With dual work-home burdens, many women experience burnout. While self-care is essential, will it suffice to lead you out of burnout?

The pandemic had numerous women working from home and caring for everyone around them as well. When such women do identify and open up that they are undergoing a burnout, they are asked to “relax and resort to self-care”. However, an eye-opening TED Talk by the Nagoski sisters, Emily and Amelia, challenges the assumption that self-care is a cure to burnout.

Authors of the New York Times bestseller, ‘Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle’ sisters Emily and Amelia Nagoski are renowned for their contributions to psychological research. In their TED talk titled ‘The cure for burnout (hint: it isn't self-care)’, they explain why women experience burnout differently, and the need to think beyond the realm of “self-care”.

The three aspects of Burnout

Burnout, according to the TED talk can be identified by one or all of the following three aspects, as each person responds to it differently.

Firstly, burnout manifests as depersonalization, where you tend to separate yourself from work at an emotional level. You stop perceiving value and meaning in doing what you do. Next comes the decreased sense of accomplishment, where you work harder with lesser conviction. Finally comes emotional exhaustion where you feel absolutely worn out or drained or both.



Women experience burnout differently than men

Burnout in men is often manifested as depersonalization; for women, it turns out to be emotional exhaustion. This can get particularly challenging for women in mid-senior roles at work.

As more factors like parenting, household chores, ongoing demands add up, women are more prone to burnout as they sense unmeetable expectations. Many women wading through this aspect of burnout may not even realize how it affects their physiology. Clearly, the starting point to handling burnout is listening to the body and acknowledging the burnout itself.

Why self-care won't suffice?

Amelia says it is vital to separate ‘dealing with the stress’ from ‘dealing with the stressor that caused the stress’. Self-care and “relaxing” may help handle stressors, but to end the stress itself, you need a support system beyond self-care. We need to break out of the cultural conditioning of ‘being independent is stronger’, and reach out for help when required.

What we need is a community of support around us, be it at the workplace or home, comprising people who care about our well-being and growth as much as we care about theirs. In other words, the cure to burnout is kindness. According to Emily, this will be the baseline culture change that’s going to resolve burnout.

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Ask and you shall receive!

On handling burnout at work, the authors emphasize on availing support as needed at work. Progressive organizations are growing increasingly cognizant of the implications on mental health of employees, and they listen when you voice out concerns. This may be a huge cultural shift for women who are often used to ‘managing everything on their own’, but it’s time we stepped up to actively seek and avail support as much as we give.

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