The new pandemic workplace affords many employees more freedom, but women are working harder than ever. Zoom meetings in the kitchen and folding laundry on conference calls — the border between work and home life is blurry.
A March 2021 Women at Work survey indicated that 53% of women are feeling burned out due to the lack of fairness while working from home. This epidemic of chronic stress and overextension leaves women depleted emotionally and physically, often with symptoms like insomnia, brain fog and muscle tension that make matters worse.
While businesses reinvent how they operate, women can take small steps to preserve their energy and well-being. Practice these four habits to help alleviate day-to-day pressures.
1. Ask for Help
Women have long carried the weight of the household. Although asking for help may feel unfamiliar, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
Consider how each member of your household contributes. Young children can be responsible for simple tasks like putting laundry away or picking up toys while older kids can help prepare a meal or clear dishes. Think about ways household chores can be divided between partners so that both people feel supported and supportive.
If finances allow, weigh the value of hiring help. A monthly cleaning service or weekly meal delivery can free up time and lighten your workload. Set aside a few minutes to evaluate your most time consuming tasks and see what can be delegated or hired out. What one person hates to do, another finds enjoyable, so ask!
2. Set Boundaries
Self worth is not determined by productivity, yet women often receive the cultural message that they aren’t good enough unless they do more. One way to combat this destructive mentality is to create clear boundaries.
When it comes to office hours, make them count. Taking a short break to scroll social media or run an errand might be fine occasionally, but regularly breaking up the workday leads to less work during business hours and more creeping into your evening.
Delineate work hours and stick to it. This will also set the precedent for coworkers to expect responses only during business hours, not during relaxation or family time.
One of the biggest boundaries women can set for better health is with devices. Blue light exposure from phones, TVs, and laptops is stimulating to the brain, making it more difficult to fall asleep. To limit blue light, avoid late night TV binges, email, and scrolling. Checking email at night from time to time isn’t likely to have a negative effect, but avoid the habit of being “on call” at all hours.
3. Take a Break
Stop undervaluing the importance of breaks. When schedules get hectic, self care is often the first thing to slide. But prioritizing time to rest, even if it’s only a few minutes, can work wonders for fortifying and renewing your tired spirit — when it’s done correctly.
Opening a new tab to scroll through social media for 15 minutes doesn’t have the same rejuvenating effects as a short breathing exercise or a walk outside. Make break times count by being intentional about rest and re-centering.
A growing number of studies have shown diaphragmatic breathing can trigger a relaxation response that benefits mental and physical health. According to a 2013 trial on the effect of short-term breathing exercises, researchers found that slow, deep breathing practiced over six weeks improved cognition, anxiety, and general well-being and increased parasympathetic (relaxation) response.
To experience the benefits for yourself, attend a yoga class several times a week (virtually or in-person) or add a daily breathing exercise to your routine.
Sitting to breathe deeply for a few minutes may feel relaxing in the moment, but the effects of breathing exercise are cumulative, meaning the benefits increase with regular practice. Aim for 20 minutes a day but stay flexible. Some days a quick refresh is all you’ll have time for, and that’s okay!
4. Consider Adaptogens
Burnout has many causes, and chronic stress is just one facet that contributes to feelings of exhaustion and overwhelm. Constant pressure depletes your body of vitamins and minerals as it attempts to keep up with a high demand for stress hormones.
While eliminating stressors may not be realistic, you can reduce the burden on your body by eating a clean diet and supporting your adrenal glands with adaptogenic herbs.
Tulsi (holy basil), ashwagandha, and rhodiola have long been touted for their life-renewing properties. Adaptogens are plants and fungi that help the body maintain homeostasis, and they are easily accessible in capsule or tincture form. Adding small doses of an adaptogen over several months may increase your body’s ability to manage stress.
As women, one of the best things we can do for ourselves — and each other — is to set a new normal that includes support, boundaries, and rest. Choose one tactic and implement it starting today. Small changes, done consistently, lead to bigger shifts.
Creating a solid foundation for more resilience and less burnout doesn’t require a life overhaul, just a different way of operating.
About the Author
Jenna Miller is a yoga teacher and holistic health practitioner. With over a decade in the wellness world, Jenna specializes in helping clients reduce overwhelm, anxiety, and burnout. She combines her expertise in yoga, nutrition, meditation, herbs, and her own experience of adrenal fatigue. She believes wholeheartedly in the resilience of the human spirit and the power of nature. Learn more at JennaMillerYoga.com.
Chandla SS, Sood S, Dogra R, Das S, Shukla SK, Gupta S. Effect of short-term practice of pranayamic breathing exercises on cognition, anxiety, general well being and heart rate variability. J Indian Med Assoc. 2013 Oct;111(10):662-5. PMID: 24968492.