Underneath the woman doing it all is most likely a woman falling flat on her face. Because burnout is the dark side of multitasking.
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And women are the ultimate multitaskers. But this great strength also means women have the highest risk of burnout-itis. Amy Sullivan, PsyD, clinical health psychologist, explains why women experience burnout — and how to stop it.
Q: Is the X chromosome responsible for women’s inherent drive to keep doing more?
A: Women experience higher levels of stress and anxiety than men in their day-to-day decision-making. Men are more likely to base decisions on the facts and leave emotion out of it. Women typically make decisions based on both facts AND emotion.
The emotional toll is compounded by trying to climb the corporate ladder while keeping the children alive and staying on top of the laundry pile. All that juggling (and guilt from not doing it perfectly) results in women experiencing burnout more often than men. 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. 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.
Q: What’s a gal to do to beat burnout? Does scrolling through my Facebook feed count as downtime?
A: The first step is awareness. If you realize you have burnout, find ways to manage it. And no, getting more engrossed in social media is NOT the answer. Prioritize taking care of yourself rather than keeping tabs on your 450+ “friends.”
My top recommendations for beating burnout:
Take off the cape
Let go of the Superwoman label. You’re spectacular in some
areas of life, but accept that you can’t be super amazing at everything. 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 Facebook). In reality, we only need to
do what’s right for us and our family. Which may include cereal for dinner.
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! Counteract the effects of cortisol by taking slow, deep breaths throughout the day and setting aside time to go to the gym.
Learn to live
I’m talking literally and figuratively. Social media gives us
this idea that our house should set Instagram on fire. Sometimes you have to
accept that the dishes can, in fact, be put off until another 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 have saved yourself hours of unneeded stress.
Just say no
Learn to re-evaluate your responsibilities and become OK with
letting things go. If you’re maxed out at work — or perhaps you want to take on
more responsibility at work — then consciously let something else go. 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.
Get some help
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.
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.