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Dealing with burnout

The five day work week and after-hours capitalistic exploitation make it so that many of us are exhausted and unmotivated all year round. 

To be “burned out” is to be in a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion which is caused by excessive and prolonged stress and accompanied by a sense of reduced interest, motivation, accomplishment, and a loss of personal identity.

Burnout is a result of prolonged stress and is characterised by disengagement, depression and detachment. While stress mostly manifests physically, burnout is emotional. 

Burnout tends to be confused with stress, however, the difference between stress and burnout shows up in the degree of control one has over a situation. 

Burnout could be a feeling of being all dried up, as too many burdens demand much of a person physically and mentally. However, when stressed, people can try to get everything under control, so they can feel better.

Some signs that you may be experiencing burnout include;

  • Perpetual physical exhaustion and a change in sleeping habits
  • Lack of interest in work and life in general
  • Feeling overworked and unappreciated
  • Inability to find joy in things that usually stoke joy
  • Increased pessimism 

For many women, an unpaid second shift of domestic labour compounds this problem leaving them doubly jaded and burnt out. 

It is normal to have a few bad days sometimes but if you find that the bad days are recurrent and more frequent than the good, then you may be burned out. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the burnout problem for many women and, working from home further blurs the lines of work and personal life. The new reality for many women is having to balance working remotely with domestic labour and child care, leaving them barely any personal time and perpetuating a cycle of endless work and little to no rest.

In 2018, a study by the University of Montreal tracked 2,026 workers over the course of four years. The findings concluded that women were more vulnerable to burnout than men because women were less likely to be promoted than men, and therefore more likely to be in positions with less authority which can lead to increased stress and frustration. 

Though women have had to deal with the mental strain of  balancing work and domestic life  for decades, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has elevated this problem. Multiple studies and statistics have shown that stress and burnout are affecting more women than men,

An annual Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.Org revealed that the division between women and men who say they are burned out has doubled in the last year.

When the cause of burnout is internal factors like depression, perfectionism or pessimism, seek support and prioritise your emotional and physical well-being.

To prevent or cope with work-induced burnout;

  • Avoid working too much without personal time for socialisation and activities you enjoy
  • If your work is monotonous or unchallenging, try to switch up the process 
  • Always make time for rest

Ultimately, if you are overexploited and underappreciated, there’s not much any of these solutions can do to solve the problem. Capitalistic exploitation can not be magicked away by self-care. Improved working conditions are necessary for dealing with and preventing burnout where it is caused by unfavourable working conditions. 

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