“Treat yourself like your closest friend.” I love this perspective from Jen Fisher in her article for Thrive Global on Why Self-care Has Never Mattered More for Parents and Caregivers. As working women, we often fail to make ourselves a priority and find time to focus on our own well-being. I am not just talking about wellness, but also about our overall goals when it comes to life and work.

Let’s face it, work life balance is a myth. Finding that perfect 50:50 balance is tough. Many of us struggle even on our best days to find our own sense of work life integration at different points of our lives. We may not strive for balance anymore, yet we know just how amazing it feels when some of our goals (even those small ones) are reached.

Work life integration is even more important now for women. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a major disruption on our lives. Job losses are expected to have a prolonged and negative effect for men and women alike. Yet, for women, the pandemic has had a significant impact on women’s careers, their sense of financial security, and potentially it may extend the time it takes to close the gender wage gap.

Burnout epidemic facing women

COVID-19 has elevated the stress and burnout epidemic confronting working women. It has up ended routines and made childcare and support networks for working parents more difficult. Working mothers continue to carry a heavier load. It has spotlighted what Mashable wrote as the invisible labor of additional household responsibilities that women have, and challenged working women in particular, to manage even more. This is further supported by the Women in the Workplace 2020 report by LeanIn.org and McKinsey where there appears to be a disconnect between dual career couples. In that report, more than 70% of fathers think they are splitting household labor equally with their partner during Covid-19—but only 44% of mothers say the same. With everyone under one roof and social distancing, any spare time that working women had for their own wellness and goals has largely been reduced or diminished.

Job losses leading to a Female Recession

Pandemic job losses add to the stress and sets back women’s careers. Women are losing jobs at a faster rate than men. A recent Bloomberg article speak about the first Female Recession and in the chart below, it shows the uneven joblessness rate in the United States. This trend is happening also in other countries (see article Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on working women).

Take back control

Life has changed for many women this year because of the pandemic. It is time to take back control to adjust to the new “normal” and it starts with the basics of prioritizing you.

To fight burnout and find what work life integration means for you takes:

1. A shift in mindset to not be driven by your to-dos (or circumstances and events), but instead by your goals;

2. Resetting expectations firstly of yourself and what others may expect from you. Sometimes this may require setting boundaries of what you are willing and not willing to do; and

2. Asking for the support that you need to succeed in your goals and help with some of your to-dos.

What I gained just by asking for support

I have been personally guilty of not asking for the support that I need with my goals to instead go it alone. The same has been the case with simple household chores. What I have discovered is that by getting it done together, it relieved the load – if only just to find one hour back for me.

Taking a different approach with my goals also helped. I started to open up to share with my sisters and close friends what I am striving for with my career. Daring to pivot, I left a long standing career to redefine my path as an entrepreneur of a startup, Meiava, which helps working women to find their work life integration by sharing insights and with tools such as the Meiava goal app. It has been such a positive experience to tell others what matters to me and the other major life changes that I am trying to navigate through all at the same time. In sharing these goals, others have been very empathetic and confided in me also about their goal aspirations. Their support has been invaluable to me, especially in times of self-doubt and anxiety. And, I no longer feel lonely in my journey.

Be your closest friend

So, treat yourself like your closest friend to prioritize you. Focus on your self-care and work and life goals – even if it means to adjust or reset these for the unprecedented times that we are living in. It can make a positive difference and offer a glimmer of hope during these uncertain days.