Although burnout can happen to anyone, women of color are more affected than any other group.
But first, what is burnout? Besides a word that makes professionals around the United States cringe?
Burnout, or work-related exhaustion is a result of performing high-stress tasks on a regular basis. Generally, the cost of such work-demands results in neglecting our physical and mental health.
In fact, according to research, factors such as stress and poverty cause Black women to age biologically faster than white women. Why? The answer points to several key factors:
Why Women of Color are at Risk of Burnout
1. Women of color are conditioned to put our needs last. In particular, the image of the “strong Black woman” leads some of us to internalize our needs and tend to the wants, wishes, and desires of others first. Even if doing takes away from our own capacities to nurture ourselves.
2. Having to go above and beyond to be seen as equal. While simultaneously being underpaid and overworked.
3. Representing entire race at work or being asked culturally specific questions. (I cannot count how many times I have been asked how often I wash my hair or what I think is “keeping down” the Black community.)
4. Hostile environments including rudeness, racial insensitivity, racial jokes, stereotypes, and constantly being called “aggressive” for standing up for yourself.
Ladies please pay attention to your warning signs
Fatigue is one of the most common signs that burnout is on the horizon.
Take a moment to consider how many times you either think or verbalize how tired you are on a weekly basis. Too many to count I bet? Recording your results may surprise you as we often overestimate our abilities and underestimate the toll constant production takes on the body.
Here are other physical symptoms that may indicate burnout:
Anxiety – Social anxiety especially affects Black women as we often find we are the first ones, or only ones in a professional environment which can cause a sense of being put under a metaphorical microscope.
Depression – This includes sadness, melancholy, and lack of interest.
Medical issues – Think upset stomach, increased blood pressure, chest pain, insomnia, and frequent colds (compromised immune system)
Women of Color can Beat Burnout
Strengthening your mental defenses is the key to combating burnout. Engaging in activities that flex multiple parts of your brain helps keep you balanced. Being mindful means taking a moment to check in with your mind and spirit versus using all your valuable mental capacities for work.
Here are some suggestions:
Move! Like the mind, the body becomes fatigued when constantly being pushed to the limits. Find an activity that calms and balances such as yoga and even dancing. Whenever possible, include outdoor activities to reenergize in fresh air.
Seek Therapy. Depression and other forms of mental illness in the Black community are still on the rise, yet highly untreated, in America. This in turn has resulted in a rise of maladaptive behavior such as smoking, drinking, or illicit drug use. The Black community has also been conditioned to keep our problems to ourselves and are often encouraged not to “air out your dirty laundry.”
Process any unresolved trauma or barriers that prevent you from reaching your full potential. Take the time to also address feelings of invalidation, relationships woes, stereotypes, and stigmas. A combination of these factors all play a role in compound stress.
Find a hobby. Find an activity that enriches your sense of being; preferably one that nourishes your soul. This could mean you finally pick up that paint brush or take those salsa lessons you have been daydreaming about.
Connect with other like-minded women. Find groups and organizations that offer social support. This could mean cocktails and conversation or joining a book club. The bonus is that you increase the potential to expand your professional network.
Prioritize self-care. Build in breaks not only during the day, but for your entire week as well. Take a moment to engage in activities that refresh your mind like reading, journaling, cooking healthy meals, or have a spa day!!
While women of color are more likely to experience burnout, women of color can beat burnout with strong community and self-care.
Remember to live life and don’t let life live you!!!