If it seems like everyone’s talking about burnout lately, it’s for good reason. In May, the World Health Organization recognized workplace burnout as a global phenomenon. Unlike basic job stress, true burnout doesn’t stop once the work day does — it can damage relationships with family and friends, your ability to function at home and at work, and your health.
“When you’re in burnout, it affects all areas of your life,” says Sheryl Ziegler, Psy.D., a psychologist based in Denver, Colorado, and author of the book, “Mommy Burnout.”
Women are more likely to suffer workplace burnout than men, researchers at the University of Montreal found in 2018. Why? Work-life balance challenges compound career stress.
Jessica Foley, M.A., a licensed mental-health counselor in Waltham, Massachusetts, says another contributor is the burden of the “mental load” many women bear — that invisible to-do list of behind-the-scenes tasks like scheduling playdates and sending birthday cards.
The good news? Burnout doesn’t happen overnight. “Burnout is what happens from long-term, unaddressed stress,” Foley says.
If you’re heading down that path, here’s how you can reverse course.
Tip 1: Stay Social
Time with friends is often first on the chopping block when we’re busy and stressed. But, it’s really the last thing we should ditch, Dr. Ziegler says. Meeting a friend for coffee or an after-work cocktail is fun and restorative. And, chances are, your pals understand exactly how you’re feeling.
“Investing one hour with somebody we feel really connected to, particularly another female, has a hormonal effect on us that’s very positive,” says Dr. Ziegler. “Even if you didn’t talk about your own stuff, but just heard someone else’s story. There is real power in not feeling alone.”
Tip 2: Ditch Multitasking for Singletasking
Newsflash: Multitasking doesn’t make us more productive.
It may feel like we’re killing it when we check our email, post to Insta, talk to our kids and cook dinner all at once. But, too much juggling affects our focus and ability to be present. And, it’s stressing us out.
“Multitasking is highly reinforced in our society,” Dr. Ziegler says. “On the other hand, if you say, ‘What’s a top tip for reducing stress?’ it’s going to be meditation, mindfulness. The two things are completely at odds with each other.”
Singletasking works at work, too. Instead of starting the day checking email or news sites, do actual work first, Dr. Ziegler says. Carve out times of intense work, then check email and social media later.
When we focus and make a significant dent in a project, we’ll stress less. Less stress leads to less workplace burnout.
Tip 3: Ask For Help — And Accept It
Women experiencing workplace burnout often try to do everything themselves, say both Foley and Dr. Ziegler. So, get some tasks off your plate.
Can your partner do the laundry? Can you swap childcare or dinners occasionally with a neighbor? Can you limit after-school activities so you’re not chauffeuring kids constantly? Can you get groceries delivered? And if someone else doesn’t clean the bathroom exactly like you do, can you be cool with that?
“How can you be tolerant of ‘good enough’?” Foley says. “We might have to give up some of that control and let that be the price of gaining your time back.”
You may have more flexibility at work than you realize, so ask your boss or HR. You might be able to work remotely one day a week, shift your hours, or condense your schedule into fewer days. “The worst thing that could happen is you’re told no,” Foley says.
Tip 4: Take Breaks, Even Tiny Ones
Many of us find ourselves working through breaks or lunch, but Foley encourages people to leave work during break times, even brief ones. Don’t fill every break with chores or social-media scrolling.
Try some low-tech chill time: Read a book at Starbucks, browse in a boutique, or take a short stroll. Those small scraps of me-time add up.
“Think of it as a release valve,” Foley says. “You’re letting off the pressure that has built up over time. If you do that regularly and start to take more and more time, you could be avoiding burnout rather than just letting it go for years, which is what I more commonly see.”