I was recently listening to an episode of The Broad Experience that talked about an issue I’ve thought about a lot – burnout. In a culture that prizes work over just about anything, burnout can happen to anyone. But, studies show that burnout is happening more frequently to women, and it’s happening earlier too. When I stop to think about the expectations placed on women, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Today, women are told that they should be striving for more professionally. They should be working harder, faster, smarter; busting through the glass ceiling. But, they are also expected to maintain that same degree of excellence in the home, particularly if they are moms. Have you ever read through the discussion boards on parenting sites? Because I have. And they are FULL of judgment for women who don’t breastfeed or make their own organic baby food or spend every waking minute catering to their baby’s needs. Even if you don’t have children, the demands of the home can be unforgiving. It’s no wonder women are just plain exhausted.
Burnout is a real mental health issue. In addition to feeling physically and emotionally drained, burnout can cause you to lose focus, productivity, and worst of all, motivation. You can feel overwhelmed, overly self-critical, and undervalued. If gone unchecked, it can wreak havoc in your life, affecting your sleep, your appetite, and even your relationships. If you feel burnout coming on – either because you lack control over the integration of your life and your work, or you work in a highly competitive field, or because your workplace dynamic is slowly beating you down – here are some things you can do.
- Put “Me Time” on the Calendar. Many of us live and die by our calendars. To avoid burnout, make sure to schedule your “me time” in the same way you schedule your business meetings. And, most importantly, keep your appointments with yourself in the same way you would with a client or your boss. Although you may feel like you just don’t have the time, spending a few minutes to unwind, clear your head, and focus on yourself will actually help to improve your performance at work and at home. So sign up for that workout class, take a short walk during your lunch break, or take that 20 minute bath at the end of the night.
- Take Your Allotted Vacation Time. Did you know that more than half of Americans don’t take their full paid vacation time? And that those who do go on vacation spend at least part of that time working? Many people are afraid to go off the grid for fear of missing something really important, but the reality is that nearly every study ever conducted on this subject shows that taking vacations help to reduce overall levels of stress and has a positive effect on physical and mental health. Stepping away from work can help you to come back with a clear head and renewed sense of motivation, which often leads to more creativity and innovation. To alleviate the fear that things won’t get done while you’re away, make sure to have a back up system in place before you go so that you know that your important calls and e-mails will be handled by someone you trust while you’re out, giving you the freedom to enjoy your well-earned time off.
- Seek Support. If you’re feeling the effects of burnout, don’t feel you need to handle it alone. Talk to your friends, your family, or a professional to help you navigate your feelings and come up with strategies to deal with the causes of your burnout. Getting an outsider’s input could you give valuable perspective and could help you figure out what steps you need to take. Maybe it means finding a new job, or dividing up household responsibilities differently, or having a conversation with your boss about your workload or interests. Having a support system in place will help you to take these important steps, while also giving you an outlet to vent, cry, or just be.
What do you do when you feel burnout coming on? Leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments. Have a great week, everyone!