On a scale of 1-10, how burned out are you feeling right now? If your answer is 8 or higher, you’re not alone!
A 2021 study conducted by McKinsey & Company found that 42% of women reported they either had been or almost always were burned out in 2021.
The fact is, women leaders are experiencing overwhelm and burnout at alarming rates. We have been conditioned and programmed to believe we can effectively compete and navigate in a system that was not created with the needs of women in mind. Yes, we are working in an out dated system that was created for men by men. And trying to succeed within this system usually requires us to work twice as hard for half the result.
But all is not lost! Here are 5 strategies to help you restore your energy, reclaim your time, revive your true desires and feel better physically, mentally and emotionally.
Strategy 1: Move Your Body
I have worked with hundreds of high-achieving professional women throughout my three decade career and nearly all of them have spoken of having low levels of energy. Though they performed well in the demanding roles as CEOs, heads of countries and physicians, they often didn’t have enough energy to deal with much more in their lives.
Without energy, nothing gets accomplished, including that which is important to you. Energy is the antidote to tiredness. And a powerful way to generate more energy in your body is through movement. Most would agree that children have boatloads of energy and that as their age increases, their energy decreases. But it is not their age that effects their energy – it’s how much more they move compared to adults.
Movement generates energy. Actual electrical currents flow through our bodies, assisting with proper cell function as well as muscle contraction, nerve impulse circulation and more. So, the more energy we have flowing through our body, the better able we are to function physically and mentally.
However, according to a 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey most American workers holding corporate positions spend about 75% of their workday sitting. Thus, as you strive to excel, you are likely not moving enough. And that is likely having a negative impact on your performance and enjoyment of life. Regular exercise and movement not only boosts a person’s energy level, it also releases feel-good hormones called endorphins and regulates the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which when stuck in the fight or flight response, will further drain your batteries and ultimately lead to overwhelm and burnout.
Putting it into practice
Often, when we contemplate adding more movement to our lives, we think about our schedules and the insurmountable task of finding one more hour in the day. Fortunately, studies show that moving just three minutes every 30 to 60 minutes will, among other things, increase your energy.
Try one or more of the following three minute activities to give yourself an energy boost.
- Walk in place or pace while on a phone call
- Walk to someone’s desk to communicate instead of sending an email
- Standup and stretch
- Jump on a rebounder (this is great if you work from home or have space in your office)
The hardest part about moving a few minutes every hour is remembering to do it. Set yourself up to win by creating reminders and use your phone or Outlook/Google calendar to schedule time for movement.
Strategy 2: Ask for Help
There are myriad reasons why women do not ask for help. Be it due to an unconscious learned behavior developed in our childhood, as we watched our mothers do everything for everyone while growing up…a trauma response that taught us we couldn’t trust others and could only feel safe relying on ourselves or social conditioning that has trained us to believe that asking for help is a weakness. Whatever the cause, the result is the vast majority of women are guilty of something I like to call unhealthy independence. They don’t know how to ask for help or delegate tasks to others. And they don’t know how to say “no,” no matter how much is on their plate. This behavior is costly in both your personal and professional life, as failing to ask for help can lead to alienation, dysfunctional relationships, health issues and financial issues.
Putting it into practice
Here are simple ways to begin asking for help:
- Think of small tasks that need completing and ask someone else to complete them •
- Ask your spouse or children to pick up your dry cleaning or run family errands •
- Hire a housekeeper
Asking for help can feel quite scary, especially if it provokes a trauma response, but I assure you, you will not die from asking for help. In fact, because you will have a lighter load and less stress, you will likely live longer.
Strategy 3: Neutralize Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs)
Cognitive distortions are negative or irrational thinking patterns. Dr. Daniel Amen coined these thinking patterns as automatic negative thoughts or ANTs. Common ANT patterns include “all or nothing” thinking, focusing on being or having “less than,” constant blaming, and guilt.
According to Dr. Amen, ANTs “steal your happiness and run your life.” Your brain and automatic nervous system (ANS) react to your thoughts. When you have happy thoughts (what some may call “positive thoughts”), your brain and ANS tend to relax and be more effective. In contrast, when you have negative thoughts, your brain and ANS send cues of threat and will be less effective.
Thoughts are nothing more than pictures and images in our minds. Although they are automatic, you do not have to believe everything you think, especially when it comes to those negative thoughts that do not serve you. Believe it or not, just because you think a thing does not make it true.
Putting it into practice
The ANT-killing process: When you notice yourself experiencing a negative emotion, write down what you’re feeling and then identify the ANT.
Then ask yourself the following five questions:
- Is it true?
- Is it absolutely, 100% true?
- How do I feel when I believe this thought?
- How would I feel if I could not have this thought?
- Turn the thought around to its exact opposite, and ask if that thought is true or even more true than the original thought.
This ANT-killing process is based on the work of psychiatrist Aaron Beck and author Byron Katie. The more you go through the process, the easier it will become, the fewer ANTs you will have and the more peaceful you will feel.
Strategy 4: Eradicate External Toxins
Anything outside of you that creates uneasy feelings or emotions is negatively impacting your brain and autonomic nervous system. External toxins can include people, relationships, television and environments. Unfortunately, those closest to us, i.e. family members, are often the greatest offenders. In addition to family, women often have to navigate toxic work environments. Fortunately, more women are beginning to speak and stand up for themselves despite being the only person of their gender at the table.
Be they chemical, biological or radiative, toxins are poisonous and can be life threatening. External toxins are no different. Long-term exposure to toxic behaviors can also be life threatening. Accepting toxic behaviors because it is the socially correct thing to do, or for any other reason, is absurd.
Putting it into practice
To eradicate the external toxins in your life:
- Identify the toxins (person, relationship, environment)
- Write what it is costing you to keep the toxins (peace, health, wealth)
- Write out the benefits of keeping the toxins, if any
- Set a date for removing the toxin from your life
- Share your plan and date with someone who can hold you accountable
Strategy 5: See A Better Version of Yourself
Life is full of ups and downs and it is ever changing. The brain has a propensity for negativity bias, which means we register negative stimuli more readily than positive stimuli and dwell more heavily on negative events. As a result, the discomfort of negative experiences can outweigh and outlast the rewards of positive experiences. Prolonged feelings of discomfort can become taxing and leave you feeling uncertain about the future. Many women are so entrenched in the daily grind that they are no longer going after what they desire. They instead have resolved to simply accept their current situation as a way of life without any hope for change.
But there is always hope and life can change on a dime. Change begins in the imagination. Imagine living the life you have always desired to live – not a picture of a life painted by a system that has yet to favor women, but a life that resonates with your soul.
Putting it into practice
The ongoing challenges and hustle and bustle of daily life can cause us to lose sight of our unique qualities, skill sets, and inner brilliance. Reconnecting with your truth will remind you of who you really are, what you are made of and what is inside of you.
- Create a list of 7 things you tell yourself that are not true.
- Create a list of 7 things that oppose the items on the first list (not true list). These are your truths.
- Recite your truths three times a day every day
Repetition is not only the mother of learning, but it is also pivotal for rewiring your brain.
Working from sunup to sun down, taking on extra work and attempting to handle more than humanly possible, failing to address your mental and physical needs, being the solution to everyone’s problems, ignoring and suppressing your emotions, self-medicating yourself, crying yourself to sleep at night, believing working harder is the answer… IT IS ALL MADNESS. It is causing you to experience stress, overwhelm and burnout. And it is keeping you from enjoying the balanced, healthy and happy life you deserve.
The good news is you can stop the madness! By implementing the above strategies, you will improve your energy, fuel your body, dissolve your automatic negative thoughts, remove toxins from your life, and once again go after what you really want – and put an end to the madness once and for all.
So, which of the above strategies resonated most with you? Which are you willing to commit to implementing in your life?
Please share your thoughts – and here’s to stopping the madness!
Featured Image: Photo by Liza Summer