A super human, doing everything from marriage to parenting, intrapreneurship…
It’s true, career burnout is commonplace. Now add being a working mom to the mix! We have heavy workloads, deadline pressure, back-to-back-to-back meetings. We’re taking care of household duties, navigating virtual school, playing nurse, planning meals, being personal assistants, personal styling, managing finances, sleep coaching, making memories and much, much more. Next, let’s lather melanin on and instantly — we’re more prone to multidimensional burnout.
What is burnout?
According to HelpGuide, “burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.’ They go on to outline 6 indicators that burnout is near:
- Every day is a bad day
- Caring about your work or home life seems like a total waste of energy
- You’re exhausted all the time
- The majority of your day is spent on tasks you find either mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming
- You feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated
While the feeling of burnout isn’t new, in 2019 the World Health Organization redefined the issue as a “syndrome” to raise overall awareness. While it’s not a medical condition, it heavily influences overall health status. With the help of a medical professional, one could determine if burnout is the culprit, or if other mental health issues such as anxiety and other mood or stress-related disorders are impeding your productivity.
The first step is recognizing you’re exhibiting warning signs of burnout is accepting that you’re experiencing it. Know that anyone who feels overworked and undervalued is at risk for burnout, but black working momma’s…this one’s for you! So, let’s get into it!
Feeling Burned Out Right Now? Here are 10 Ways to Breakthrough as a Black Woman
1. Know when you’re doing to much
For most, a quick evaluation of your workload will reveal a lot! Having a heavy load with little to no resources and/or time puts you at risk of burnout. This environment opens you up to perpetual stress with the inability to actually get ish done at a high standard.
2. Schedule free time
No matter the size of your load, it’s imperative to take a break. Whether it’s 5-10 minutes every other hour or daily scheduled free time — in 30 minute blocks. Take a break! Put it down, set it aside and let your mind breathe. Also, take the lunch break!
3. Take an actual vacation and unplug fully
It’s not healthy to work continuously, and while the smaller breaks help — nothing beats a few days of consecutive detachment from stressors. In 2018, 236 million of the 768 million unused vacations days were forfeited, resulting in an average of $571 in donated work time.
There will alway be work to do; the next project and another deadline will come. But sis, you still deserve a vacation and time off! Don’t become a statistic, donating work time to your employer.
4. Turn off social media
As this is being written, the world has learned of Chauvin being held accountable for murdering George Floyd and images of him, Floyd with his daughter and the perpetrator are being blasted by every news source and social media platform. But just a half hour prior, 16 year old Ma’Khia Bryant was killed by a Columbus, OH police officer.
The details are important, but extremely triggering for black people and black women. We’re all putting two-and-two together and what-if’ing ourselves to death. That couldn’t have been my daughter, sister, father, brother, husband and son — or me! Couple that with the exhaustiveness of having to pull yourself together and head to the office or position yourself for another long day of working from home and it’s a recipe for disaster.
So, log off, turn off the notifications or delete the app! There is so much on social media that can raise stress levels when we are already overwhelmed. Put your mind and your heart at rest.
5. Prioritize physical health & diet
While working out is likely the last thing you feel like doing when burned out, physical activity is a known stress reliever. Incorporating moments of activity into your day may be just what you need. The things we eat can also help to stabilize our mood. Avoiding certain foods and incorporating more good things into your diet can go a long way in improving overall mood and energy levels. For a working mom, you may have to wake up an hour or two earlier to prep lunch and get a workout in — but it’ll be worth it and aid in pulling yourself away from burnout.
6. Get support
Transparency with family, colleagues and friends is important. We all need someone to challenge our way of thinking and give another perspective. In finding a source of support, you’re able to better identify problems and advocate for solutions. You get the boost you need and start to develop a sense of control and connection — both of which diminish with burnout.
7. Shift your perspective
While vacations, long chats with girlfriends, unplugging help, the root of the problem still exists. Back at the office that workload is still piling and the deadlines are doubling. So now it’s time to assess, rework, delegate or eliminate. Take a close look at your responsibilities and prioritize activities that are non-negotiable, identify things that can sit with other teams and eliminate things that require high-focus and offer low return.
8. Reduce exposure to your stressors
It’s time to set boundaries. From declining the after hour work-related “happy-hour” to vowing to never watch another recorded killing — just say no! For some, take the courtesy route by letting them know you’re already overextended and not able to commit to their request.
9. Say no to leading diversity and antiracism efforts, if you want to
The blackness of being a black woman can be tiring in the workplace. It’s important to emphasize the blackness here, simply because it opens us up to a harsh world of scrutiny and pain via ongoing anti-black violence. We’re exhausted navigating these current events, and now we’re faced with the burden of dismantling racism within corporate America and “tapped” to lead diversity and antiracism efforts.
The expectation that we should work tirelessly to bring everyone up to speed, while on the brink of burnout, is ridiculous. Seriously, we can all confirm what studies “uncover” about our experiences within the workplace. According to a report from the Lean In Foundation (LIF), “Black women in corporate America are less likely than their male or white colleagues to be promoted or to receive the support and access they need to advance despite being just as ambitious.” Lean In, you’re right — you really are.
So, what’s the remedy here? Say no! Unless you’re brave enough to pursue the rectification of race, gender and other inclusivity efforts professionally — just say no. Black women, we did not create these problems and we alone can’t solve them.
All-in-all, we’re just doing our best to be good moms and significant others. We all relish in being a mother and some of us can imagine not being able to explore our dreams and career aspirations while doing so. Keep trucking black momma, you’ll do great!
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A super human, doing everything from marriage to parenting, intrapreneurship and entrepreneurship, and sisterhood, at once.