HEALTH & WELLNESS

How burnout affects women might be different from men

Burnout occurs in a number of different occupations and affects some people more than others. Are these differences also present across genders?

8 mins to read
Man and woman working

Feeling overworked is something that is sadly all too common in the modern world. Feeling emotionally drained, mentally exhausted, and having a general lack of motivation are all symptoms of burnout.

Burnout has become a large problem across many different industries and as such, there has been an immense amount of research put into the causes and effects that burnout has on people. Each person experiences burnout in their own way and interestingly there may be different tendencies for how individuals experience burnout based upon factors like gender.

Below is a closer look at some of the most common causes of burnout, how burnout can impact you, how to get through burnout, and how you can try and prevent it in the first place.

How to tell if you are experiencing burnout

Burnout is something that has become a hot topic recently. It can be difficult to know if you are experiencing burnout or if you are experiencing something else like a slump, anxiety, or mild depression.

The symptoms of burnout can be broken down into three main categories: a decrease in energy, self-confidence, and enthusiasm.

Below is a closer look at what burnout tends to consist of as well as a look at the different scales utilized to help determine if an individual is experiencing burnout.

Emotional symptoms

When you become overwhelmed to the point of burnout one of the first indications tends to involve the way you feel and perceive your work and life. Some of the common emotional symptoms include a lack of motivation, feelings of loneliness, and diminished self-confidence.

The emotional symptoms tend to be one of the first signs of burnout, and when left unresolved, these feelings can then manifest themselves into other symptoms and patterns of behavior.

Behavioral symptoms

“Behavior” is a term utilized to describe the tendencies you have to act in a certain manner. Some behavioral symptoms of burnout include a withdrawal from your social life, falling behind on responsibilities, and a higher likelihood of emotional dysregulation which includes things like emotional outbursts.

Physical symptoms

Burnout can also have a number of manifestations on your physical health. Burnout caused by immense amounts of stress can have a number of detrimental effects on the body. When you become stressed, your body releases the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline.

These hormones have a number of effects on the body, which include a slowing of the digestive tract, increased level of alertness, elevated breathing, increased heart rate, and elevated blood pressure.

In the short term, the stress response is advantageous for getting you out of a sticky situation, but chronic stress can have a number of physical manifestations such as a lack of quality sleep, fatigue, changes in appetite, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system — stress may even impact your body at a cellular level.

Tools that can help with burnout

Trying to determine if an individual is experiencing burnout is not an easy task. The lines between burnout, depression, and anxiety are small, and being able to determine whether or not someone is experiencing burnout requires you to assess many different aspects of being overworked.

The Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) is one scale that many people utilize to measure burnout. The inventory looks at a number of components surrounding burnout including depersonalization, emotional exhaustion, personal accomplishment, cynicism, and professional efficacy.

Another tool utilized for assessing burnout is the Burnout Clinical Subtype Questionnaire (BCSQ-36). This questionnaire is similar to the MBI but focuses on three different subtypes of burnout, which includes frenetic, under-challenged, and worn-out.

While these tools can help to identify burnout, burnout itself is not a medical diagnosis. While not a clinical diagnosis, burnout can still be impactful in your everyday life and being able to identify when you are burnt out can allow you to start on a path toward recovery.

How do Men and women experience burnout differently?

All people are unique in the way that they deal with and manage their stress and anxiety. With that being said, there are general patterns in the way people deal with and experience things like stress based upon their gender.

This can be observed in a number of studies, including one from Florida Atlantic University that looked at the different ways that college-age men and women handle stress. The study found that there tended to be differences in coping strategies, and women tended to have higher levels of perceived stress than men.

These differences also appear to an extent in the ways that individuals tend to experience burnout. There have been a number of studies surrounding gender differences in burnout and there are a few things that appear consistently.

One finding in a meta-analysis found that women are more likely to experience burnout related to emotional exhaustion while men are more likely to experience burnout that leads them to be more depersonalized and distant while at work.

Common causes of burnout

Burnout is something that can impact people of all occupations and lines of work. From someone working long hours in a warehouse to individuals that spend most of their time behind a desk, burnout can creep in on anyone.

Below is a closer look at some of the common contributing factors that can lead to burnout. Being able to identify these common causes can allow you to identify the early signs of burnout and make changes accordingly to try and avoid it altogether.

Lack of work-life balance

Exhaustion is a common theme in those that are burnt out and having a poor work-life balance can lead to this quite quickly. Work-life balance describes having a good balance of how much time you are working and how much time you are able to engage with your life outside of work such as your family, hobbies, and general leisure time.

Having a work-life balance isn’t easy, especially in the fast-paced times we currently live in. With the internet and working from home, establishing a good balance can be challenging.

MitoQ’s CMO John Marshall has a number of tips for maintaining a good work-life balance, but one of the most profound is “Work to live, not live to work.”

Little autonomy at work

Engagement is an important aspect of work, and when an employee is not engaged with the work they are doing and develops the clock-in clock-out mentality, it can quickly lead to a diminished level of productivity.

One large factor that helps to keep work engaging is that employees feel like they have autonomy over their work and feel like their work is contributing to something larger. A sense of autonomy and progress is important, and if that is not present, it can be easy for workers to fall into a disconnected and burnt-out state.

Emotionally-taxing work

Workloads can be taxing, but certain lines of work can also impose an emotional toll that can leave a person feeling fatigued.

One of the best examples is within the healthcare field. The physician burnout rate is somewhere around 40% in the United States. This rate is quite high when compared to other occupations, and that is easy to understand when physicians not only have high workloads, but are also dealing with the lives of people on a consistent basis.

External causes

Work itself tends to contribute to burnout, but burnout can also be caused by a number of external factors that have little to do with your work and more to do with your overall wellbeing and lifestyle. A lack of sleep, poor diet, and lack of exercise can all act as a contributing factor to you feeling exhausted which over time can lead to burnout.

Many people put self-care on the side burner when their schedule becomes busy but the reality is that self-care is what enables you to work at your most productive and efficient. Staying healthy with a busy schedule is by no means easy, but it can provide you with an added layer of resistance against burnout and feeling overworked.

Conclusion

In summary, burnout is something that affects people in all lines of work. Whether you are an ICU nurse or a carpenter, burnout can cause a diminished level of productivity and a number of other symptoms.

Everyone experiences burnout slightly differently. Some people find themselves emotionally withdrawn from their work due to emotionally taxing events while others may experience workload fatigue and a feeling of just being worn out.

When it comes to men and women and how they tend to experience burnout, women tend to fall into the emotional exhaustion category of burnout while men tend to experience burnout related to depersonalization. These are simply tendencies, and each individual will tend to have their own specific type of burnout.

If you find yourself more withdrawn from work and suspect you may be experiencing burnout, take the time to be kind to yourself. Take time for yourself whether that be a relaxing weekend getaway or a full-blown vacation.

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