Women & Re-Charging: Research Overview & Tips

Women & Re-Charging: Research Overview & Tips

Women & Re-Charging: Research Overview & Tips

While burnout equally affects men and women – research demonstrates that burnout impacts women in a different ways. Research is summarized below; tips on re-charging can be found in the section, “Fired Up.”

Women Experience Burnout Differently
Three “red flags” of burnout[1]include:
Exhaustion:  Feeling emotionally depleted, exhausted, with a decrease or loss of energy.
Cynicism:  Having negative imaginings and/or bad attitudes towards co-workers, colleagues, clients, and others you work with, as well as with friends and family; feeling irritable, and withdrawing from people and activities you once enjoyed.
Inefficacy:  Experiencing diminished personal accomplishment, a perceived decline in competence or productivity, and expending energy at work without seeing anything productive, any accomplishments or results.

Studies demonstrate that women typically experienced exhaustion first, followed by cynicism, then inefficacy; men, tended to experience cynicism first, then exhaustion.  Interestingly, many of the men in the study soldiered on; they didn’t feel as though the symptoms from the first two stages impacted the quality of their work.  They never reached the inefficacy stage since they believed that they were still being productive and effective[2].

Women, Burnout & Health/Wellness
Another study examined the association between burnout, depression, anxiety, and inflammation as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease[3].  Researchers discovered that for women, there was an association between burnout and inflammation (as measured by specific protein biomarkers), but this same association was not found in men.  Interestingly, it was depression, and not burnout or anxiety that produced similarly elevated levels of inflammation in men.

Job Demands & Home Demands Influence Burnout
Women are participating in the workforce in increasing numbers yet continue to shoulder a great deal of responsibility at home.  Given the dual roles of many women who work, it’s easy for work to interfere with home (called work-home interference) and for home to interfere with work (called home-work interference).
Both types of interference influence burnout, and research points to emerging gender differences.  Interestingly, work-home interference is more strongly related to burnout for women, while home-work interference is more strongly related to burnout for men[4].

Tips: Get Fired-Up [5]

According to best-selling author and speaker Brené Brown PhD:
When I first started my career as a social worker, I believed that my job was to change the world. That made for a daunting to-do list! I was always convinced that I could be doing more or making a bigger difference. Normally, I’m a hopeful person, but my schedule soon left me feeling exhausted and put out. I also resented anyone who wasn’t as busy as I was. How dare she use an out-of-office reply during her vacation? There’s work to be done! Once, when a neighbor marveled at how many balls I kept in the air, I snapped, “If you spent half as much time helping people as you do on that damn elliptical, I could slow down.” For more on Brené Brown, check out one of her TED Talks, “The Power of Vulnerability,” http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en

How do you re-charge, how do you get fired-up?  Here are areas that I explore, when I’m feeling depleted:

Know My Red Flags. For me, a red flag is when I start to feel irritable, judgmental, stretched to a breaking point. My husband notices that I smile less, sleep less, and even my sense of humor is darker, meaner. These are my red flags, and I pay attention to them. These flags warn me that it’s time to pause, reflect, recalibrate.

Boundaries. Saying no is very hard for me. I always think I need to do more, volunteer more, step up for that project that no one else wants to take on. I’m trying to embrace the idea that, just because I can do something–doesn’t mean I necessarily should. Sure, I’m capable, I can juggle a lot, I can take on another volunteer shift or extra work assignment…but just because I’m capable doesn’t mean that I should. The toll of feeling overwhelmed, inadequate, guilty, frustrated, and resentful is too high a price to pay. I now take time to inspect every request, and make a more intentional decision on whether I’m doing it just to be nice, or out of a sense of obligation. My small change in behavior: I think it through and I practice how to say, “No,” or, “Not now,” nicely.

Re-Charging. A walk on the beach re-invigorates me. I’m four blocks from the ocean, and when I need to re-charge, I head for the sand. Maybe your Re-Charge involves: hiking, yoga, getting body work (like a massage, spa day, acupuncture, chiropractic care), spending time with a trusted friend, unplugging to take a tech-break [check out NationalDayofUnplugging.com, coming up March 6-7,2015], swimming, journaling, listening to music. I find an activity that feeds me and then I dedicate time for it—no matter what, it is a priority. It’s weird at first, it makes me uncomfortable. But I am starting to understand that re-charging, like any other life-skill, takes practice, practice, practice.


Deb graduated from Northwestern University and earned her MBA from NYU. She is employed full-time as a healthcare communications professional, and is interested in all things healthcare. She is also a mom & parent volunteer at her kid’s middle school. Find her online at:
Twitter @debhealthcare

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/deborahkaufman777


[1] SOURCE: (1) Leiter, M.P., & Maslach, C. (2005). Banishing burnout: Six strategies for improving your relationship with work.  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.  See also, Maslach, C., & Leiter, M.P. (1997). The truth about burnout: How organizations cause personal stress and what to do about it.  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

[2] SOURCE, see link, http://pauladavislaack.com/burnout/women-burnout/
[3] SOURCE: “The Association Between Burnout, Depression, Anxiety, and Inflammation Biomarkers: C-Reactive Protein and Fibrinogen in Men and Women,” [Journal of Occupational Health Psychology: 2005, Vol. 10, No. 4, 344–362], Authors: Sharon Toker and Arie Shirom, Tel Aviv University; Itzhak Shapira and Shlomo Berliner, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center; Samuel Melamed, National Institute of Occupational & Environmental Health and Tel Aviv University]. Full study available at http://www.shirom.org/PDF_new/The_Association_Between_%20Burnout_Depression_Anxiety_and_SharonSJOHP2005.pdf

[4] SOURCE: Peeters, M.C., Montgomery, A.J., Bakker, A.B., & Schaufeli, W.B. (2005). Balancing work and home: How job and home demands are related to burnout.  International Journal of Stress Management, 12(1), 43-61.

[5] SOURCE: Article, “Dare to Recharge,” Author: Brown, Brené [Oprah Magazine, p. 58 (Oct. 2014, Volume 15, Number 10)

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