The recent annual Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.Org found that the gap between women and men who say they are burned out has nearly doubled in the last year. In the survey, 42 percent of women and 35 percent of men in the US reported feeling burned out often or almost always in 2021, compared to 32 percent of women and 28 percent of men last year.
Not that any of this comes as any surprise. Women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic – having taken on more responsibilities at home and having been forced out of their jobs due to lack of childcare when daycare centers and schools had to shut their doors.
While Covid-19 has led to a spike in conversations around flexible working arrangements, most women have yet to see those benefits materialise.
With this in mind, we asked business psychologist Jan P de Jonge, who has teamed up with Feel Good Contacts, to share 10 strategies to help women in the workplace tackle burnout before it sets in.
1. Have a healthy relationship with the news
Limit stressors. Whether you’re doom-scrolling or glued to the anxiety-inducing 24-hour news channels, it’s important that you consume news in a healthy way. Try to find a balance between being informed but not overwhelmed. Do this by limiting news consumption to set times during the day and preferably not when you should be relaxing (i.e during meal times or at bedtime).
2. See failure as a positive
If things haven’t worked out as expected, then don’t see it as a failure. Treat yourself with kindness and learn to accept that things go wrong from time to time. Be positive: See failure as a lesson for the future.
3. Recalibrate your priorities
Are you working too many hours? Have you said “Yes” too often and too easily? Booked up all your available time? Chances are you feel stressed and alienated from those close to you. Address this by recalibrating your priorities and review how much time you spend on each habitual activity. You and those around you will be happier for it.
4. Get off to a good start
Get up a little earlier, drink water and do some exercise. Prepare your breakfast without relying too much on processed food. Get some fresh air and try to absorb some natural daylight – it will help you to sleep better. Decide which eight to 10 tasks you would like to do today and make sure you accomplish the four or five most important tasks on that list. After all, tomorrow is another day.
5. Gratitude tracking for a positive mindset
Set aside one minute a day for gratitude tracking. There is no need to overthink things. You simply need to focus on the small moments/successes that you don’t always acknowledge. This could include having a cup of coffee without being disturbed or a surprisingly sunny day.
6. Limit screen time
Our work and home life are becoming increasingly blurred, so try to limit your screen time when you're not working. We all know how bad it can be for your health. Also, stress and sleep don’t mix, so it’s important to use the time before you go to bed to de-stress. Reduce your exposure to screens in the hours leading to bedtime. The blue light emitted from screens disrupts your sleep-wake cycle and can lead to wakefulness and lower quality sleep.
7. Stretch like an animal
The multi-million-pound yoga industry is built around it, and animals understand this better than humans do. To wake yourself up after (hopefully!) having had a good sleep or sitting down for a long time, we get ready for movement and work by automatically stretching our body. It’s what’s called ‘natural pandiculation’: Yawning, stretching your arms, arching your back, making yourself as stretched out as possible after first tensing your muscles. Try to become more aware of your own body by contracting your muscles, stretching out slowly, and then releasing... It's relaxing.
Showing your appreciation to another person (even if you can only do this by email or some other remote form of communication) will be warmly received and also lift your mood.
9. Forget ‘give and take’
Give up your belief in ‘give and take’ and adopt a new ‘give and be given’ approach. In other words: Give out some unconditional love. It is likely that doing this may well increase your chances of getting some kindness in return. But the key trick is to not bank on it – do not expect to be able to ‘take’ anything in return. And, after all, giving unconditional kindness and care is itself a huge mood booster.
10. Bust a move
Improve your mood by doing some exercise. Start with small steps – small goals that are very easy to achieve. Don’t worry about finishing, but make sure you make a start. Exercise really makes you feel better.