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Exploring Professional Burnout


When we initially set out to learn more about “professional burnout” in order to educate our readers, we thought it was going to be cut and dry. This is a problem a lot of women in business face, there has to be a simple step-by-step solution, right? Wrong.

It turns out professional burnout, especially for women, is just as complicated as the rest of our lives.

We discovered entire websites dedicated to the subject. There are also professionals out there who consider themselves “burnout prevention experts”. We quickly realized there may be more to this topic than a 700-word blog post.

The first thing we learned is that we’re probably all using the term “burnout” incorrectly. It’s easy to plop down on the couch at the end of a work day and off-handedly say, “I’m so burnt out.” More than likely, the phrase you are looking for is not actually “burnt out”. You are tired, stressed, frustrated, or annoyed by how your day went. It’s probably nothing a bubble bath and an early bed time can’t solve.

An ACTUAL burnout is a state in which you are no longer able to effectively function. All motivation, professional and otherwise, goes out the window due to chronic stress, leaving you unable to do your job. Studies have found this happening so frequently among millennial women they are referring to this group as “generation burnout”.

Here are the symptoms: chronic fatigue, insomnia, forgetfulness/impaired concentration and attention, physical symptoms, increased illness, loss of appetite, anxiety, depression, anger.

How do we walk the fine line of being an over-achiever and go-getter versus having a complete nervous breakdown and crashing and burning before we reach any of our goals? That’s the million dollar question.

If you’re like most highly-motivated professional women, you want some fresh answers. You’ve tried making time for yourself, it lasts about sixty seconds. You’ve tried unplugging from technology; you end up missing an important email. How do we combat this serious problem in a time when we’re expected to always make ourselves available for work? We think we’ve found a few ideas to get you on the right path.

ORGANIZATION:

This seems almost counterintuitive. Trying to organize seems like another task to add to your already-strenuous list. However, a lot of chronic stress and burnout can be contributed to the worry associated with your to-do list. The thought that we could miss something or let something important fall through the cracks is almost paralyzing. Being hyper-organized can help clear your head and alleviate some of your stress. This is also where you can let technology (the same technology you can’t seem to unplug from) work for you. There are countless organization apps out there. It’s as simple as finding one you like.

FIND A REWARDING NON-WORK ACTIVITY

Typically, women who find themselves in the midst of a burnout also have the type of personality that enjoys a challenge. Experts recommend finding an engaging hobby outside of work—something like fitness activities or volunteering. Find something that utilizes your skills and has absolutely nothing to do with work. If your brain is engaged in something challenging, not only do you enjoy that time, your brain can’t think about work.

SELF-AWARENESS

Pay attention to what your body is telling you. That headache or stomach pain in the middle of the day is sending you a message. Did you remember to eat lunch? Have you left your desk or looked up from your computer all day? Consider it part of your to-do list to take a short break, especially when your body is sending you this message. We default to phrases like “It’s just one meal”, “I just need to meet this one deadline”, or “things will lighten up next week” as an excuse not to listen to our bodies asking us for self care. The days add up, deadlines pass only for another one to pop up, and we still haven’t stopped to take care of ourselves.

Like we said, the issue of professional burnout can’t be solved in one article. If it could, there wouldn’t be a whole generation of women having a mid-life crisis before they hit forty. It’s an issue that needs to be explored more deeply by women, their families who support them, and the companies who employ them.