Tired Woman Syndrome
Tired Woman Syndrome walks hand-in-hand with the well worn (pun intended) phrase “I’m always busy, I’m always tired”. This is a common mantra muttered by Mums with young children. And, isn’t that what it’s supposed to be like when you’re a Mum of toddlers and/or you have just finished working a 16 hour day?
Modern women get tired – sometimes we are too tired to eat, sleep, exercise or even think properly. The result of all this is feel exhausted, stressed and run down. This then becomes our ‘normal’ operating system. Throw young children into the mix and things can get crazy.
Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had, and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed – Linda Wooten.
My clients often lament how they “feel the pull to get the to-do list done each day and complete all work before signing off for the night both at home and in the office”. Then as work finishes, there is the pressure to get the housework done each night along with prepping the meals ready for the next day. Plus walking the dog and attempting some sort of exercise for ourselves before collapsing into bed and doing it all again tomorrow. Groundhog Day anyone?
My Story of becoming a tired woman from Lawyer to Mother.
I remember when I was trying to do it all. The busy career woman who transferred from a law firm position into motherhood and raising two boys (14 months apart). Add in a dose of special needs appointments and chronic medical conditions where I felt like I was training in an instant medical degree specialising in cerebral palsy, diabetes, febrile convulsions and seizures. Plus the three part time jobs. I can see now how my MOTHERLOAD was in OVERLOAD.
Doing it all, although it was pretty messy, meant that we were all still alive and doing ok. However, I was aware that in my busy, frantic state, I was expressing a number of these tell-tale signs of classic Tired Woman Syndrome:
- Short with my husband. Everything he wanted to do was like the worst thing.
- By Friday afternoon I’d just want to drown myself in a glass of wine or gin. Put on my pjs and isolate myself out of pure exhaustion.
- I would yell and get angry with the kids in an instant. My head would burn with heat. I could feel my brain explode on the simplest of mess made, accidents, brotherly fighting or that dinner wasn’t ready.
- Felt exhausted especially because of the endless lists.
A strong woman looks a challenge in the eye and gives it a wink, while a tired woman looks at the challenge and gives it a sigh – Gina Carey
What makes us busy?
Predictors of Perceived Busyness Across the Adult Lifespan – PMC (nih.gov) specifically defines “busyness” as the perception of the density of events and tasks to perform in one’s daily life (Gershuny, 2005; Levine, 2005). In other words, how crowded one perceives one’s schedule to be.
Tired Woman Syndrome is known in other ways – Dr Libby Weaver writes in “Rushing Woman’s Syndrome” that never before have women been in such a hurry to do so many things and be there for so many people. The pace of modern life has drastically increased. But even though our minds can go faster and technology allows us to get more done, our bodies still have cavewoman-like biology. This means they cannot respond healthily to the new and constant pressures we experience.
I know so many of us are constantly putting the needs of our family first, juggling multiple tasks and taking care of everyone around us. Can you remember the last time you had a hot cuppa, in silence or read a book? Can you even recall lying on your bed for a few minutes to just breathe? Have you tried for weeks to find the time to take your nail polish off your toes (hello, that’s me, the blue just wasn’t cutting it for Autumn!). No wonder we can’t do the things that will help alleviate the pressure such as a walk outside or a workout!
Top Tips to create slowness and ease
Here are my key ways to finding yourself again. To create some slowness and ease within your weeks. It’s a slow transition but will become a huge payback in the years to come.
- Taking time and care of yourself is just as important as caring for others
- Take the break
- Finding joy, hobbies and YOU
Downtime offers you a chance to recharge and rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit. It provides opportunity for self-care and allows you to replenish your energy reserves, both physically and emotionally. It’s definitely not selfish to prioritise your own well-being. I certainly agree it does take some practice to stop feeling like there are so many other things I could be doing instead. In fact, when it comes to downtime or slow moments, it’s an essential part of being a loving and present mother. I am now showcasing to my boys that Mum does take time out for herself and needs her rest just as much as they do.
By taking regular breaks and dedicating time for yourself, you’re able to maintain a healthy balance in your life. It allows you to step away from the constant demands and pressures. It gives you the space to relax, reflect, be creative and reconnect with your own needs and desires. This time of solitude can be incredibly empowering. It enables you to regain perspective, reduce stress levels, and increase overall happiness.
Downtime provides you with an opportunity to pursue activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. When working with women, one of the first things I ask is “what do you like to do, what’s your hobby or interest?” Sadly, most quickly reply with “I don’t have one”. It’s at this stage I know the fun or joy is missing from their day to day and we go back to childhood/teenage/twenty something life and dig deep to find that again.
It may look like indulging in a hobby, reading a book, practicing mindfulness, or simply taking a quiet walk in nature, can’t do much. However, these moments of self-nurturing can have a profound impact on your longterm health and well-being. When you invest time (and as Mums it may look like 5-10 minutes at a time in the beginning) in activities that bring you happiness, you become a role model for your children, showing them the importance of self-care and how to prioritise their own needs as they grow older.
Remember this ONE thing
I want you to remember one thing, YOU deserve rest, relaxation, and personal time just as much as anyone else.
You are worthy of experiencing joy and serenity, and by embracing downtime, you are better equipped to face the challenges and joys of motherhood with renewed strength and vitality.
Take a moment, think about how much you need the downtime and your future self will thank you for it.
*Data from the 2017–18 National Health Survey (NHS)