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Why burnout is much more common in women and working moms

Globally, over 42% of women report being burned out. Photo by Claudia Wolff on Unsplash

Globally, over 42% of women report being burned out. Photo by Claudia Wolff on Unsplash

Published Aug 4, 2022

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According to the World Health Organisation, burnout is a syndrome thought to be brought on by persistent workplace stress that has not been effectively managed.

There are three characteristics that define it: a sense of fatigue or depletion of energy; a deepening mental distance from one's employment; or a feeling of negativity or cynicism toward one's job.

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Globally, over 42% of women report being burned out.

International studies have shown that women in senior management roles do more to help their employees navigate work-life challenges, relative to their male peers.

For the majority of women, the thing they worry about in the workplace is how they’re going to be evaluated in their performance, not how much extra work they’re doing at home.

It is increasingly challenging for employed parents to work while parenting, including remote schooling, which has left many feeling fatigued. Picture: Bastian Hernandez/ Pixabay

“Burnout arises when individuals cannot access enough recovery between stressors,” explains Kerry Rudman from Brain Harmonics, a Neurofeedback organisation specialising in retraining brains.

Rudman says this is especially true for working parents who experience more pressures overall and for longer periods of time due to the many tasks they play. As a result, they are less able to take advantage of periods of recovery.

“Parents who work report a variety of pressures, including a lack of work-life balance, higher responsibility at work and at home, increased concerns about their children’s and their own safety, a lack of social support, and isolation,” she says.

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It is increasingly challenging for employed parents to work while parenting, including remote schooling, which has left many feeling fatigued and apathetic, lacking the energy to meet their own expectations.

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“Of the parents who report burnout – 90% believe their management considers productivity to be more important than mental health,” says Rudman.

Because of this, a lot of people will never discuss any issues that they are experiencing with their management or co-workers. People don’t want to look bad or seem as if they are not coping when everyone else looks like they do.

They also don’t want to be seen as incompetent or be at risk of being replaced. There is an assumption that people should be glad that they have a job right now and everyone just needs to do the extra work demanded of them, as they could easily be replaced.

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According to a Brain Harmonics survey, the majority of parents who are responsible for all household duties are experiencing symptoms of burnout. These responsibilities include caring for elderly family members as well as children.

What resources do burnt out women, and in particular, working mothers have at their disposal to assist them in their situation?

Since burnout happens gradually, you might not notice symptoms immediately. But once it takes hold, it can affect your ability to function across all aspects of life.

Talk therapy and life coaching is one aspect that can help to achieve a work-life balance. Neurofeedback is another effective tool to assist in balancing stress, depression and sleep, as well as traumas which exacerbate burnout and ongoing mental health issues.

  • Take back control.
  • Burnout can make you feel powerless.
  • Prioritise: Determine which chores are less crucial and put them on hold.
  • Delegate: Give tasks to someone you trust if you can't do everything all alone.
  • Be present at home, set boundaries, and leave work at work.

Read the latest issue of IOL Health digital magazine here.

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