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The Underlying cause of burnout for women in business (and what you can do to avoid it) 

Since the onset of Covid-19, the number of women around the world starting businesses has outnumbered the number of businesses registered by men.

And while this is positive for many reasons, it also comes with a detrimental and very real saboteur – burnout. 

Despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) not considering burnout a medical condition, it is a common problem for those in business, with 77% of Australia’s admitting to burnout during 2020-21. 

Burnout is defined as a state of emotional physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress, and is characterised by three key areas – feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance or negativity from one’s job and reduced professional efficacy. 

The Australian Psychological Society found that women are more likely to experience high levels of stress than men, which supports a recent Montreal University study that determined burnout is more prominent in women.

So what makes women more susceptible? 

The cause of burnout is traditionally put down to excessive workloads, responsibilities and pressure. These are external contributors that, once recognised, can be rectified with simple systems… but these solutions are short-lived in their effectiveness as they are just masking the often larger, underlying problem.

The Institute of Women International has found that 4 out of 5 women are more prone to burnout because of unseen, internal conflicts and expectations they put on themselves, in comparison to 1 out of 8 men feeling the same. 

These include;

  • Avoiding letting down and disappointing the people around them, especially those held in high esteem
  • Feeling not good enough and so going above and beyond what is expected to validate their position
  • The fear of failing and the potential judgement that comes along with that, and
  • The self-imposed expectations of being perfect, often stemming from a desire to prove themselves and ‘measure up to those they compare themselves with

3 Powerful things women can do to reduce the chance of burnout

Recognise and work within your own unique ‘rhythm’

In our 30 years of working with in excess of 10,000 businesswomen, 90% of those women have reported a drop in productivity throughout the month. While not a popular topic to discuss in business circles, it’s a well-known fact that women’s focus has a natural ‘ebb and flow’ that’s linked to their hormones, and something, if we are to really overcome burnout, can’t be ignored. 

As a woman in business, being able to work with her natural ebbs and flows – and ‘make hay while the sun shines’ – will drastically decrease stress levels, reduce the possibility of burnout and at the same time, increase productivity. 

Acknowledge the fears and insecurities run deeper than just a negative thought

While mindfulness in the workplace is a more popular practice than years gone by, it’s equally as common for false-bravado strategies such as ‘fake it til you make it to be encouraged. And while this approach can offer a short-term burst of confidence, the strategy often amplifies the underlying issues and as energy runs out, the internal critic raises its ugly head. 

Taking the time to address the internal fears and insecurities that drive the inner critic positions women to confidently handle workplace stresses with more ease. 

Include yourself in a community of like-minded people

Being involved with a supportive environment is not just a desire for many women – it’s a crucial need that must be met on a regular basis.

The many demands of running a business alongside family (and personal) commitments often override the desire to attend social engagements. But getting caught in this trap of all work and no play amplify stress levels and burnout.

Biologically speaking, women thrive best when they are surrounded by community. Taking the time to connect with others on a similar journey – be that within the business world or in a more personal setting, provides a space where empathy for challenges can be met with brainstorming solutions and inspiration, which subsequently reduces burnout. 

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Bree Stedman

Bree Stedman

Bree Stedman is the Spokesperson and Trainer at the Institute of Women International. With a focus on educating and training life coaches, therapists and practitioners from around the world to confidently build empowerment businesses for women with Guaranteed Outcomes through Innovative, Female-Focused Tools. Self-employed since 2005, Bree has built success mentoring and coaching thousands of women in personal development practices that work with our biological sex differences, epigenetic history and the filters in which we experience the world. She is a 4xInternational Best Selling Author, Inspirational Speaker, Wife and Mum of 2.

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