The exhausted woman is a cultural trope.
It’s a scene repeated in books, movies, our own lives: she arrives, apologetic, to a lunch appointment or meeting, straight after her last appointment or meeting.
Somehow, between mouthfuls of food, she remembers what’s been going on in your life, updates you on how she’s been juggling her career and her personal life and her family responsibilities, periodically checking her phone to answer an urgent text, share that contact you needed, forward that interesting article, and then rushes to leave on time for another appointment or meeting or to pick up the kids.
Even looking at the mythological modern woman is exhausting. Being her is next to impossible. A whole industry has been spun around the herculean task that is living up the feat that is being a successful modern woman.
Artist Emma Clit, who followed up her viral comic You Should Have Asked with The Consequences, used both to brilliantly highlight the multitudinous invisible burdens women carry with them every day. The psychological wear and tear is hard to see, but significant.
Women of all ages – from as young as adolescents – may recognize the heavy psychological effects that stem from the expectation that they can be everything to everyone.
So, what can we do about it? Recognize this in yourself? Want to know what to do next?
Don’t Feel Guilty
If you’ve taken pride in being there for the people around you, taking time for yourself – even when you desperately need it – can feel like self-absorption or failure. A helpful trick is to think of ourselves as our best friends: if they came to us, worn out and frazzled, we’d insist that they turn off their phone and think about taking care of themselves for at least an afternoon.
Running or Swimming or Yoga (or Something Else)
We’ve heard this ad nauseum, but it really does help. Any kind of exercise helps lower stress levels and does wonders for our health. We don’t have to run marathons or join dance classes (unless we want to!) Free youtube tutorials teaching you how to stretch or moonwalk or kickbox or anything that gets you breaking a sweat are just as good.
Schedule You Time
The way we’ve been told we need to make time for our jobs, our partners, our friends, is the same way we need to make time for ourselves. It is okay to say no to the party and stay in to rest if you need to (it really is). It is okay to tell your significant other you need some space to recharge.
Be Your Own Advocate
(Warning label: This can be the hardest one to do.) Learning to insist on helping and breaking patterns is a difficult thing to do, even when they’re patterns we don’t particularly enjoy, but it’s crucial to maintaining our mental health and the health of our relationships.