Superwoman Syndrome: Are You Running On Fumes?

May 10, 2023

The toll “doing it all” takes on your health.

Time and time again I have seen my friends and clients struggle with “superwoman syndrome,” a phenomena publicly decried since at least the 1970s. This term summarizes the societal pressure on a woman to not only perform but excel in all of her careers: her career in the workforce, her career as a mother, her career as a wife, and her career as a friend. Quite frankly, it’s impossible to meet all of the expectations. I am not saying that a woman cannot do all of these things in her life, and do them well—she can—but she cannot do them perfectly.

“Perfect” is a tricky little word, an insidious concept that has seeped into fibers of femininity. The perfect superwoman ideal deludes her into stringing a tightrope between her home and her office, over soccer games, parent-teacher conferences, dinner, and presentations at work. It then forces her to walk this hair-thin suspension while carrying a spouse, 2.5 kids, and the dog—while wearing high heels. This superwoman should appear thin, beautiful, gracious, humble, and fun, and do so effortlessly. But, it’s impossible to check every box. I can feel my heart beating faster just thinking about it.

The thing about stress is that the body cannot tell the difference between physical and psychological stress. It reacts the same way to both. Whether it’s a conflict with your child or a fender bender, the exact same physiological process occurs within your body. Superwoman syndrome, and the accompanying physical and psychological strain it creates, is no exception.

Running on Fumes

So, what happens when your body feels constantly under attack? When you’re anxious, overworked, and exhausted? When your stress response stays on high alert?

In chronically stressful situations, the parasympathetic nervous system does not kick in to relax your body into a state where it can rest and perform critical functions, such as tissue repair and menstruation. Dramatic hormonal and other disruptions continue to occur, possibly to the point of damaging your body. Some of these disruptions affect your hormones. Let’s break it down…

Reproductive Hormones

Have you ever missed your period because you were stressed out? Interference with reproductive hormones due to stress can absolutely lead to a disruption of the menstrual cycle. This can interrupt the release of progesterone—a vital hormone, especially for female health, that counterbalances estrogen and creates perimenopause symptoms when deficient. Testosterone levels drop too, leading to problems in both sexes, including decreased libido, muscle loss, slowed metabolism, weakened bones, and increased anxiety and depression. Learn more in this article: Take Charge of Hormone Havoc

Adrenal Glands

I talked about stress and how the body reacts the same to both physical and psychological stress — this immediate “fight or flight” response from the body comes straight from the adrenal glands. Unfortunately, with incessant stress, the adrenal glands aren’t able to keep up with hormone product (adrenaline, cortisol and DHEA). Over time, they simply can’t keep up and fatigue sets in. In this most stress time, I now estimate that Adrenal Fatigue affects upwards of 75% of women. Some of the most common signs of adrenal fatigue are cravings for salt, dark circles under the eyes, belly fat, suffering from “night owl” syndrome, trouble sleeping through the night, and fatigue especially in the late morning and mid-afternoon. I have found that supplementing with adrenal glandulars like those in Adrenal Formula can provide the building blocks to help regenerate adrenal function and improve the body’s natural stress response. Learn more in this article: 5 Solutions to Combat Adrenal Fatigue

Thyroid Hormone

Stress causes the thyroid, usually stimulated by the adrenal glands to produce hormones, to produce less thyroid hormone, which can lead to thyroid dysfunction, such as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. I’ve written a lot about the thyroid over the years and find it to be one of the most issues affecting women’s ability to lose weight (among other things) as they age. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune thyroid issue that seems to be more and more common as well. Learn more in this article: Thyroid Issues? Here’s What to Do 

Insulin

When the body is stressed, insulin levels decrease and cells become less responsive to its actions, raising blood sugar levels and, over time, contributing to insulin resistance. This is one of the “hidden weight factors” I write about in my book, The New Fat Flush Plan, and a big factor for so many women who can’t keep the weight off. Fat Flush not only is designed to address this, but I also formulated Weight Loss Formula with ingredients like chromium and berberine (from Oregon grape root) to help target blood sugar and insulin concerns. Learn more in this article: 10 Ways to Avoid Insulin Resistance 

Catecholamines

Catecholamines are a class of hormones that includes dopamine, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. Stress increases catecholamine levels, which in turn elevates heart rate, slows digestion, and increases water retention and blood pressure.

Why Am I Always So Tired?

If you’re one of the many feeling overworked and exhausted more days than you aren’t, I’m here to help. Take a look at the articles and resources linked above first, and then consider my book, Before the Change. It is a must-read for any woman, 18 to 80! It’s filled with research on everything from Hormone Replacement Therapy to mood swings, weight gain, and nutrition for women thirty-five and older.

Mental and physical exhaustion doesn’t have to—and shouldn’t—be your daily norm. It’s time to give your health the focus and attention it deserves. As the saying goes, you simply can’t pour from an empty cup!

Related Articles and Podcasts

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!

2 Comments

  1. Kathleen

    Thank you so much for this post which describes so many of us! I have ordered “Before The Change” and cannot wait to read it–as I know it will be a great help in learning about how hormones are IT for our general well being.

    Reply
  2. Team ALG

    Thanks, Kathleen, for your kind comment.

    Reply

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