For as long as I can remember I always had some sort of job, before I was of legal working age, I started selling popcorn cakes at school, and would drag buckets of water up and down the road to neighbour’s houses washing cars for pocket money. Having attended a girls’ grammar school, it never even occurred to me to have anything less than an amazing career. I knew I wanted children, but I had been told I could have everything, it would be ‘fine’.
I was a strong, independent woman, and nothing would get in the way of my dreams.
Fast forward a couple of decades and I’m noticing more and more that women are completely burnt out from trying to do and have it all. Whether it’s exhaustion, anxiety, intense period cramps, absent periods or fertility issues, something has taken its toll on women’s health. Could it be possible that this fierce striving for everything has left us incredibly depleted?
Our bodies just can’t tell the difference between stressors; whether it’s working long hours, constantly checking emails, or running from a tiger, our stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol are going way up because of our fast-paced lifestyle.
The way we are living our life is telling our hormones that the world is not safe, and with that it’s starting to shut down our ability to reproduce. Our bodies have been designed to make babies under optimal conditions, but the stress of wanting to have it all, is stopping that natural process from working.
How to Restore Your Mother Nature
Of course, stress is not just limited to women, but in pushing for total equality and focusing on keeping up with the lifestyles of men, rather than celebrating the differences we need to nurture for health, we are pushing ourselves further down the rabbit hole. Our bodies were just not designed to live a fight-or-flight lifestyle all the time.
As women we have natural cycles… we ebb and flow in our moods, energy levels, creativity and focus. Ideally, there’s a peak at ovulation and then when our hormones change in the second half of our cycle, we slow down, turn inwards and rest. However, this perfectly natural cycle is interrupted when we refuse to rest and nourish ourselves properly. Instead, we’re still scheduling those meetings, still pushing beyond our limits, and essentially working against our biology in a bid to ‘reach that full working potential’.
Similarly, misguided advice that we should physically push ourselves to be strong women, we can end up putting our fertility at risk. Intermittent fasting, low carb diets and intense workouts have been studied with great results in some men, but in my clinical observation, I’ve lost count of the women I see who follow these lifestyles and can’t understand why they’re not ovulating, can’t fall pregnant and have stopped having periods altogether. It’s just another stress response in the body. We have to understand that this intense way of living can have major implications.
On top of this, after a long working day followed by intense exercise, there never seems to be enough time to eat well. We’re relying on convenience foods to fuel us, but can’t understand why we need a major caffeine hit to function in the morning. Poor quality food and lack of proper nutrition does nothing to repair our tired bodies and support brain function, and it does absolutely nothing to tell our bodies that we are healthy enough to reproduce and support new life. Add to this a fake energy-hit of caffeine, it’s a wonder that we’re functioning at all.
When we seek big-pharma to regulate our periods, or to deal with horrible monthly symptoms, women are often directed to the contraceptive pill as a ‘fix’, but these artificial hormones will only ever mask the underlying problem. This just fuels the fire as the synthetic hormones can deplete vital nutrients needed for our mood, affect our digestion, and of course affect our ability in the long term to fall pregnant.
Somewhere along the line, in a quest to “have it all”, we have forgotten how incredible it is to be a woman and to celebrate our differences. We’ve forgotten to embrace our natural cycle, nourish ourselves properly and pull back when we need to. We’re pushing ourselves harder than ever, and burning out as a result. It’s time to change focus and start to really care for ourselves, as women.
For women to truly heal we must step back, work with our bodies and calm that stress response down. In this crazy busy world, we need to repair and refuel with deeply nutritious food, utilise more restorative exercises, make time for bonding with other women, and bring back a sense of community.
Maybe it’s not about pushing ourselves to exhaustion and putting our career goals above our health. We can learn a lot from ancient practices where the women were the healers and care givers. I think we need to be careful in how we ascribe value, thinking that our worth is determined by money or by reaching some career goal. We are valuable as much as we are functioning and enjoying our life.
We’re amazing creatures and it’s time to get back to ourselves and fully loving who we are.
Remember, you can’t have it all, if at first you don’t have your health.