Women are increasingly finding it difficult to get the right balance between work and switching off and are putting themselves at the risk of burning out.
It is reported that a survey by the Open University found that in their bid to get promoted and rise through the ranks, three quarters of women are working too hard and are close to burnout.
Burnout is the result of prolonged stress and it is often difficult to see the signs that you are heading for burnout until you get there. Or you do see the signs but you choose to ignore them.
If you think that there are not enough hours in the day to do all that you need to do, you can become so focused on this to the extent that you become fixated that you never have enough time. This then makes it harder for you to step back and take a rational view of the bigger picture and identify ways of working that are better for you and your health.
This then becomes a perpetuating cycle that you get sucked up in it and it is then difficult to find a way out.
If you feel like your life is like a treadmill, getting faster and faster and that you are constantly stressed, you need to slow down. Carrying on like this will only lead to burnout if you don’t do something about it.
Some of the warning signs that my clients who have suffered burnout experienced include an increase in their consumption of alcohol at the end of the day, over tiredness, constant stress, feeling very emotional, emotional eating, irrational thinking and tension.
Although they were aware that things were not right, they chose to carry on working relentlessly because they were committed to their jobs and didn’t want people to think that they couldn’t cope. They thought that this would show that they were weak. But doing something about it means you are taking control of your life so don’t view this as a sign of weakness.
Quick fixes don’t work, so whilst you may think that staying up all night with an endless supply of energy drinks, cups of coffee or even glasses of wine is helping you to finish that important project, a lack of sleep reduces your mental capacity. Not to mention the impact of consuming excessive amounts of such beverages has on your body. Slow down. Do things that relax and de-stress you such as practising mindfulness. Make sure that you are getting sufficient rest and that you are getting enough sleep.
Talk to someone
A workload that puts you under constant pressure that you are unable to manage will lead to stress. Working excessive hours without a break causes stress. Pent up negative emotions will manifest as stress.
Find someone who you trust and talk to them about how you are feeling. If your organisation offers employee support, use the services offered. If your emotions are deep rooted, consider counselling. If you want to develop strategies and a mindset to overcome this and move forward, find a coach.
Develop a support network, a group of people that you can talk your issues through with and help to support each other.
Review and evaluate
Set time aside on a regular basis to review your workload and evaluate how you are managing it. Cut out anything that is unnecessary. Eliminate distractions. As much as we women like to be proud of the fact that we can multi task, multi tasking is actually ineffective.
It is more productive to focus on one thing at a time. Microsoft found that every time their employees stopped working to respond to an email notification, it took an average of 15 minutes for them to get back in to the flow of the work that they were previously doing. Considering the amount of email you get in a day, that is an awful lot of time used ineffectively if you are responding to notifications as and when they come through.
Switch off your notifications and that includes social media notifications too. Set periodic times of the day when you will check and respond to emails, focusing on doing that alone.
When we are burdened down with work, the things that tend to get cut are the things that help you to relax, enjoy life and that are generally good for our long term health.
“Your sense of humour is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health.” ~ Paul E. McGhee, Ph.D.
Make sure that you have fun. Whether this be spending time with family, friends or even on your own. Or it could be a sport that you enjoy, the gym, an exercise class or a hobby.
There is a lot of truth in the old saying all work and no play makes Jack (and Jill) a dull boy.
Plan your exit
If there is no sign of the conditions you are working in improving and you find that you are becoming more stressed and miserable as time goes by, perhaps it is time for you to start planning your exit strategy.
Finding something that is rewarding and fulfilling, that enables you to have a more balanced life may be just what you need. Whether this be finding another job or starting your own business, you need to do something different if you are to prevent yourself from burning out.
Carol Stewart, is a Personal Development, Career, Business Coach, UK top 50 Business Adviser and founder of Abounding Solutions. She works with women who are unhappy at work but are too scared to do anything about it. She helps them to develop the confidence to make a career move and find something that they love. This could be a complete career change, it could be climbing the corporate ladder and smashing through the glass ceiling, or it could even be exiting the corporate environment and setting up their own business.
Carol herself made a significant career change in 2011 when at the age of 44 she left the organisation she had worked in for 28 years, went to university and completed an MSc in Coaching Psychology whilst setting up her own business.
She is also a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management and a Member of the Association for Coaching.
Carol’s free ebook ‘5 Steps to Pursuing Your Passion at Mid-Life – A Guide to Designing a Career You Love’ can be downloaded at http://aboundingsolutions.com/ . This book is suitable for anyone who wants to pursue work that they are passionate about regardless of age.