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Is Being ‘Superwoman’ Making You Depressed?

By Tara Weng

A mom trying to balance too muchIf meltdowns, fatigue, and sadness have been taking over your life lately, it’s time to figure out the root of the problem. Are you spreading yourself too thin? Is the work/life balancing act getting too insane to juggle? Perhaps you’re convinced that you can do it all and be everything to everyone, and then beat yourself up when you can’t.

For many women, the idea of getting through a day may seem exhausting and almost impossible. “The truth is that the ‘superwoman’ myth is alive and well,” says psychologist Dr. Jennifer Powell-Lunder. Women grapple with the notion that they’re just not measuring up, which often contributes to feelings of anxiety and depression. If you’re concerned that you’re always tired, moody, and in a perpetual funk, here’s some information that will help you figure out whether you’re simply burnt out (and a vacation is in order) or if you have a more serious health condition like a depressive disorder.

Related links: Are You A Workaholic?
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How Do I Know If I’m Depressed?

Compared to men, women are almost twice as likely to have depression, according to the American Psychological Association. In fact, it’s estimated that 1 in 5 women will develop depression at some point in their life. Depression, or a depressive disorder, is characterized by a disruption of daily life and normal ‘functioning,’ which is different than a passing blue mood or being overwhelmed and stressed out by your busy life. Some common signposts of depression to look out for include:

  • Irritability, restlessness and anxiety
  • Insomnia, trouble sleeping
  • Loss of appetite or “comfort eating”
  • Loss of interest in activities, lack of interest in sex
  • Difficulty concentrating, paying attention to details
  • Thoughts of suicide or even suicide attempts
  • Persistent aches/pains that do not go away even with treatment

What Can I Do About It Right Now?

Many women never seek treatment for depression despite struggling with the illness. There’s a lot of embarrassment and shame associated with it, says Dr. Powell-Lunder. “Women need to seek support and acknowledge to themselves and others when it’s just too much.” Don’t feel like a failure for not being able to do it all—no one can (despite appearances). It’s time to remove your superwoman cape and start taking care of yourself. In addition to seeking treatment from a psychologist who may prescribe a regimen of antidepressants, there are things you can do right now to ease your symptoms as well as help combat ongoing bouts of depression:

  • Exercise. Make regular exercise a priority in your life. Not only does it keep you in good shape, but there are both physiological and psychological benefits (which you need to tend to when you’re burning the candle at both ends). Physical activity causes your body to release chemicals called endorphins which trigger positive feelings in the body; something you need if you’re feeling down a lot.
  • Seek support. Depression can cause a feeling of isolation. By seeking support from others—whether it be your family, friends, or by networking with locals who suffer from this illness—you’ll feel reassured that you are not alone. (You can research local organizations here.) If you’re not comfortable talking with people face-to-face about this topic, seek out help from an online community. It will be helpful to connect with others who understand where you’re coming from and just ‘get it.’
  • Make time for yourself. When you feel like your life is spiraling out of control, you need to re-gain that control by putting things back into your life that you enjoy. Reserve time for yourself by going for a run, indulging in a massage, or just allowing yourself to browse the aisles at your favorite retail store. Do whatever it is that makes you feel pampered, loved, balanced, and whole. Self-care is necessary and therapeutic.

It’s time to put superwoman to bed for real. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, sad, and anxious it’s okay to seek help. Just being a woman is heroic enough!

More from KnowMore: 9 Signs Your Child May Have a Mental Health Problem; Day Care May Help Kids of Depressed Moms; De-Stress By Finding Your Breath

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Tara Weng is formerly a medical/features producer at the NBC television affiliate in Boston, MA, and National Editor of Health/Parenting channel at GalTime.com.

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