By Dr Libby Weaver
In a world that is becoming increasingly ‘connected’ (just think of the number of times you have looked at your phone today), along with the pressures of motherhood, a career and a never-ending to-do list – rushing is considered the new normal. But what many of us don’t realise is that far from being a sign of success, this is actually detrimental to our health. From PMS, to anxiety, to losing our tempers, to feeling like we can’t cope, Rushing Woman’s Syndrome is the new disease of today’s society, a result of the perceived requirement to be always be ‘ON’. And it’s not just a theory. Rushing Woman’s Syndrome actually describes what is scientifically known to be Sympathetic Nervous System dominance and the biochemical changes that this drives in the body. And as women, it’s time we said ‘No’. It’s time we put ourselves first in a bid to protect our health for the future.
THE ROLE THE NERVOUS SYSTEM PLAYS
Our nervous system is a key body system that plays a significant role in the stress response. It can be the difference between feeling calm and feeling frazzled or jittery. The nervous system has a number of parts. The two branches related to the stress response are the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS), also known as the ‘fight or flight’ response, while the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) is the calming ‘rest, digest, repair and reproduce’ arm. The challenge for many women today is that we live in SNS dominance which plays havoc with weight management, food cravings, sleep quality, patience, moods, self-esteem, and our overall quality of life.
But, how do we get in this loop? One of the stress hormones that drives our bio response to stimuli is adrenalin, that communicates to the body that there is a life-endangering threat. With humans having been on the planet for about 150,000 years, this is adrenalin’s purpose. In modern life however, the nervous system doesn’t know the difference between the adrenalin that serves to amp us up from a physical threat to our lives, and our body’s response to the caffeine we drink and/or our perception of pressure.
When we live on adrenalin we tend not to sleep restoratively, we crave sugar despite our best intentions, and we find it harder to utilise stored body fat as a fuel, burning glucose instead, turning on the switch that craves sweet food… hello harsh self-talk when you give in to that piece of cake, when really it is not your fault!
If we live in SNS dominance for long enough, our body also starts producing larger amounts of another stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol, when produced in the right amounts, helps us get out of bed each morning with the energy to take on the day. However, if we produce too much cortisol as a result of our body’s response to on-going stress, we also find ourselves trapped in a corner of anxiety, fatigue (feeling sluggish and exhausted) and sickness.
Oestrogen and progesterone have a huge effect on our lives. They have the potential to make us happy or sad, vivacious or anxious, pimply or clear skinned. They are also tied up in our fertility, impact our menstrual cycles and guide our transition through menopause. Big roles for two little hormones!
One of the biggest challenges facing us today is the way our stress hormone production as described, therefore interfers with our female sex hormone balance (oestrogen and progesterone). So many women now suffer with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Endometriosis, with both physical and emotional health consequences. From painful periods, to fluid retention, to yelling at the people we love most in the world (and berating ourselves afterwards), it is vital we break out of the cycle of stress in order to combat the immense challenge it places on our hormones.
THE REASON WE DO IT
So, why do we do it? On one level, our rushed way of living comes from a beautiful place – we have big hearts and we want everyone to be happy. However, deeper than that, it can come from a place of believing we are not enough. We rush around and do all that we can to make sure others love and appreciate us so we never feel rejected, ostracised or criticised.
HOW WE CAN HELP OURSELVES
It’s not just the physical health consequences that are a concern for us as perpetually stressed mamas, it’s also the mental indications. And this is where change must start. We must acknowledge how extraordinary we are. We must believe we are worthy. We must love ourselves. We must SLOW DOWN and BREATHE. We must understand the way we move, think, breathe, believe and perceive impact on our need to rush. We must take the time to STOP and to NURTURE. And in doing so, we will become more aware as to why we do what we do. And awareness, rather than judgement is the first step on our journeys to retire from the rush. Life is precious, we are precious… and we must treat ourselves accordingly.
DO YOU HAVE RUSHING WOMAN’S SYNDROME?
1. DO YOU LOVE COFFEE TO THE POINT THAT YOU FEEL DEPRIVED IF YOU CANNOT GET YOUR DAILY FIX?
2. DO YOU HAVE HEAVY PERIODS, IRREGULAR PERIODS, PMS, OR A DEBILITATING MENOPAUSE?
3. DO YOU CRAVE SUGAR, PARTICULARLY MID-AFTERNOON OR CLOSE TO MENSTRUATION?
4. DO YOU FEEL OVERWHELMED OFTEN?
5. DO YOU HAVE POOR SHORT-TERM MEMORY?
6. DO YOU FEEL LIKE THERE ARE NEVER ENOUGH HOURS IN THE DAY?
7. DO YOU OVERREACT EASILY EVEN IF YOU DON’T DISPLAY IT OUTWARDLY?
8. DO YOU OFTEN FEEL TIRED BUT WIRED?
9. DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU CAN’T SIT DOWN, AS YOU WILL FEEL GUILTY?
10. DO YOU HAVE A TO-DO LIST THAT IS NEVER CROSSED OFF AND THIS BOTHERS YOU?
11. DO YOU FEEL A SENSE OF PANIC EASILY?
12. DO YOU OFTEN HAVE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM PROBLEMS SUCH AS BLOATING OR IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME?
13. DO YOU FIND IT DIFFICULT TO RELAX WITHOUT WINE?
14. DO YOU BEAT YOURSELF UP FOR NOT BEING A GOOD ENOUGH WIFE/MOTHER/FRIEND/COLLEAGUE?
15. DO YOU FIND IT DIFFICULT TO ASK FOR HELP AND ALSO TO SAY ‘NO’?
If you have answered YES to more than two of these, it may be time to take stock of your lifestyle and pull it back to a speed that is more manageable in the long term. STOP doing those things that drain you, and START doing the things that rejuvenate you. PRIORITISE your lists. DITCH the things that are complicating your life. DROP the guilt. And know that in living with INTENT your whole family will gain.