Nearly half of women experience burnout: here's how to find that work-life balance

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  • Reports worldwide suggest that many working parents meet parental burnout criteria.
  • While burnout is not new, the pandemic has exacerbated it by introducing new stressors in our lives.
  • Studies show that working mothers are particularly prone to burnout. Fortunately, there are ways to address this.

Burnout is easily one of the biggest buzzwords since 2021. It’s a feeling of chronic workplace stress that's not effectively managed, and something that too many of us experience. 

Subtle signs of burnout include constant fatigue or exhaustion, irritability, trouble sleeping, loss of joy, and dissatisfaction with one's job. 

Studies show that it’s worse for women - especially working moms. Globally, just over 40% of women report being burned out. While women are giving it their all in their professional lives, it’s taken a great toll on their personal lives - and their physical and mental health.

"We see this particularly with employed parents who face a higher number of, and longer exposure to stressors from the multiple roles they play compared with non-parents and they have less ability to access periods of recovery as a result," says Kerry Rudman from Brain Harmonics, a neurofeedback organisation specialising in retraining brains.

She adds: 

Employed parents report several stressors, in particular a lack of work-life balance, increased responsibilities at both work and home, greater concern for safety at work and for their kids at school, a loss of social support and isolation.

International studies also highlight that women in senior management roles do more than their male peers to help employees navigate work-life challenges and manage their workloads.

But, worryingly, one in three women, and a significantly high percentage of mothers with young children, spend between three and six hours a day, or two to ten times more time on household chores and caregiving than men. 

READ MORE | The telltale signs of burnout you should look out for

Productivity vs mental health

Of the parents who report burnout, Rudman says that 90% believe their employer values productivity more than mental health.

"Because of this, a lot of people will never discuss any issues that they are experiencing with their management or co-workers. People don’t want to look bad or seem as if they are not coping when everyone else looks like they do," she says. 

Are you a working mom and feel like you're experiencing burnout? Tell us about it here

Additionally, there’s a fear of coming across as "incompetent" or being at risk of being replaced, she adds. "There is an assumption that people should be glad that they have a job right now and everyone just needs to do the extra work demanded of them as they could easily be replaced."

Yet stress and burnout are the main reasons people choose to leave their jobs, she says.

Managing burnout

A survey conducted by Brain Harmonics shows that parents who reported experiencing symptoms of burnout were more often responsible for all household duties compared with those not experiencing symptoms of burnout, says Rudman.

And these responsibilities, including caring for older adult family members above and beyond children, is often the woman’s responsibility, she adds.

But there are resources for people, and in particular, working mothers experiencing burnout. Talk therapy, life coaching and neurofeedback are all ways that can help one to achieve a work-life balance, says Rudman.  

READ MORE | I'm a working mom, and I'm exhausted. This is all the invisible work I do

"We have found Neurofeedback - brain training [that assists you to control your brain waves consciously] - to be an effective tool to assist in balancing stress, depression and sleep as well as traumas which exacerbate burnout and ongoing mental health issues," she says. 

Addressing these imbalances as quickly as possible will help working parents, or anyone experiencing burnout, to be more effective, happier and more productive in their roles, as they will be given methods to help them cope with the ongoing stresses in their lives. 

Rudman says neurofeedback training is a non-invasive tool that can help with improving mental health and feelings of physical and emotional burnout. 

READ MORE | We’re all exhausted but are you experiencing burnout? Here’s what to look out for

Other tips to address burnout 

There are a number of recommended ways you can also curb burnout symptoms. In an article for The Conversation, a researcher suggests the following:

  • Consider whether it is actually burnout: To manage burnout, you need to identify whether your symptoms actually are burnout and not another condition. 
  • Incorporate exercise and meditation in your weekly routine: it can help to distract and relax and also has proven biological benefits, such as reducing levels of stress hormones throughout the body.
  • Perfectionistic traits can make you prone to burnout: if you’re a perfectionist, try to avoid this by tweaking any predisposing personality style.  
  • See a mental health professional: they will have specific cognitive strategies to help reduce your anxiety and stress.

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