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Work stress is nothing new, especially for females who feel they have to work harder than their male counterparts to get ahead. Additionally, familial responsibilities often sit squarely on their shoulders when caring for children or elderly parents. It’s no surprise, then, that research shows women are twice as likely to experience severe stress and anxiety than men.
The increasing occurrences of burnout over the past few years have resulted in an uptick in voluntary resignations, a focus on “quiet quitting” and a call for more work-life balance employment benefits. Fortunately, there are a few ways to prevent burnout and keep work life in check and manageable, if not downright enjoyable.
Take care of your health
When we’re stressed, eating healthfully, drinking enough water and getting enough sleep are among the first things to get pushed to the side. We rush from one meeting or project to the next without stopping and giving our body the fuel, exercise and other basics it needs.
Eventually, our body becomes depleted, and productivity and focus wane. That’s when we may experience symptoms that make us feel burnt out. These may 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 severe health conditions and leave us less engaged and motivated to return on a positive track.
Even during the busiest times, it’s important to maintain a regular schedule of staying hydrated and receiving the proper nutrition, exercising and resting as our body needs it. When plans get hectic, it may seem impossible for these to occur, so we must consciously make it part of our day and consider it non-negotiable.
Related: Understanding Entrepreneurial Burnout (And How To Deal With It)
Eliminate unnecessary meetings
Most would agree that most meetings could be turned into emails, saving people time, energy and interruptions. Take a look at your calendar and see where you can substitute meeting times with a short recap email or a collaborative working doc to update colleagues or clients about project progress.
If meetings are essential, ensure there’s an agenda ahead of time so everyone can stay on track and accomplish what needs to be done. Think of all the time that could be saved and dedicated to other work (or break time) if meetings weren’t the automatic choice of communication.
Block your time
Leaving your calendar wide open leaves room for other people to fill it. Blocking time helps to organize priorities and create space for interaction when you’re at your best. For example, if you need quiet time early in the morning to tackle your to-do list, block off that time on your calendar as busy.
Work with the times you’re most productive, and don’t force work during the times you’re not. If you know you start to trail in focus after lunch, try to frontload your calendar with the most important work first. Also, instead of planning your day hour by hour, try carving out production blocks, each designated for checking emails, working on projects, running errands, etc. Breaking up time prevents multi-tasking and taking on too much, which is instrumental when trying to avoid burnout.
Related: How to Spot 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 won’t lead to burnout, but it will if you don’t leave enough room for yourself and there’s no reciprocation for your efforts. It’s easy to become overextended. 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 overburdened, talk with your supervisor, client, or yourself to decide what can be changed to alleviate some stress. This may be shutting off email notifications on your phone and not checking email after 5 PM Or, it could simply mean saying “no” more often. Whatever it is, make sure you adhere to your boundaries and continue to evaluate what is and isn’t working for you.
Pick your battles
Reaching a level 10 energy-wise for every challenge can quickly become exhausting. Instead, find areas where you can compromise without feeling compromised. Also, pay attention to the people and actions that trigger your stress. If you notice recurring battles with certain people or environments, it may signify that the situation is no longer meant 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 what battles matter to you and what is deserving of your energy. And sometimes, the best thing to do is walk away.
Practice self love
Burnout can also result from excessive negativity, including how we act toward or speak to ourselves. When you make a mistake, are you overly critical of yourself, or do you address what to fix for next time? Accountability is essential, though women can be their own harshest critics, making it more challenging not to feel the weight of everyday stress.
Also, give yourself a break. Literally. Whether it’s a long lunch or a half-day to do something relaxing for yourself, don’t feel guilty about needing to take space and rejuvenate with a massage, an indulgent meal or just a casual day at home with nothing and no one bothering you .
Women carry a heavy burden, and we need to recognize what we need to recharge. Creating a balance will help prevent burnout and allow us to thrive in all aspects of our life in a healthy and sustainable way.
Related: How to Recognize and Beat Burnout