I work with a seriously amazing group of women. Most of them are young and a few are in their early thirties like me. Each day I am inspired by their intelligence, care and dedication to their work and the people around them.
They are supportive of others, constantly helping, giving, teaching, learning and having a laugh.
But occasionally I get a glimpse of how tough they can be on themselves. And sometimes they admit they have ‘perfectionistic tendencies’. I know it’s true and I see some former shadows of myself in them.
Every now and then, when I really look, I might notice that one of them is not at their best, an off day – but they wouldn’t say it. They stay silent, but their behavior gives them away: their quick fix to help them get through the day is propped up on their desk - an empty takeaway cup, a can, a wrapper or a brightly coloured packet.
So while these incredible women make me laugh, keep me on my toes and make me proud every day to be part of their team, they also remind me of a very common illness that I have suffered throughout my career. I see them routinely choose their work ahead of themselves.
It is not just them; women are natural care takers. They give life their all – choosing their fantastic career, fun social life, a relationship (or a few), friends, family, sport, eating, drinking, dancing… with so much on offer for us it is no wonder when we hit 25 years old we are already depleted.
If we look at the stats for women’s health they are a sad story. Breast cancer, cervical issues, polycystic ovarian syndrome, mental health, physical issues, auto immune deficiency, lifestyle diseases, adrenal fatigue and obesity are all common issues you no doubt know someone battling.
Where does this poor health stem from?
What if every time these amazing women at the workplace choose to push through, for either themselves, or for the good of the project/team/client they bank their exhaustion?
Until one day the body says enough is enough. And ill health begins.
It might start slowly at first, with a common cold or migraine. But she thinks nothing of it. But we know how banks work - and the interest silently builds as she overdraws each month.
Eventually our wellness credit dwindles and poor health becomes our norm. What does this look like? It might be as simple as painful periods, carrying a few extra kilos, feeling tired or neck/back pain. When not treated, it steadily gets worse, slowly, like icebergs melting. Eventually we forget what it was like to ever feel clear, vital and healthy at all. Our new normal, a pale shade of our former fabulous.
Of course this is not unique only to women’s health, exhaustion is a global problem.
But what about if next time your colleague needed to take a break we all pitched in and supported her. What if we created a positive bank balance with a fun work culture around foods that that gave us energy, rather than drained it. What if we made consistent, gentle fitness part of our routine and built it into our day.
Next time our demanding jobs asked us to take a loan and push through (in the real world, that happens), we might just have enough in the bank to make a short term withdrawal and a payment plan that supports us back to net.