Boundaries, Burnout and What You Can Do

I was recently talking to one of my clients about burnout - she had recently started back at work in her senior role at a major accounting firm and had “hit the ground running”. 

I had a similar philosophy around returning to work when I went back in 2019, when George was only just six months old. I too wanted to hit the ground running, make a big impact and was clear on what I wanted to deliver and achieve. I loved my job and really was a big part of my identity. 

Within about six weeks, the exhaustion of doing compressed hours, in a demanding role (when I went back I returned to a bigger job) and the sleep deprivation. George would wake most nights two to three times. 

I had zero boundaries...

I also lacked the knowledge of how to set boundaries - I was so used to working late and being available at all times of the day or weekends. Looking back, I can see how unhealthy that balance was and how my passion for my job was a driving factor in the balance, as well as high expectations being put on me.

Learning how to set boundaries, ensuring that I made time for exercise and mindfulness and listening to what my body needed (sometimes that meant heading to bed at 8pm to read and wind down, to get some much needed rest before George would usually wake at 1am and again at 3 and again at 5am).

I felt like I was on a never-ending treadmill where I couldn’t turn the speed down to a walking pace, it was constantly turning faster than I could keep up! 

You’re not alone: Women globally are experiencing burnout

The good thing is, I have realised now that I wasn’t alone. A global Deloitte study of 5,000 women found that nearly a third (31%) reported feeling unable to “switch off” from work since the pandemic, with more than half of these saying this is driven by a fear that doing so will affect their career progression (52%). 

I now spend time with clients who are at any stage of their career to set boundaries and learn to have a healthy balance between life and work. The outcome is that they are happier, full of energy and vitality and are highly productive at work!

We spend time to

  • Work out what boundaries they want to set.
  • Discuss key messages they can use in conversations around boundary setting - it’s not as simple as saying “no”, especially when you are worried about jeopardising your career success.
  • Role play delivering these key messages - where they are in a safe and private (confidential) space.
  • Write a list of energy “givers” and energy “takers” so that they can ensure they are accessing their energy “givers” each week - this is simple but often falls off the list: like reading a book; taking a nap on weekends, having coffee with a friend, or having a date night with their partner.

So what can you to do set boundaries? 

Here are 3 of my tips

  • Recognise the signs of burnout and act quickly - things like:
    • Extreme tiredness, trouble sleeping despite feeling fatigued, difficulty in switching off and a sense of being overstimulated.
    • A general suppression of the immune system evidenced by frequent bouts of minor ailments or infections like cold sores, headaches or common colds, or lingering illnesses.
    • Muscular aches, pains and physical tension.
    • Mental signs include: low mood, suppressed appetite, poor concentration, or diminished enjoyment from life, work, or relationships.
  • Take action quickly - you need to rest and recover. This could look like:
    • Time alone to do ‘quiet’ things like reading a book, or simply looking out the window.
    • Extra sleep - you may need 9-10 hours of sleep.
    • Gentle exercise - yoga and walking, not HIIT classes or running.
  • Take some time to do some journaling - write out:
    • Why you think more balance is important and what you’d like to do about it.
    • What are your energy givers and replenishers - how can you incorporate. 
    • Who you’d like to set boundaries with.

I’m here to help you

If you would like to chat to me about setting your boundaries and creating more balance in your life then please contact me to organise a free 15min chat to discuss the challenges you’re facing, or send me an email at oliviabath@thewomensvault.com or you can send me a DM on Instagram.

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*Deloitte Study was released in May 2021, entitled Women at Work.