Women@Work Series – Understanding And Avoiding Burnout

A couple of months ago, I literally fell apart. In addition to a full-time job, a Masters’ dissertation to write, two consulting projects and a board position in an international youth organisation, which involved regular travel, I had also had a home to manage and a husband to love. However, I was failing at almost everything. Although my health was fine, I felt worn out all the time, and generally was feeling dissatisfied and disinterested. For me, this was quite strange since I am typically a high- energy person with multiple interests so I wasn’t quite sure what I was experiencing. As I researched; I came across a startling reality that working women like me are experiencing the same thing. So, today, I’m dedicating this piece to understanding and combatting the condition best known as: “burnout”.

Did you know that a growing number of working women who seem to “have it all” are burning out at work before they reach the age of forty? The American Psychological Association’s David Ballard, describes job burnout as “an extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things, resulting in a decline in their job performance.” Burnout often happens when we are worn out or exhausted, especially as a result of long-term stress.

According to research conducted by the Captivate Network, working men are twenty-five percent more likely to take breaks throughout the day for personal activities; seven per cent more likely to take a walk, five per cent more likely to go out to lunch, and thirty-five per cent more likely to take breaks “just to relax”. Women, on the other hand, often postpone relaxation in order to look after the needs of others (Bosses, spouses, children, family members etc.) The result is that numerous working women are experiencing the damaging symptoms of burnout, which can manifest itself as loss of focus, lowered productivity or extreme irritability.

According to psychologists, burnout is generally characterised by three primary states:

• Emotional exhaustion: Feelings of being unable to give any more to your business or relationships.

• Depersonalization: Developing a negative, cynical, and sometimes callous attitude towards your work, clients, family or significant others.

• Diminished Personal Accomplishment: Feelings of ineffectiveness or unmotivated to complete business tasks or other responsibilities.

Besides feelings of excessive stress, burnout can ruin personal relationships and cause fatigue, insomnia, depression and anxiety. So, how exactly can working women fight the effects of fatigue and burnout?

Give yourself a regular break
Renowned wellness coach Gayle Arnold advises: “One of the best ways to combat burnout is to take a weekend break or a mini-vacation often. Make it imperative. “Ultimately, burnout can be avoided when you take care to create a lifestyle that allows you the time to take care of yourself.

Don’t be afraid to take your leave/vacation days According to a recent study, forty-eight per cent of workers felt happier and more positive about their workplaces after taking a vacation. Since feeling cynical about your office is one of the key causes of burnout, taking a vacation is an easy way to keep yourself interested and engaged at work.

Ask for help
Avoid the “Superwoman” syndrome and enlist the help of colleagues, spouses, and family members, for example, to help you get through your daily to-do list.

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