dr. nicole swiner.

north carolina.  |  MD. wife. mother. published author.

I recently had lunch with a friend from California who confessed that she is failing miserably as a human being. Much like in a Catholic confessional, she ran down her long list of everyday failures — real or imagined — with tears in her eyes. My eyeballs almost fell out of my head as I listened to her go on about her inadequacies. This woman is a daughter, wife, mother of four, friend, scientist, and graduate of one of America’s most elite universities. Oh, and she holds a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics. If I have not heard this tale before from countless other women, all from different social economic backgrounds, I would have chalked her delusional revelation up to an over-achiever who was having a mid-life crisis. As her priestess, I would have given her a penance of a week-long stay at a spa coupled with daily lime vodka martinis and a mandatory disconnection from all technical devices.

Instead, I responded with my usual rhetorical question, do you think men do this to themselves? The answer is … probably not as much as women do.

Enter Nicole Swiner, another woman who does it all. However, this clever woman has written a book that aims to serve as a life manual for those of us who feel like we need to do it all… and do it well. Nicole Swiner, MD, is a family physician, wife, mother of two, and author of How to Avoid the Superwoman Complex, a twelve- step manual on how to balance mind, body, and spirit. Dr. Swiner has a family practice in North Carolina and focuses on Minority Health, Women’s Health, and Pediatrics. After years of observing patients with high levels of stress and disease combined with low levels of happiness, Dr. Swiner came to the realization that human beings are just trying to do too much.

In an effort to educate the masses, Dr. Swiner wrote a book about removing unnecessary, self-imposed pressure. She is a frequent contributor to The Triangle Tribune with a column called Ask Dr. Swiner. Additionally, this natural educator offers healthy tips on her blog — free of charge! So, slow down, take a deep breath and try to avoid the Superwoman complex — doctor’s orders.

How did you choose the life you lead and was it a conscious decision?

I think I was encouraged as a child to choose a career and lifestyle that was going to be a positive one and an enjoyable one. My faith in God and my parents’ focus on our faith early on definitely helped the decision to live the life I live. I’d like to think it was a mixture of nature and nurture in choosing the life that I now lead… and favor from Jesus.

Why did you select your area of medical expertise? And what is the most challenging aspect of working in the healthcare field?

I always thought I would have been a Pediatrician from the time I was in High School. After getting into med school, however, and being exposed to different fields, I learned I had a love of OB-gyn medicine. The lifestyle, stress, and hours OBs kept, though, were deterrents. At the end of my 3rd year of med school, I did my Family Medicine rotation and had my “a-ha” moment. It was the perfect mix of seeing babies and their families, from the cradle to the grave, along with the option of delivering babies, if I wanted to. I haven’t turned back yet.

The most challenging aspect is the burden of taking care of those who don’t want to take care of themselves. Doctors, the good ones, often care more about patients than they do about themselves. It’s very frustrating, also, to be forced to have to see patients with extremely complicated medical histories in 15-20 minutes in order to meet standards and see as many patients as possible to make ends meet. This is why many doctors are getting out of medicine nowadays.

What inspired you to author the book How To Avoid Superwoman Complex?

I wrote it both because of the interest I had in the topic myself as a new wife and mother with a full time job and because of the need to do something different in medicine. To be able to reach a broader audience and broaden my horizons a bit was important to me after close to a decade of practicing medicine and seeing patients day in and day out.

Do you see a pattern in your patients and is there a recurring theme during visits? Do you believe disease is a response to stress?

I absolutely see a pattern. There are some days I leave work feeling pulled on and dragged down because of the burdens laid at my feet of many of my patients, primarily female, who are suffering from stress, family or marital discord. There is a clear association between stress and stress-related illness, such as obesity, insomnia (lack of sleep), hypersomnia (too much sleep), diabetes, heart disease, cancer,…..you name it.

Do you feel women or society in general apply this enormous pressure on women to do it all? Let’s face it— men are not writing books about work, family, guilt, balance.

I think we’ve just been conditioned to do all and to take on the burden of the world all while sitting pretty and handling it. We often do this to ourselves also. We have to give up this idea of having to do everything for everyone, and then forgetting about “us” in the process.

Americans struggle with preventative health. We have high rates of diabetes, cancer and heart disease. What is your best advice to prevent disease?

Know your family history, exercise regularly, and have a reasonable diet.

What has been your greatest obstacle in life and how do/did you navigate it?

Losing my mother about 8 years ago, and working through my Faith and therapy to heal from it.

What has been your greatest life lesson learned to date?

To learn to be happy and joyful in the face of adversity and challenges. It’s an ongoing process.

What is your best advice on how to live a graceful life?

Pray, rest, laugh and love often. Smile a lot!

j. jane side notes:

Feeling pressure to have and do it all? I highly recommend taking some time for yourself and read How to Avoid the Superwoman Complex. Additionally, check out Ask Dr. Swiner a blog focused on better health and happier living.

Interested in contacting Dr. Swiner for speaking engagements? Visit Doc Swiner.

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