly. Learning to say NO, to set boundaries & to prioritize my own needs & desires has been a major focus of the last year + of my life. I always appreciate a reminder that the pressures I feel are coming only from me, & that I am not ultimately responsible for everything working for everyone else.

    • says

      Thank you for your comment Leona. That’s a really good point about pressure. It can be difficult to remember that any sense of pressure is coming from within our own thinking. It often seems to be coming from others. Also handling that false sense of responsibility for things to go well for everyone is important. I know that you’re doing a great job balancing all that you do. Keep up the good work.

  3. Kerrie Gasteen says

    Dear Beverly,Thank you again for yet another timely reminder. Yes we don’t think of ourselves enough, do we. It seems the needs of others are so much more important than our needs. We have to adjust our thinking, don’t let others judge us to be selfish. Asking God for guidance only confirms the right decision is being made. God does have the solution and it isn’t always for us to step in. I often say to myself, ‘Is this the right thing at the wrong time’? It took me a long time to recognise that help sometimes is hindering another persons progress. As long as people realise you are there for them as plan B and love them that seems to give them the courage to try and solve things their way first. Love is never negligent nor tough only gentle and ever present. Thank you – Kerrie

  4. says

    Thank you Kerrie for your comment. I am so glad that you have realized how important it is to care for yourself first before helping others. This is not being selfish, just using loving wisdom. When I think about it, I could have leapt out of bed and gone all the way over to this young woman’s house only to find that the car had already been moved for her! The solution for her was right at hand – and it wasn’t my help she needed. I have seen the needs of others met in what seem remarkable ways, so many times. It all has to do with that universal, loving Presence that cares for all our needs. It never fails.

  5. val says

    Thank you Beverly I know the feeling. There have been many times in my career when I have been stressed and worn out by the demands made on me but I am now in a position where I have more time to myself and therefore able to take on additional tasks as the occasion arises and still remain stress free and and healthier than before. As we never know when circumstances may arise when our help is needed, I’ve found it wise to have some reserve capacity to deal with the emergency.

    “We are all capable of more than we do”. This is a statement from a woman, Mary Baker Eddy, to whose writings I frequently refer when seeking good advice as difficulties arise in my daily life, and find latent resources within myself to cope with the situation. This not only results in a solution to the problem but leads to a feeling of physical well being and mental stability and peace. So when the legitimate demands seem great and the need urgent I can safely go forward secure in the fact that I have the strength and wisdom within myself to go beyond my perceived capacity in doing good to others and remain calm and relaxed, even refreshed, at the same time.

    • says

      Thank you Val for your comment. Good to know that you have found a way to deal with stress and to be ready when required to lend a hand to someone in need. I like this thought from the book Science and Health: “Whatever it is your duty to do, you can do without harm to yourself.”

  6. Sharon from Perth says

    As a mother of 4 daughters and a Director of a Christian Science nursing facility in the US. I sometimes felt like a supermom, but found help from John 5 : 30 “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. ” Taking time to think about this Bible verse always allowed room for ways go about my work ready for fresh inspiration and easier ways to achieve my goals.

    • says

      Thank you Sharon for your comment. So glad you’ve been able to find strength and help from that text. Taking time for quiet contemplation can certainly bring balance into one’s business and family activities.