5 Ways Women In the Workplace Can Set Healthy Boundaries to Combat Burnout

June 23, 2022 Off By John Williams

All of us women fulfill multiple roles in our lives. We are managers, leaders, and mentors at work, and then perhaps mothers, wives, and partners at home. We have been socialized and brought up to think that we should have full, demanding careers during the day, and then come home to cook dinner, clean the house, and take care of our families at night. 

While 57% of American women have paying jobs and 77% of working women are employed full time, we are still eight times more likely than men to be primarily responsible for household duties and childcare.

It’s no wonder that women left the workforce at record rates during the pandemic, with one in three women considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce in 2021. Burnout is on the rise, with 42% of working women reporting feeling burned out in 2021, compared with 32% of women in 2020. 

I believe we can have it all—successful careers and families—but this means we absolutely can’t do it all on our own. Healthy boundaries are paramount so that we can combat burnout and have 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.  To many women, the word boundaries can have a negative connotation and bring up difficult emotions such as guilt: We were raised and socialized as young girls to be helpers, givers, and caretakers. Saying “no,” does not come naturally to us. 

Here are 5 ways to set healthy boundaries so that you can 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, as you walk out of the door, set your phone and email notifications to “do not disturb” so you are unavailable the moment you leave the building. Do the same if you work from home. You are unavailable off hours.

2. Have a wind-down ritual to distinguish between work and home. 

Your drive or commute home is sacred, alone time for you. On your drive home, do something relaxing that allows you to decompress. Listen to your favorite podcast, audiobook, or playlist. Do whatever you will enjoy as you commute. If you work from home, get outside for an end of the workday walk to clear your mind from the day.

3. Share the load. 

If you have a partner or a spouse, share the load at home with him or her. Remember: There is no supposed to or should when it comes to your responsibilities as a working woman. So, when you come home already exhausted from your workday, divide the dinnertime and evening responsibilities equitably. If you are a single parent, enlist help from grandparents, neighbors, or friends. Don’t be shy about asking for help. 

4. Outsource any task that drains your energy.

Whenever you can, hire help such as a house cleaner, yard worker, or nanny. Schedule a grocery or meal delivery service. Hire a virtual personal assistant. Get a babysitter every week so you and your partner can go out or you can have some time to yourself. By doing these things, you are not only off-loading stressors from your life but also providing valuable and meaningful work for people who need it. Like most working women, you likely have student loans, a mortgage, car loan, and credit card bills and are averse to spending more money to hire help. But consider the alternative: doing everything yourself and burning yourself out in the process. 

5. When you prioritize your own personal well-being and self-care first, you are modeling important boundaries.

If you aren’t ok, you can’t take care of anyone else in your life.  If you have children, remember they are watching you. With your partner, model the relationship you want your children to have with their partners someday. Show them that both parents are responsible for taking care of the house and the family, too; that both parents are equally responsible for the load at home. If you are a single parent, model what it looks like to ask for and receive help from others, and that all the responsibility does not fall on you just because you are a mother. And if you do have children, don’t forget to assign household chores to them, too. Having them do chores will lighten your load and provide them with valuable lessons in responsibility.

It’s normal for new behaviors to be uncomfortable. Discomfort is a sign that you are growing! When you set healthy boundaries to combat burnout, you are modeling freedom, self-care, and leadership for our next generation of working women.

Excerpted from Boundaries for Women Physicians: Love Your Life and Career in Medicine published by Visionary Women Publishing. Copyright © 2022 by Tammie Chang.




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