Why Burnout Hits Mostly Women?
Photo by Anna Tarazevich from-Pexels
Make sure you grab a coffee, find a comfortable position and dig in this article because it is will help you understand one thing or two about burnout and about what is going on in your life and around you right now.
First of all, 1 out of 4 working moms is struggling with burnout. Only in the US, 10 million women are suffering from burnout in 2020, not to mention all the other countries in the world. The numbers are impressive.
So, What Is Burnout?
Burnout is not feeling blue or stressed; it is not only the result of working long hours or juggling too many tasks each day but mainly it is the overwhelming feeling you get when you are not in “control” of your time. It happens when you are forced to complete tasks repeatedly, at work and home, that clash with your identity or your idea of how things should work, your aspirations and values.
This feeling causes depression, cynicism, apathy, negativity, reduced professional efficacy. These are the “official” symptoms of burnout.
Burnout is a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion caused by chronic stress. It usually starts in the working environment and extends to other areas of life, such as parenting, caretaking or personal relationships.
At an emotional and spiritual level, when you work hard but your work does not match a true vocation, or when you never take a break to listen to yourself, then your vital energy slowly dies down. So you experience feelings of lack of enthusiasm or passion, an inner conflict.
And your body sends you warning messages such as headaches, heartburn and other gastrointestinal problems, as well as an increased potential to overuse of food (sweets or junk food in the first place), alcohol or, in the most extreme cases, even drugs.
Why Burnout Hits Mostly Women?
Women continue to be at the forefront of childcare and housework, despite increased participation in full-time jobs.
In the work environment, women are more exposed to stress and pressure than their male colleagues: gender discrimination, lack of promotion and organisational support, and sexual harassment.
Our society’s standards create tremendous pressures on women, and gender inequality is widespread in all countries (not only in what we call “developing countries”). To survive all this, many women switch to less-demanding jobs or choose part-time or lower-skilled jobs.
In this way, they contribute to steadily increasing the gap with men (see also gender pay gap) and above all, they are the primary “doer” at home. So, they turn the house into a source of unpaid and stressful extra work, whereas, for men, “home” is seen as a place of healing and recovery, and pampering.
All these stress factors generate massive pressure on women and expose them to burnout more than men.
Which Are The Signs of Burnout?
Burnout is not “just” stress. Stress is short-lived or related to a specific aspect of our lives; it is often temporary and not very harmful.
However, if the stress lasts for a long time (months, years!) and you have feelings of emptiness, apathy, lack of energy and enthusiasm, then it’s turning into burnout. You will soon experience physical and mental exhaustion, cynicism, anger, irritability, and a deep feeling of being fed-up about your job.
Burnout is progressive. Usually, you experience one or two symptoms, and then you add another and another.
It is useful to ask yourself a few questions to understand what stage of burnout you are.
- Am I exhausted every day both physically and emotionally?
- Do I have the energy to face my days?
- Do I sleep well?
- Do I worry excessively about anything?
- Am I often nervous and talk harshly to colleagues, to my partner, or even children?
- Am I sad or hopeless for no apparent reason?
- Am I cynical?
- Do the things I used to enjoy now no longer interest me as much as before?
- Do I have negative thoughts?
- Do I feel that all this hard work is leading nowhere?
If you answer ‘yes’ to these questions, you need to stop and think or ask for help, because you are in danger.
Awareness is the first step. The sooner you identify it and make appropriate decisions, the better.
The second step is to get support.
It is essential to have someone who can give you another perspective on what you are doing, perhaps a friend, a family member, a therapist or coach. This dialogue is essential because once burnout has affected your mindset, your decision-making process becomes confused and self-destructive.
Support helps you identify the imposed patterns and clarify your priorities; in this way, you can change elements of your context, e. g. you can delegate some tasks or turn down projects that do not serve you in the long run or demand rest.
The next step is to make your emotional and physical well-being a priority.
I know it’s the usual advice, but it is essential here: healthy eating, exercise, adequate sleep and above all, a defined daily routine. Positive Routine means scheduling lunch breaks, stopping work at a reasonable time, taking leaves (even if you can’t go on holiday) and above all, stop multitasking. I invite you to watch this video, which will explain why multitasking is harmful and less productive than you think.
You have to move from the concept “work harder” to the idea of “work smarter”, and, in this respect, changing your mindset is necessary to fight stress and burnout.
The last step is to analyze your work environment.
Here is where everything starts, especially in our times. The concept of “overwork” is common in contemporary corporate culture: “We have to do more with less” is repeated like a mantra everywhere, but is not sustainable and you need to know this.
Workplace burnout is a problem that leads employees to experience emotional and physical exhaustion, anxiety, lack of interest, creativity, commitment, and, eventually, unproductiveness.
From the workplace, burnout extends its effect to personal behaviour and ultimately hits the family, community, and society. That’s why it is so important to analyze your job (and work environment) in the first place, and then take adequate actions.
From Burnout to Mom Guilt: The Risk Is Real For Working Mothers Today
When you add parenting to workplace burnout, you get a very explosive cocktail!
Parenting is deeply rewarding and a source of immense joy, but it is also extremely challenging because you have to take on many new responsibilities. Very often, you have to do everything yourself, without any support. Nobody really prepares you, so you suddenly find yourself thrown into too complicated situations, and therefore you often feel fragile and vulnerable.
And, you secretly believe that you have failed as a mother.
So, you are overwhelmed at work and spend long hours away from kids, and you feel guilty as they live most of their lives with other people than you.
When you can finally spend some time with them, you cannot get the right connection; maybe because you are already tired or drained, or perhaps you can’t understand what they need and what they like to do again you feel guilty.
This is the present scenario: you work from home because of the lockdown and health crisis, daycare centres and schools are closed, and you are forced to work regular office hours while caring for kids and home-schooling them. Boom!
Frustration, fatigue, crying spells, feelings of helplessness, anger toward the child or your hubby who is, after all, more focused solely on work. And you feel guilty, again, for all these negative and nasty feelings.
You see, burnout and mom guilt are a risky rollercoaster ride for working mothers today, and you cannot underestimate this hazard.
So, should you quit my job if you are burned out?
It is an option but not the only one.
Hundreds of thousands of women left their jobs in 2020 at record rates because juggling career and family at these levels is no longer sustainable.
Again, this will further increase the gap between men and women and help perpetuate the setup of an increasingly unbalanced society.
I think that women should not give up their active role in the world’s economic and political life, but they should change their mentality to enter these realms in a smarter and more balanced way.
I know that many will argue against this idea, but the smartest thing to do right now is to ask for a part-time instead of a full-time job, readjust the whole family routine, and dedicate yourself to reinventing your career. You need a clear and effective strategy.
Reinventing yourself means thinking outside the box and looking for new career opportunities online, in the digital economy, because it is clear to everyone that this is the economy of the future and offers many possibilities. But you have to prepare yourself properly.
You can’t just quit your job and wait for things to fall back into place, because ‘normality’ as we know it no longer exists. We are in the midst of a global transformation, and you need to take long-term decisions; plugging away at the most urgent problem and hoping that things will change is NOT an option. Nor can you expect to live on state subsidies.
Staying in the workforce means a better future for working mothers, gender equality, and a healthier, more inclusive society. Thus, you cannot just quit.
We need new working models, more flexibility, and smarter careers.
Many signs tell us that it is just time to move on and shift into a new mindset and then into a new concept of work.
Start asking for flexible work schedules and educational support for kids with home-schooling. And most importantly, you should engage with other working mothers and women-empowering communities to find new ideas and not feel lost and lonely.
Today, people feel alienated and isolated; that’s why it is crucial to be part of a community. Why don’t we take the ancient matriarchal societies as models and adapt it to the current situation? This idea is not pure madness.
Think about it, wherever a woman is a leader, there are also many women’s communities, who collaborate and help each other create more inclusive, balanced, and thriving conditions.
Women can strongly inspire and motivate other women to move forward and create a better environment for all. Women can have a deep and powerful connection that can change things.
If you are interested in shifting into a new mindset and a new working model, register HERE to get three free workshops that will give you detailed information about options and possibilities.
“The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.” — Roseanne Barr