How Busy Women Can Prevent Burnout

3 ways to get help without actually asking for it

woman with two small children in living room
MoMo Productions/Getty Images

Women are masters at multitasking. We are caregivers, educators, administrators, housecleaners, accountants, chauffeurs, chefs, maintenance workers, designers, landscapers, and more—and that’s when we’re not working!

Women juggle so much it’s no wonder we often experience stress and strain. It’s not just a concern for young professionals or single moms.

Busyness weighs down women in all situations, at all stages of life, and the effects can be harmful.

The Impact of Stress

Anxiety and depression are twice as likely to occur in women than in men. When combined with hormonal fluctuations—whether premenstrual, postpartum or perimenopausal—mood disorders sometimes can become disabling. They can interfere with a woman’s everyday performance, inducing more stress and making mood disorders worse. 

So what’s the remedy for overworked women?

Asking for help.

Sharing the burden and offloading stress is an obvious, and simple, cure. But for many women, it’s easier said than done.

How to Know When You’re Too Busy

Women have a tendency to take over most, if not all, household and caregiving responsibilities.

If that's true of you, ask yourself why. Maybe it’s because you were raised in a family where women had traditional roles. Maybe it’s because you like to maintain control.

Maybe it’s because you think no one else can do things as well as you can—or to your liking.

Whatever the root cause, doing everything all the time can sprout irritability, hostility, and anger. It can cause insomnia and fatigue, as well as an overall lack of motivation and loss of joy. These are signs of burnout.

When you ignore the signs, burnout can put a strain on relationships—with those you live with, such as your spouse and children, and with those you don’t, such as friends and coworkers.

Effective Ways to Avoid Burnout

To stay healthy mentally, physically, and relationally, overworked women should learn to delegate responsibilities. Sharing the load can help relieve the stress.

But if delegating isn’t your thing or if asking for help is uncomfortable, don’t ignore the problem. Here are three ways to get the help you need without actually asking for it:

  1. Stop saying “yes” to everything. Recognize that you do a lot of “invisible labor”—the things no one realizes: coordinating carpools, straightening throw pillows, folding underwear, and wiping away every stray crumb on the counter. You need to learn to say “no” to some of this unrecognized and perhaps unnecessary work. If you say “yes” to everything and everyone, you say “no” to yourself.
  2. Schedule time for yourself. Just as you schedule medical appointments, personal care, and other activities for your family members, do the same for yourself. Women often make themselves last priority. Schedule time for exercise and personal interests, and try to get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
  1. Let go of unreasonable standards. Accept that no one can do it all. When others do step in to help, show them appreciation rather than criticism. Let your kids make their beds their own way. Don’t rearrange cupboards when someone else puts the dishes away. Thank your husband for shopping for groceries, even if he didn’t buy the items exactly as you would.

Getting Help Isn’t a Sign of Weakness

A busy life can still be a balanced life. But you can’t do everything on your own. If you want to feel good and function at your best, get help—or at least welcome it when it’s offered. Getting help isn’t a sign of weakness.

It’s the sign of a masterful multitasker.

 

Dr. Gonsalves is a psychiatrist in Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Behavioral Health. She specializes in mood disorders in women.