Burnout by sisters Emily and Amelia Nagoski aims to change the way women think about and manage stress. It is aimed at women who feel inadequate and drained from trying to meet what society expects of women. It explains why women experience burnout differently to men and covers a range of topics, from how to complete the biological stress cycle through to how the bikini industrial complex makes it difficult for us to love our bodies.
The definition of burnout used relates to feeling exhausted, feeling alienated from activities and finding it difficult to do activities for example through a lack of concentration.
Why I wanted to read Burnout
We’ve been living through a full house renovation which has meant no kitchen and even no staircase at various times. This had led me to feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by everything. It was a constant fatigue, lethargy and weight. When I was offered this to review I was interested to find out if this was burnout and if so what could I do about it.
While the book is focused on stressed, it also includes discussion about things that hold us back from being who we want to do and who we want to be.
- “Exhaustion happens when we get stuck in an emotion” — I haven’t heard this concept before, I can really relate this to the importance of journal writing to help keep emotions moving
- when you feel stressed it is hard to deal with the thing that causes your stress, so you first need to deal with the stress and then the stressors.
- Do we hold on to our stress and criticise ourselves as a way of restricting our growth due to fear of what might happen if we allow the growth
- it is better to move towards something positive than away from something negative
- if you’re feeling trapped prove to yourself that you are not helpless by freeing yourself from anything, even something really small such as unsubscribing from an email newsletter
- we can and should define our body’s worth on our terms, not what society has taught us. We can exhaust ourselves trying to close the gap between society expectations and reality
- one way of increasing kindness in the world is to be kind to ourselves and one way to create change in the world is to change ourselves
What I’ve changed
My main takeaway is the value of establishing a daily habit that completes the stress response cycle, as it will help prevent the stress building up. For a while I started going for a walk as soon as I came downstairs in the morning. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. After going away and disrupting my routine I’ve got out of the habit, but I’m keen to bring it back.
Should you read Burnout
Emily and Amelia offer a great insight into topics related to stress from a female perspective. Whilst I found this an interesting read, I found the early sections on the difference between stress and stressors and completing the stress cycle the most insightful. Other topics such as cultural demands and expectations on women were interesting, I didn’t find them actionable.
I’m not aware of other books on burnout specifically aimed at women, which makes it easier to recommend. I think women who are interested in recovering and preventing burnout will learn something from this book. However, it is important to note that the book is unlikely to give you all the answers and some people may dislike the sections that talk about how the patriarchy feeds our stress cycle.
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