Burnout. We have all heard the term no doubt, but many of us still marry the idea of burnout to those high-powered business suits charging around wall street, or those CEO’s who are forever talking about leaning in. The truth is – burnout can hit anyone and its most likely to affect women.
Whether it’s because we live in a climate where we are consistently being told we can ‘have it all’, trying to balance the responsibilities of both work and family life, being stretched thin on domestic and emotional labour chores, and the fact that we celebrate this ‘hustle culture’ where being as busy as possible is the ultimate status symbol. This all adds up to big burnout.
The telltale signs of burnout start with sheer exhaustion, both physically and mentally. Feeling overwhelmed, stressed to breaking point, sinking into detachment and feelings of cynicism, chronic fatigue, problems concentrating, living on the edge of anxiety, and outbursts of anger, not to mention getting sick more often. Burnout is no walk in the park, here are our tips on how to dodge the burnout bullet…
Tune in to Your Body
When we walk about burnout we say that the body whispers before it screams. Burnout isn’t just an emotional state, it has a direct impact on your physical wellbeing. Whether it's coming down with a cold more often, not being able to sleep at night, suffering a loss of appetite and everything between – all these symptoms can have a huge knock-on effect for your health. Your body is more likely to let you know if you are on the edge of burnout faster than your mind. Learn to tune in and listen to your body and to pay attention to what it has to say. If someone asks you to do something and your gut says no, then don’t say yes. Working on a deeper level with our body and our intuition can help to reduce burnout.
Learn to Truly Delegate
A huge contributing factor to burnout in women can be this idea that we have to do everything. It’s a societal norm that has been deeply instilled; from childcare to chores. We don’t delegate because we don’t want to be seen as bossy at work or a nag at home. But delegation is one of the most important things we can learn to do when our plate is full. The trick to delegating is to truly do it. Many times we may ask someone to do something for us but then stress about whether they will do it right, double back to check, watch them or simply just take over before they have had a chance. This can be particularly true in the home environment. Practice the art of delegation, learn to hand out tasks and walk away.
Make Time to Do Nothing
Another aspect of burnout can be the guilt associated with sitting down and doing nothing. Our culture is brimming with ideas about how we can be more productive and often we relate our levels of self-worth with how productive we are. But this doesn’t leave room for downtime and embracing the restorative nature of doing nothing. If you struggle to flop down on the sofa and binge your favourite box set without a to-do list rolling through your head then this is something that may need attention. Remember we are often our most creative, productive and powerful when we are doing nothing, as this is when we have space for the important thoughts to creep in.
Hit the Basics
It sounds ridiculously over simple but for those of us on the brink of burnout who can’t take time off work, at least make sure you are hitting the basics. The most important aspect to consider is the idea of getting more sleep, taking meandering walks in nature, and ensuring you are eating well. Cooking a meal for yourself can be overwhelming especially if you are in the throes of burnout, if this is happening to you then it could work to schedule in cooking meals with roommates, partners or friends. This way you are sure that you are taking the time to fill up on the nutrients your begging body needs.
Let Go of the Narrative
The Nagoski sisters who authored the book The Secret of Solving the Stress Cycle point out that we don’t have to light ourselves on fire to keep others warm. Its time we all took steps to let go of the narrative that busy is better and true grit and determination can help us push through burnout until we reach a state of ultimate success. But the reality is that this method is more likely to make us end up suffering chronic fatigue and depression on the couch. Learning to untangle the deep-set belief that women need to have it all, that asking for help is a weakness, and that you need to lean in until the point where you fall over will take time and plenty of self-care along the way. But hey, it’s a really important start.
Have you ever suffered from burnout? Share your stories in the comments.