April 21, 2021/Women's Health

How Women Who Do It All Can Combat Burnout

How to beat burnout and ask for help

woman daughter doing laundry together

Underneath the woman doing it all is most likely a woman also teetering on the edge of burnout, the dark side of multitasking.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

And women are the ultimate multitaskers. But this great strength also means women have the highest risk of exhaustion. Amy Sullivan, PsyD, clinical health psychologist, explains why female burnout is so prevalent – and how to prevent it.

Managing the emotional toll

Women experience higher levels of stress and anxiety than men in their day-to-day decision-making,” Dr. Sullivan explains. Men are more likely to base decisions on the facts and leave emotion out. Women, she says, typically make decisions based on both facts and emotion.

The emotional toll is compounded by trying to balance success at work, often being the primary caretaker for any children in the household and staying on top of housework, too. Mom burnout is real.

“All that juggling – and guilt from not doing it perfectly – results in women experiencing burnout more often than men,” says Dr. Sullivan.

How to deal with burnout

The first step to combating burnout, says Dr. Sullivan, is awareness. “If you realize you have burnout, you need to find ways to manage it,” she says.

And no, getting more engrossed in social media is NOT the answer. Prioritize taking care of yourself rather than keeping tabs on your “friends.”

Take off the cape

“Let go of the Superwoman label,” says Dr. Sullivan. “You’re spectacular in some areas of life, but accept that you can’t be super amazing at everything.”

In other words, just because your neighbor has a three-course meal on the table by 5:30 doesn’t mean you’re a failure if you serve cereal for dinner.

Guilt is what happens when we judge our lives based on what others do (or at least pretend to do on social media), Dr. Sullivan says. “In reality, we only need to do what’s right for us and our family,” she continues.


Which may include cereal for dinner on occasion.

Breathe and move

The constant pressure from doing it all results in excess stress hormones (cortisol) wreaking havoc on your body, causing memory deficiencies, mood swings and weight gain.

Revitalize yourself and counteract the effects of cortisol by taking slow, deep breaths throughout the day and setting aside time to go to the gym or another form of exercise.

Learn to live with the mess

“Social media gives us the idea that our house should set Instagram on fire,” says Dr. Sullivan. “But, sometimes, you have to accept that the dishes or vacuuming can be put off for a day.”

It might also feel “messy” to host your child’s birthday party at the bowling alley rather than creating a Pinterest-worthy superhero-themed bash with custom T-shirts. But the bowling alley birthday party will suffice, your kid won’t care and you’ll save yourself hours of unneeded stress.

Getting help, even if you don’t want to ask for it

There are many reasons why some women find it hard to ask for help.

Sometimes, it’s the result of a generational pattern and unfairly imbalanced social norms. Other women may think no one can do things as well as they can so refusing help is a way to maintain control. Either way, help for women under stress is essential.

“Trying to do everything all the time leads to that imbalance, throwing everything – including emotions – out of whack,” says Dr. Sullivan. “And if this goes on for long enough, it leads to burnout.”

Here are some ways you can get the help you need to restore balance and keep away the fatigue that leads to burnout.


Just say no

If you say “yes” more to others than you’re saying “no” to yourself. Learn to re-evaluate your responsibilities and become OK with letting things go.

If you’re maxed out at work, then consciously let something else go. At home, reevaluate your to-do list and consider outsourcing some of the house tasks to your partner or hiring a service.

Remember, “No” is a complete sentence in and of itself. You don’t need to qualify your answer or give any rationale.

Make time for yourself

Chances are, you’re responsible for a lot of scheduling and activities for others, especially if you have children. If that’s the case, it’s far too easy for you to make yourself the last priority and stress for relief for women is too often overlooked in our culture.

If we don’t carve out time to take care of ourselves, the problem just gets worse. “I remind patients that the flight attendant tells you to secure your mask before helping someone else,” Dr. Sullivan says. “If you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll implode. You can’t do anything or take care of anyone if you’re passed out from exhaustion.”

Reach out to others for help

This could be something as easy as getting the family involved, especially since they may not recognize the signs of burnout. Get your kids to help out with chores and assign your significant other the grocery shopping. Take the burden off your shoulders and spread the work.

If you can’t figure out where to start, consider meeting with a professional. A psychologist or social worker can help you put one foot in front of the other, Dr. Sullivan suggests. They can also more easily recognize signs of stress in women and guide you on how to recover from burnout.

It’s also important to develop and maintain meaningful relationships with family or friends. But not just on social media – dedicate time to quality, face-to-face interactions.

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Person on scale, questioning muscle weight vs. fat weight
April 12, 2024/Exercise & Fitness
The Difference Between Muscle Weight vs. Fat Weight

Both are needed for a healthy body

Female struggling to push a large rock up a hill
March 21, 2024/Weight Loss
Why It Really Is Harder for Women To Lose Weight (and What To Do About It)

Genetics, metabolism and hormonal fluctuations can all make weight loss more difficult

Person doing yoga outside, with oversized smartphone turned off in backround
March 15, 2024/Mental Health
When (and How) To Take a Social Media Break

Identify your triggers, set ground rules for your break and start practicing mindfulness

healthcare provider speaking with older female in office
February 6, 2024/Women's Health
How Estrogen Supports Heart Health

Your natural estrogen levels support a healthy heart by improving your cholesterol, increasing blood flow and reducing free radicals

female on couch clutching stomach area
January 30, 2024/Women's Health
How To Find Relief From Chronic Pelvic Pain

Endometriosis, pelvic floor dysfunction and bladder issues can all contribute, but relief is within reach

Child using smartphone and with social media and texts bubbles around him
January 15, 2024/Children's Health
How Social Media Can Negatively Affect Your Child

Too much screen time and unrealistic expectations and perceptions and can lead to an increased risk of anxiety and depression

Person huddled on floor with arms around knees with thought bubbles above head
January 3, 2024/Mental Health
Anxiety vs. Depression: Which Do I Have (or Is It Both)?

Although different conditons, they can occur together or cause one another

female sweating in gym with male lifting weights in background
December 25, 2023/Exercise & Fitness
Gymtimidation: How To Push Through Gym Anxiety

If the thought of the gym sends you spiraling, do some prep work beforehand and bring a friend along for support

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey