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Work stress is nothing new, especially for women who feel they have to work harder than their male counterparts to get ahead. In addition, family responsibilities often rest squarely on their shoulders when caring for children or elderly parents. It is therefore no surprise that research shows women are twice as likely experience severe stress and anxiety than men.
The increasing number of burnout cases in recent years has led to an increase in voluntary redundancies, a focus on “quiet quitting” and a call for more working conditions for a better work-life balance. Fortunately, there are a few ways to avoid burnout and keep work life in check and manageable, if not downright enjoyable.
Think of your health
When we’re stressed, one of the first things to be brushed aside is a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, and getting enough sleep. We rush from one meeting or project to the next without stopping, giving our bodies the fuel, exercise, and other basic amenities it needs.
Eventually, our bodies become exhausted and productivity and focus decrease. That’s when we can experience symptoms that make us feel burned out. These can manifest physically, such as through stress headaches, cramps, and inflammation, or mentally, such as irritability, fatigue, and insomnia. It creates a dangerous cycle that can lead to more serious health problems and make us less engaged and motivated to get back on a positive track.
Even during the busiest times, it’s important to maintain a regular schedule to stay hydrated and get the right nutrition, exercise and rest as our bodies need it. When plans get hectic, it may seem impossible for them to happen, so we have to consciously make it a part of our day and view it as non-negotiable.
Related: Understanding Entrepreneurial Burnout (and How to Cope With It)
Eliminate unnecessary meetings
Most agree that most meetings can be turned into emails, saving people time, energy and interruptions. Check your calendar and see where you can replace meeting times with a short email summary or collaborative working document to keep colleagues or clients informed of project progress.
If meetings are essential, make sure there is an agenda in advance so that everyone can stay on track and accomplish what needs to be done. Think of all the time that could be saved and spent on other work (or breaks) if meetings weren’t the automatic communication choice.
Block your time
Leaving your calendar wide open leaves room for other people to fill it. Blocking out time helps organize priorities and create space for interaction when you are at your best. For example, if you need a quiet time early in the morning to tackle your to-do list, block that time in your calendar as busy.
Work when you are most productive and don’t force work when you are not. If you know you’ll start to get into focus after lunch, try to fill your calendar with the most important work first. Also, instead of planning your day hour by hour, try working out production blocks, each intended for checking emails, working on projects, running errands, etc. Splitting up the time prevents you multitask and take on too much, which is essential when trying to avoid burnout.
Related: How to spot an entrepreneurial burnout (before it’s too late)
Define (and communicate) boundaries
As women, our innate response is to be of service when needed. Lending a helping hand doesn’t lead to burnout, but it will if you don’t leave enough space for yourself and there is no reciprocity for your efforts. It’s easy to get overloaded. Be clear about expectations and boundaries and set consequences when boundaries are crossed.
Typically, lingering frustration is directly linked to a lack of communication. If you’re feeling overworked, talk to your supervisor, client, or yourself to decide what can be changed to relieve some stress. This may mean turning off email notifications on your phone and not checking your email after 5pm. Or it could mean saying “no” more often. Whatever it is, make sure to stick to your limits and keep evaluating what works and what doesn’t for you.
Choose your battles
Reaching a level 10 energy level for each challenge can get tiresome quickly. Instead, look for areas where you can compromise without feeling compromised. Also pay attention to the people and actions that cause you stress. If you notice recurring battles with certain people or environments, it may mean that the situation is no longer for you.
It’s easy to blame others for causing stress, but sometimes it’s up to us to remove ourselves from unhealthy situations. Only you can decide which battles are important to you and what earns your energy. And sometimes it’s best to walk away.
Practice self love
Burnout can also result from excessive negativity, including how we behave or talk to ourselves. When you make a mistake, are you being overly self-critical, or are you discussing what to fix next time? Responsibility is key, although women can be their own harshest critics, making it more challenging not to feel the weight of everyday stress.
Give yourself a break too. Literal. Whether it’s a long lunch or half a day doing something relaxing for yourself, don’t feel guilty about taking the space and rejuvenating with a massage, a delicious meal or just a casual day at home with nothing and no one to bother you.
Women carry a heavy burden and we need to recognize what we need to recharge. Creating a balance helps prevent burnout and allows us to thrive in all aspects of our lives in a healthy and sustainable way.
Related: Recognizing and Beating Burnout?