Women from all over the world contact me sharing the struggles of their daily lives. Inevitably, they use these three words to describe how they feel about their life: stress, overwhelm and burnout. After years of working with female professionals and talking to tens of thousands of women about what specifically stresses them out, I’ve identified the three dangerous mistakes women make that lead to burnout.
Mistake #1: Tolerate
What we tolerate we give permission to. So, the more women bite their tongues with family, friends, staff, vendors, bosses and colleagues, they are consistently giving others permission to continue bad behaviors regardless of how it impacts them, their lives or stress levels. Women also tolerate their slow personal and career growth for far too long, desiring efficiency and success but settling for chaos and flat satisfaction year after year. Massive mistake #1 is that women tolerate way too much for far too long.
Mistake #2: Ignore the Warning Signs
Stress isn’t your staff standing in a line outside your office wanting to ask you ridiculous questions, the pile of bills you stuff in a portfolio for the bookkeeper to decide which ones to pay, or the difficult staff you would rather dismiss than train. Stress is an internal, biological, physiological, chemical reaction that is part of your autonomic nervous system with clear and identifiable symptoms. Acute stress (low stress levels that spur you forward and enhance your awareness) has been shown to have positive effects on your lifestyle, while chronic stress (high stress levels with a continual release of cortisol over time) can be disastrous. Ignoring the warning signs of chronic stress leads to headaches, dry skin, forgetfulness, fatigue, mood swings, sleepless nights, indifference, depression and burnout. Consistently, women share how they have been feeling for months or years and it’s as if they are reciting from a medical journal on the consequences of stress. Since we can’t change what we don’t acknowledge, ignoring the warning signs of stress, mistake #2, is the same as sticking their head in the sand and waiting for burnout to take over.
Mistake #3: Going It Alone
There is a cultural attitude with women that is perpetuated and nurtured on social media, at seminars and in the halls at work. People call it “empowerment,” but many women interpret it as the need for going it alone and doing everything by themselves. In reality, it’s a conglomeration of other women’s fears, weaknesses, failures and judgments that virally and systemically search for more women with fractures in their confidence and small doubts in their abilities. Sadly, a giant wall is created that does nothing but hold a woman back from reaching out to others for support and stagnating her from success.
The practice of building a life, career and/or business to success is a bell curve with a very small number of outliers able to rely solely on skill and a lot of luck to go about it alone. The majority of women idealize the outliers, spending tens of thousands of dollars to attend their workshops, copy their social media feeds, or buy their programs just to become like them, all the while continuing to listen to and conform to the cultural attitude that going about it alone is the standard expectation of a successful woman. This is the most dangerous mistake of all that will keep women stressed and lead them directly into burnout.
What to Do
Solutions to each of these mistakes are clear but not simple nor always easy to implement.
In order to stop tolerating, you need to know what you already tolerate. This coincides with the first step to Get SMaRT™ (Stress Management and Resilience Training), Know Your Stress. By acknowledging what stresses you out, you can create action plans full of appropriate coping methods to combat your unique stress. This is the first line of defense against burnout, stopping it before it even starts.
Becoming aware of your warning signs is the second step in the Get SMaRT™ process, Assess Your Stress, and warding off burnout. Until you know the severity of your condition, the level of impact it is having on your body and exactly what kind of stress you are experiencing, there is no way to make sure you are using the correct coping method. For example, you can’t exercise away psychological stress nor sleep away physiological stress. These are the wrong prescriptions for your diagnosis.
Step three in the Get SMaRT ™ journey is to Reduce Your Stress, which you can’t do by going it alone. It takes a network of the right tools, resources, information and people for you to learn from, share with, problem solve and lean on. Reducing your stress to stave off burnout is a result of intentional work with strategic implementation of defined coping methods.
Women who address these dangerous mistakes and implement strategic solutions to counterbalance their effects will ward off burnout and find passion again. To Get SMaRT, there can’t be a willy-nilly approach to habit formation. Women around the globe will want to know that there is a methodic way to Know~Assess~Reduce Your Stress™ and remain burnout-free forever.
Jen Butler, M.Ed., B.C.C., D.A.I.S., has been working in the area of Stress Management and Resilience Training (SMaRT) for more than 30 years. She speaks to professionals all around the globe on the impact stress has on their lives and businesses. JB Partners offers an array of tools, resources, and services through the SMaRT Club+ membership so you can go from BS excuses to “HOLY SH*T!” moments.