Burnout: The Silent Epidemic Affecting Women

In the fast-paced world, burnout has emerged as a silent epidemic, affecting women’s mental health and overall well-being. Once dismissed as severe stress or a mere state of mind, burnout has gained recognition as a legitimate concern, classified as a syndrome by the World Health Organization in 2019. This acknowledgment has paved the way for understanding, tracking, and researching burnout, particularly in the context of the workplace.

The following information are just a few of the golden nuggets from my insightful conversation. Listen to the entire episode here.

Understanding Burnout

Burnout, as defined by the World Health Organization, is not a myth or mere stress; it is a complete state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion resulting from prolonged and excessive stress. In 2019, the WHO incorporated burnout into the ICD-9 code, the coding system utilized by medical professionals. While the term is commonly used in various life contexts, its formal definition is specific to the workplace. It involves an overwhelming sense of depletion, disconnection from work, and a consistent feeling of exhaustion akin to having a bad day at work every day. Symptoms include diminished productivity, apathy toward one’s job, negative sentiments about one’s career, and a desire to escape. Many individuals realize they are experiencing burnout when they reach its advanced stages. To effectively manage or alleviate burnout, it is crucial to recognize the warning signs that our bodies communicate to us.

  • Physical cues such as persistent headaches, body aches, pains, tightness in the shoulders & neck, backaches or subtle changes like fluctuations in weight and appetite may be observed.
  • Emotional and behavioural signals such as feeling a sense of disconnection, where activities that once brought joy now hold little interest, can be indicative of burnout. For instance, finding oneself spending leisure time mindlessly scrolling on the phone rather than engaging in previous hobbies or social interactions might signal emotional strain. Another emotional red flag is developing resentment towards one’s job, even after investing considerable effort to reach a certain professional position. The idea of perpetual exhaustion and depletion, emotions that were occasional, now becoming a daily experience, is also a notable warning sign.

The key is to be attentive to these signals and address them proactively. When considering emotional health on a spectrum, burnout exists in close proximity with other mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. High-achieving women may find themselves in a paradox—externally successful but internally fatigued and overwhelmed with a deep sense of being unable to continue. It’s essential seek appropriate support, whether through therapy or targeted interventions.

I invite you to read my interesting blog post “How To Build YOUR Resilience?

Balancing Motherhood and Executive Roles

For women navigating leadership roles, particularly if they are mothers managing their own businesses or holding executive positions, the risk of burnout is amplified. Failure to address and manage burnout is a common issue because majority of women are already entrenched in the burnout phase by the time they seek help. Mothers excel at nurturing and caring for their children, often extending their efforts to manage the household, even with supportive partners. Despite sharing the parenting load, mothers tend to default to the primary parenting role, carrying the mental load of family responsibilities. The emotional aspects of managing everyone’s needs, remembering important events, scheduling appointments, and handling various household tasks fall on their shoulders. Mothers, in essence, become the CEOs of their homes.

Simultaneously, they invest the same level of care and dedication in their professional roles, creating an overwhelming workload. This situation is exacerbated by a potential connection between perfectionism and high-achieving tendencies, leading to a belief that everything must be executed flawlessly all the time. The emotional capacity to sustain such an intense pace is limited.

Often, these women drive to excel in both personal and professional spheres results in neglecting personal well-being and self-care. It becomes a challenging balancing act, attempting to manage numerous responsibilities at an exceptionally high standard. The tendency is to “burn the candle at both ends,” striving to excel in all areas. Unfortunately, what often suffers most is the woman’s own well-being. To the dedicated executive moms immersed in this demanding lifestyle, the crucial message is to prioritize Self-Care. Setting an example of Self-Care not only preserves personal well-being but also instills a healthier model for the daughters in the household, discouraging constant self-sacrifice and martyrdom. After all “Self-Care is not Selfish. It’s Self-Love”.

I invite you to listen to the Self-Care Goddess podcast episode #11, “Nutritional & Lifestyle Tips for Increasing Your Metabolism” with Jane Pulkys.

Practical Steps To Mitigate Burnout

Solutions exist, whether they offer immediate relief or require a more extended process. The key lies in cultivating awareness and realization that the current situation is undesirable, acknowledging that change is necessary to improve one’s well-being. Here are some recommendations by Alex Stark to mitigate burnout:

  1. Maslow’s Hierarchy as a Foundation:
  1. Prioritize fundamental needs such as eating, sleeping, water intake, and body movement.
  2. Ensure a focus on essential elements before delving into tangibles like calendar blocking or notification management.
  3. Nutrition and Hydration:
    • Evaluate dietary habits and prioritize whole, nutrient-dense foods.
    • Maintain a balance between water intake and other beverages, avoiding excessive reliance on stimulants like coffee.
  4. Physical Activity:
    • Emphasize the importance of regular physical movement without prescribing a specific workout routine.
    • Encourage individuals to incorporate activities that align with their preferences and contribute to overall well-being.
  5. Sleep Hygiene:
    • Move beyond the quantity of sleep and assess the quality of sleep hygiene routines.
  6. Core Values Alignment:
    • Explore the alignment of personal core values with professional roles to address potential conflicts.
    • Identify and resolve discrepancies that may contribute to internal struggles.
  7. Managing High-Functioning Anxiety and Guilt:
    • Recognize and address the unique challenges faced by high-achieving women, particularly regarding guilt associated with career success.
    • Develop strategies to navigate the emotional toll of managing career aspirations alongside family responsibilities.
  8. Communication and Boundaries:
    • Emphasize assertive communication to articulate needs clearly.
    • Establish non-negotiable and soft boundaries both at work and home to maintain balance.
  9. Internal vs. External Validation:
    • Recognize the conditioning towards external validation, particularly in professional settings.
    • Encourage a shift towards cultivating internal validation for a more sustainable sense of accomplishment.
  10. Perfectionism and Breathwork:
    • Research indicates that perfectionists may experience improper breathing patterns, revealing a connection between perfectionism and dysfunctional breathing. However, breathing can be consciously regulated and breathwork is the best tool to manage emotional states.
    • The perfectionism phenomenon appears intertwined with symptoms resembling impostor syndrome. Delving into the reasons behind the pursuit of perfection can shed light on underlying beliefs and pave the way for a healthier mindset.
  11. Debriefing and Closure:
    • Implement a daily debriefing process to transition from work to personal life.
    • Verbally articulate thoughts, organize them, and visually “wrap up” the workday to foster a sense of closure.
  12. Empowerment and Support:
    • Remind executive moms of their control over their lives and the option to seek professional support.
    • Acknowledge their accomplishments and assure them that proving their worth is not a continuous requirement.

Do you know “How to Focus on What You Want to Happen Using NLP?” Listen to the Self-Care Goddess Podcast episode #21.

Take Home Message

Burnout among working women is a pervasive challenge that demands attention and proactive solutions. By recognizing the signs, understanding the unique pressures faced by women in leadership roles, and implementing practical strategies for prevention and recovery, individuals can reclaim control over their lives and break free from the burnout cycle. It’s time for executive moms and high-achieving women to acknowledge their power, prioritize self-care, and redefine success on their terms.

Connect with Alex: Facebook Group: alexstarkcoaching

Website: alexstarkcoaching.com

Instagram: @ talktoalexstark

Listen to the full podcast episode #104 on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.

Here are the self-care habits for this week. For past podcast guests check out my Instagram or Facebook page.

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I look forward to connecting with you and learning more about your story and your health and wellness goals. Schedule a FREE introduction call here.