“I feel like I do a day’s worth of work before I go to work and another day’s work when I get home.”
Sounds familiar? This comment is relatable to many women and was shared by a working mother as part of a current Working Women’s Survey being conducted by Meiava. While things have altered due to COVID-19, the work-from-home coupled with online kids schooling may have just shifted the location to be centered now at home.
Working women are increasingly on the edge of burnout from having to do it all. Working mothers – who juggle a career, a growing family, and for some Generation X and Y women the responsibility of caring for aging parents – often feel a greater pressure to be superhuman. While sometimes we tend to place this pressure on ourselves, the high expectations of others at home, at work, and in our social lives, perpetuates the need to be always on top of things. We get use to carrying the workload – and the people around us get accustomed to seeing how we miraculously manage everything so efficiently and gracefully. But this is simply not sustainable.
Over a year ago, I personally felt on the edge of burnout. Although I pride myself for being highly productive and having an expanded capacity to both handle a career while being an engaged parent to three active boys, my mental and physical wellness started to suffer. It was when found myself Googling the word “burnout” that I realized some things had to change.
The World Health Organization deems burnout as a medical condition. The chronic stress from the high demands of work and life creates emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. It looks like I am not alone in this. Researching this more, I found how burnout is a real issue. As an example, a survey of women and men in the United States conducted by Meredith Corporation and Harris Polls revealed that 81% of women thought that “we live in a world that glorifies busy”, and about 20% of women feel more burnt-out, more stressed (36%), or more tired (33%) in their daily life compared to five years ago.
To fight burnout, the same study revealed that many women look to wellness and other activities that improve their overall well-being. Yet two-thirds of women (66%) surveyed indicated that while “wellness activities are great, often they just feel like more things that I need to add to my list to feel accomplished.” What this tells us is that it is not just about time for wellness, but also addressing other aspects of our lives to find a holistic and individualized solution.
Women are tackling burnout by making life changes, from major changes such as switching or quitting their jobs, moving homes, and ending relationships, to taking social media detox and adding a wellness regimen.
In terms of my personal journey from the edge of burnout, I did three things – made a career pivot, reset my work and life goals, and reconnected with people that mattered to me – while disconnecting with those which added to my burnout.
A time to refocus
After a 25-year global career with a professional services firm, I took a brave leap to follow my passion as a start-up entrepreneur. In March 2020, I founded and launched Meiava, a platform to empower working women to find her work life integration (because we each have our own crazy mix!). Working on solutions to help others has been a great source of relief to my burnout and the growth and learning that I needed to rejuvenate. Turning my burnout to something good, I am excited to launch in October the Meiava app for working women to focus on her work and life goals and ask for the support that she needs.
When you have reached or come close to the edge of burnout, it is time for an intervention. In addition to finding time for wellness, it is just as important to take the time to step back to look at your life overall to find out what other changes may help. Some practical ways to get on a healthier path:
1. Take time out to reflect on your short- and long-term work and life goals and write these down.
2. Prioritize time for your goals on your calendar and the people that matter most to you.
3. Say “No” more often to work, events, and asks that people make of you.
4. Find a way to streamline your to-do-list.
5. Perhaps the hardest – let go of the need to carry the load all by yourself. Ask for help to get it done together. Ask for supporters to help you with your work and life goals.
I am trying these steps myself and it has brought some calm and clarity to my days. With time, hopefully this may also help you to reset your view of what a happy work-life integration means for you – to keep you far away from the edge of burnout.