Here’s Why Burnout Among Women Is A Bigger Issue Than You’d Think

by | Aug 9, 2023 | Mental Health

Burnout is incredibly common and even more so the further along the year goes. And women bear the brunt of burnout rates, according to studies. The issue is larger than you’d think and affects women differently than it does men. That’s because women shoulder responsibilities at home and at work, taking on roles that can be emotionally and physically draining.

What is burnout?

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion resulting from prolonged stress. Globally, just over 42% of women report being burned out. Women are delivering performance and business results but at a great personal toll.

How burnout manifests among women

International studies have shown that women in senior management roles do more to help their employees navigate work-life challenges relative to their male peers. Women spend more time helping manage workloads and are 60% more likely to be focusing on emotional support. This is important, as it helps employees feel good about themselves. But employees have reported that when they receive additional support, they are happier in their job and less likely to move.

Women take on work at home, too

One in three women and 60% of mothers with young children spend five or more hours a day on housework, homework and caregiving. Five hours a day is equivalent to a half-time job.

“Burnout arises when individuals cannot access enough recovery between stressors,” explains Kerry Rudman from Brain Harmonics, a Neurofeedback organisation specialising in retraining brains.

“We see this particularly with employed parents who face a higher number of and longer exposure to stressors from the multiple roles they play. This is compared with non-parents. And they have less ability to access periods of recovery as a result. Employed parents report several stressors. In particular, a lack of work-life balance, increased responsibilities at both work and home, greater concern for safety at work and for their kids at school, a loss of social support and isolation.”

In collective studies conducted around the world, employed parents have reported the following in comparison to non-parents.

Women are worn-out after work

The compounded pressure of working while parenting, including remote schooling and working, has left many with feelings of apathy and fatigue. They feel that they are failing to live up to their own expectations across their multiple social roles. There are also indications that parents are not finding support or help from their employees.

“Of the parents who report burnout – 90% believe their management considers productivity to be more important than mental health,” says Rudman. “Because of this, a lot of people will never discuss any issues that they are experiencing with their management or co-workers. People don’t want to be seen as incompetent or be at risk of being replaced. There is an assumption that people should be glad that they have a job right now and everyone just needs to do the extra work demanded of them as they could easily be replaced.”

Employed parents report a range of stressors that have deteriorated their mental health. The level of household responsibilities is a particular problem. “In a survey conducted by Brain Harmonics, parents experiencing symptoms of burnout are more often responsible for all household duties. That’s compared with parents not experiencing symptoms of burnout (57 percent versus 41 percent),” says Rudman.

In fact, the majority of parents responsible for all household duties report symptoms of burnout. These responsibilities, including caring for older adult family members in addition to children, most often fall to women. They have also been more likely to cut back on paid work during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to provide childcare. For these women, reduced paid time at work could also exacerbate the symptoms of burnout, if their responsibilities at work do not also decrease.

Moms are worried about their kids

Four in five employed parents say that they feel concerned about their child’s mental health. And more than one-third rate this concern as extreme.

In a McKinsey and Co survey, parents are more likely than non-parents to report missing days of work because of burnout. They are also more likely to use leaves of absence and supported employment.

Employed parents are more likely than non-parents to see themselves staying at their employer in two years’ time. But burnout correlates to employed parents’ likelihood of not recommending their place of work to others.

“What’s more, stress and burnout, are the main reasons that cause people to consider leaving their jobs,” says Rudman.

Alleviating the symptoms of burnout

If you think you’re burnt out, or heading in that direction, therapy is a powerful tool. It’s a way to verbalise and let go of stressors while creating lasting, sustainable habits that can support a well-rounded lifestyle. Neurofeedback is another option: a non-invasive tool that can improve mental health and the feelings of physical burnout. It measures brain waves and provides a feedback signal to the brain so that new, healthier neuropathways are formed. For more information about neurofeedback training, check out Brain Harmonics.

As with anything, burnout is a condition that needs to be treated with expertise. Chat with your doctor and a therapist to get the help you need.

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