The Collapse of Superwoman

Posted by on Dec 02 2009

Two days after celebrating my mother’s 70th birthday in late October, my throat got that tell-tale scratchy feeling. You know the one. It’s predicts the advent of the dreaded November Bronchitis season for me.

I seemed to be able to fight off this first round in early November before it became full-blown, but the dry cough lingered all month, making for some very interesting teleclasses. “What would you do if <cough> your email campaign results <cough, cough> returned less than a one percent click-through rate <cough>?”

But my energy was up and I was lulled into a false sense of security, taking walks by the canal and visiting the new BJ’s Wholesale Club in town to take a gander at the high-def TVs. Big mistake. By last Wednesday, I had fever and chills, the lungs clogged up like a beaver dam, and I was forced to the doctor’s office once again. I had to miss the family Thanksgiving dinner, cancel a new class that was to have started on Tuesday, and cancel a speech I was to give at the ICF Conference in Orlando this week.

This happens to a lot of small business owners. We work hard, our adrenaline is up, and colds and flu seem to avoid us. But the minute you relax, the minute you take a vacation or end a big project, POW…you get sick. I used to think my annual bronchitis was tied to my airplane trips to England (my husband is from England and we visit his parents once a year). But I began to realize it wasn’t the airplane’s fault, per se, but it was because I was relaxed and on vacation — typically after working like a crazy person the week before to “catch up” before vacation started.

Now that I’m flat on my back this week, I’m going to ponder a new routine, a new way of both working and relaxing that keeps my equilibrium and my immune system in balance. First thing I did was take my six-page To Do list and reduce it to three pages. (Boy, that felt GREAT!)

If you’re like me, you get very excited about the projects you work on and enthusiastic about working with your clients and students, and your mind is always going a mile-a-minute with ideas. But there’s a price to pay for trying to do it all.

P.S. I’ll miss everyone at the ICF Conference! I hope you have a great time!

P.P.S Does this happen to you? What advice do you have for me?  🙂


13 comments for now

13 Responses to “The Collapse of Superwoman”

  1. Julie CohenNo Gravatar

    Karyn – This happens to me every year also! Usually before our annual England trip, but this year – as you, right before heading out to ICF. I lost my voice (great for a coach, right!?), big cold, big cough – right after I sent my book off to the printer. As always, thanks for reminding us of something very important! This is actually the 7th Key to Work-Life Balance that I discuss in the book – Engage in Self-Care. So sorry I won’t see you (or your presentation) at the ICF in Orlando. Lots of people will miss you! Get (and stay) well!

    02 Dec 2009 at 10:53 am

  2. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    Amazing, Julie, right after you sent your book off to the printer, too! My mother used to teach at a University, and classes would end around December 21. She was so busy giving and grading final exams and final projects, that she worked way to many hours. Result: she was always sick for Christmas.

    02 Dec 2009 at 12:03 pm

  3. Beverly BergmanNo Gravatar

    Hi Karyn,

    Wow, bad timing, eh? Too bad you missed speaking at ICF. It’s never a convenient time for us to get sick though, especially when the show depends on us showing up with our brains intact!

    I’ve had a sinus infection that starts in mid-January and turns bronchial and lasts through March for the past three years and no one knows why. It really slows me down and I have too much to do to succumb to it this year (plus it’s no fun being sickie) so I started taking extra sinus immune suport supplements starting a few weeks ago to prevent it. I’m also taking extra vitamin C and D in addition to trying to get out for a 30 minute walk in the sunshine daily for natural D immune support.

    I think it’s mostly a matter of avoiding the exhaustion that overtaxes our immune systems.


    02 Dec 2009 at 10:35 pm

  4. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    Bev, I’ve been reading studies about the immune effect of moderate exercise…you bring up an excellent point.

    04 Dec 2009 at 11:01 am

  5. Heather VillaNo Gravatar

    I just recently had something similar happen to me! I took a vacation a month ago. First one in 6 years and ended up breaking my leg and getting very sick. I have been recouping ever since and just now am getting back into my normal work routine. I have decided from now on to take more frequent, shorter mini vacations. I believe that will healthier and still keep me productive.

    03 Dec 2009 at 6:37 am

  6. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    Mini-vacations are a great idea, Heather! Aly and I are looking at our 2010 calendar and marking off long, 4-day weekends for ourselves throughout the year. A regular 2-day weekend isn’t enough…it takes a full day just to “come down” from working.

    04 Dec 2009 at 11:00 am

  7. BethNo Gravatar


    It’s never any fun to go through the cold,chills,scratchy throat,and other symptoms. I hope you are starting to feel yourself again.

    My best advice for you is to check out a product called Juice Plus as a prevention help. I am not a disributor, just a loyal fan of the product. It is just fruits and vegetables with the water removed and put in a capsule form.

    Since taking this the past few years, my husband and I have not had any colds or flu. He has missed no work days! I have other serious health issues, but not having the colds and flus has been a great reprieve.
    Prior to this, both of us got a few every single year so that is what we both believe is making the difference.

    Thanks for all the wonderful information you share with your readers. It is much appreciated.

    03 Dec 2009 at 2:56 pm

  8. Ellen FayeNo Gravatar

    Same thing here too…took me until today to recuperate from slowing down over Thanksgiving weekend!

    03 Dec 2009 at 3:22 pm

  9. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    Ellen, you put it perfectly…I somethings think I need a few extra days off for each major holiday, just to catch up with reality. 🙂

    04 Dec 2009 at 10:58 am

  10. Beki An SciaccaNo Gravatar

    Hi, Karyn…
    I used to get bronchitis, which would turn into pneumonia, up to 3 times each year. This went on for about 4-5 years. About 5 years ago, I was so desperate that I decided to try something new, so I went to an acupuncturist. He also gave me Chinese herbs which I cooked (pee-u!) and drank as directed. I began feeling better within a day and a half. I continued to take restorative herbs even after I was well, to balance my system. Thereafter, when I would feel the bronchitis warning signs, I would go in immediately for treatment…and I would get well immediately. After a while, I would just get the herbs, no acupuncture treatment. For the last 3 years, I rarely get even the early bronchitis.
    I’m not usually the evangelist-type, but I’ve had such remarkable success with Chinese medicine that I can’t help but offer the suggestion to anyone who has respiratory illness issues.
    Best of luck, rest well…
    Beki An Sciacca

    03 Dec 2009 at 6:34 pm

  11. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    Excellent advice, Beki, thanks for sharing!

    04 Dec 2009 at 10:53 am

  12. Erica JohnsonNo Gravatar

    I believe that we are givers. We give so much of ourselves to others that it slips our mind to take time to take care of ourselves. I know that when I am inspired to work on a project I stay up all night working on it and lose alot of sleep. I suggest that you take one day out of the week where you do a mental cleanse. That day you relax, no cell phones, just peace of quiet. If we don’t take care of ourselves then we will end up beating ourselves up. We won’t be able to do the things that we love to do which is giving to others.

    04 Dec 2009 at 1:28 pm

  13. Marci PNo Gravatar

    I think getting sick/cold is a way to help us slow down. I moved my pracitce in May and on move in day I got a cold/sore throat/fever. I had been working very hard for several months to get ready for the move. My best advice is to invite the cold and take it easy.

    I am always working on striving for balance…something I think we never attain, yet intention is there. It helps me to think of What is realisitic today? this year? this lifetime? I have many interests, thoughts faster than I can put them into practice. If I don’t set priorities and do a “realistic” self-check I will be in over my head. Not adding anything else to my plate when my to do list is already longer than I like it to be. Then, I can try to relax, remembering that I won’t miss out – it just leaves it for someone else to be thankful for 🙂

    I can easily push through fatigue, as mother of two young kids and being self-employed there is often more work on my plate than I like. Remembering to rest when I’m tired and to go when I’m energized. I’ve learned there is no way to predict this, I just have to listen before my body gives really big signals 🙂

    Great topic!

    08 Dec 2009 at 3:21 pm

Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time, Running a Strong & Efficient Business