Burnout is Real: Reclaim Your Time & Energy
Listen Sis, burnout is real. Burnout and stress are rampant among Black women, especially with having to absorb traumatizing news stories and grapple with personal experiences of white supremacy and savior complexes, police brutality and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on our community, and for some of us transitioning back into in-person work.Oh yea, and let’s not forget we still have to show up, remain present, and manage personal, professional and financial responsibilities all while trying to keep it together.
Like many black girls, you have grown up internalizing the level of responsibility that people have placed on you (and often many you’ve placed on yourself). Black women are socialized to be strong and self-sufficient, a stereotype someones known as “Strong Black Woman” or the “Superwoman Schema” role. There has to be an unwritten rule somewhere, that expects and demands that you are always strong, keep our heads up in struggle-and silent-no matter what, that has been passed down for generations by women of color, especially black women. So you constantly put things on your plate because you say, “Oh, if I take on this project, it is a great opportunity to demonstrate my skill set, they’ll see I’m a valuable asset, and maybe that will lead to something more.” While in your personal life, continuing to put the needs of your loved ones, whether it’s a partner, child, parent or friend, before your own because you want to be seen as dependable yet leaving you feeling unseen and depleted.
For many of us Black women, because we have so much on our plate, we push our personal well-being to the back of our minds. This train of thought has helped us to be resilient. It helps us to keep going in the middle of difficult circumstances; however, the consequence is that strength often means not paying attention to feelings of distress, not paying attention to the impact of familial, relationship, and race-based trauma and how it impacts our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. This burnout has left many women, silently battling personal guilt with depression, anxiety and heightened stress. As Black women we give and give and give to the point of emotional exhaustion.
Acknowledging both the historic and continuing trauma endured by Black women lets us know it is time to break these unhealthy cycles by learning self-forgiveness, grace and empowerment. It’s no wonder following the decisions of high-profile athletes, like tennis player Naomi Osaka and gymnast Simone Biles, to step back from competition to prioritize their mental health, other Black women have supported these bold decisions. We are now starting to recognize the importance of taking the time that we need amid one the most exhaustive years in recent history. I believe it is important that we offer and cultivate opportunity for connection and vulnerability, these are the first steps to beginning the process of healing and growth.
Okay, you’ve accepted you’re feeling overloaded, now what?
Make time for things that fill you up. Feeling joyful is hard to come by right now, but what makes you feel whole? Commit to finding even just one hour a week for “you time.” Block the time and set a reminder on all your calendars, let the people around you know, and resolve to do it without the usual guilt that many of us feel when we take time for ourselves.
Get outside. On the tail end of winter, soak up some vitamin D! This can play a role in depression and anxiety. All it takes is 20 minutes outside with 40 percent of your skin exposed to get your daily allotment. Start small, take a short walk around the block, get off a stop after yours on the bus or train, park a little further from the entrance.
Get centered. Learn and practice mindfulness or deep-breathing strategies to help you avoid the psychological consequences of stress. Especially strategies rooted in the idea of mindfulness-based stress reduction and loving-kindness meditation.
Drop some balls. Are you juggling too many work projects? Feeling stretched too thin with family and social commitments that you aren't really interested in? It’s okay to say no, downsize your commitments for a little while, and carve out room in schedules that are often too full to begin with.
Let others take on some labor. If you’re accustomed to doing all of the work, let others help. It may be hard but delegate work tasks, if you can. Offload some of that physical and mental labor to those who might be able to manage a little more right now. Allow your partner, roommate or kids to own a household task that you would normally handle.
Reach out before you burn out. Shame and feelings of inadequacy can stop us from finding help or support. After all, women have been socialized to believe that they should be able to multitask their way to the top. Before you burn out, reach out to those in your work and personal networks and connect with a therapist. I guarantee you there are people willing to help until you find your balance again. If you identify with any of the struggles above, book your free initial consultation here: Free Initial Consult.
La’Tish M. Thomas, LCSW
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