All of us women fulfill many roles in our lives. We are managers, leaders, and mentors at work, and then perhaps mothers, wives, and partners at home. We were socialized and brought up to believe that we should have busy and demanding careers during the day and then come home to cook dinner, clean the house and take care of our families at night.
It’s no wonder women have been leaving the workforce at record rates during the pandemic, one in three women planning to reorient their career or leave the labor market in 2021. Burnout is on the rise, with 42% of working women reporting feeling burnt out in 2021, compared to 32% of women in 2020.
I believe we can have it all – successful careers and families – but that means we absolutely can’t do it all on our own. Healthy boundaries are paramount to fighting burnout and having a long and fulfilling career.
The concept of boundaries didn’t exist until the 1980s, when it was first introduced by therapists and self-help groups. Thus, most working women today were not raised by adults who modeled healthy boundaries. For many women, the word boundaries can carry a negative connotation and bring up difficult emotions such as guilt: we were raised and socialized as young girls to be helpers, givers and keepers. Saying “no” does not come naturally to us.
Here are 5 ways to set healthy boundaries to combat burnout:
1. Allow yourself to completely disconnect from work when you leave work.
Just before you leave work, turn on your out-of-office messages on your email service. Then, when you go out, set your phone and email notifications to “do not disturb” so you’re not available the moment you leave the building. Do the same if you work from home. You are not available outside opening hours.
2. Have a relaxation ritual to separate work from home.
Your car journey or your commute to work is sacred, alone time for you. On the way home, do something relaxing that allows you to decompress. Listen to your favorite podcast, audiobook or playlist. Do what you want while on the go. If you work from home, take a walk at the end of the workday to clear your mind of the day.
3. Share the load.
If you have a partner or spouse, share the household load with them. Remember: there is no Assumed Where should when it comes to your responsibilities as a working woman. So, when you come home already exhausted from your workday, split dinner and evening responsibilities evenly. If you are a single parent, ask for help from grandparents, neighbors or friends. Do not hesitate to ask for help.
4. Outsource any task that drains your energy.
Whenever you can, hire help like a housekeeper, gardener or nanny. Schedule a grocery store or meal delivery service. Hire a virtual personal assistant. Find a babysitter every week so you and your partner can hang out or have time for each other. By doing these things, you are not only unloading stressors from your life, but you are also providing valuable and meaningful work to people who need it. Like most working women, you probably have student loans, a mortgage, a car loan, and credit card bills and are reluctant to spend more money on hiring help. But consider the alternative: do it all yourself and wear yourself out in the process.
5. When you prioritize your personal well-being and self-care, you are modeling important boundaries.
If you don’t agree, you can’t take care of someone else in your life. If you have children, remember that they are watching you. With your partner, model the relationship you want your children to have with their partner one day. Show them that both parents are responsible for caring for the home and the family equally. that both parents are equally responsible for home care. If you’re a single parent, model what it’s like to ask for and receive help from others, and that all the blame isn’t on you just because you’re a mother. And if you have children, don’t forget to entrust them with household chores as well. Having them do chores will lighten your load and provide valuable lessons in responsibility.
It is normal for new behaviors to be uncomfortable. Discomfort is a sign that you are growing! When you set healthy boundaries to combat burnout, you model freedom, self-care, and leadership for our next generation of working women.