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Timeout or burnout - How successful women can avoid ill-effects of high achievement

Published:Wednesday | April 25, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Glenford Smith, Career Writer

 Glenford Smith, Career Writer

"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." So wrote James Howell in his 1659 book Proverbs in English, Italian, French and Spanish.

His famous saying has become centuries-old wisdom.

What Howell failed to say explicitly however, was that his observation was true not just for Jack, but equally for 'Jill'. If women are always on the go, never taking time to relax, rejuvenate and enjoy regular self-care, they will eventually suffer the adverse effects of such a fast-paced lifestyle.

In fact, as increasingly more women equal and better the educational and professional achievements of their male counterparts, many are paying a high price for their success.

Dr Sherie Bourg Carter, psychologist, has authored an important book on the subject titled High Octane Women: How High Achievers Can Avoid Burnout. In it she highlights many milestones that attest to the fact that more than ever before, women are breaking through gender barriers and rising to heights never before seen.

While noting that this is indeed good news, she also wrote that "The advancement of women in society and the workplace is very much a double-edged sword."

She explains: "While high-achieving women are blazing trails to the top of the mountain, little attention is being paid to the perilous terrain that comes with the territory and its negative impact on women's health and well-being. The latest research on women's subjective well-being shows that although, by most objective measures, women's life circumstances have improved greatly over the past few decades, our happiness has declined both absolutely and relative to men."

Undoubtedly, the experiences of many Jamaican women can attest to the truth of these findings. Figures available from the Planning Institute of Jamaica indicate that about 45 per cent of all households are headed by females. This statistic accompanies the growing trend of more women getting tertiary education, compared to men; as well as their increasing professional and entrepreneurial accomplishments.

So, here's the stark reality: Increasingly more women have to be juggling greater career success - more demands on the job - with going to school, while assuming primary responsibility for the family, all at the same time. That's the classic recipe for burnout, if ever there was one.

Psychosomatic illnesses

To avoid job fatigue, work-related depression and psychosomatic illnesses, high-achieving women have to proactively counter these effects of a high-stress lifestyle. Here are a few recommendations that you'll find helpful in this regard:

  • Become aware that there's a problem.
  • Maintain a positive attitude: read uplifting books, spend time with upbeat people who will make you laugh and feel good.
  • Discuss a possible flexi-time arrangement with your boss.
  • Avoid negative influences: negative news, miserable people.
  • Take timeout for self-care including vacation, worship, hobbies, family time, and pampering.
  • Avoid false stress reducers such as alcohol and overeating.
  • Eat well, sleep and exercise.
  • Take time to just relax and recharge. This can be a few minutes at work and up to a few hours on the weekend.
  • Stay in touch with close friends and family.

Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of a new book 'From Problems to Power: How to Win Over Worry and Turn Your Obstacles into Opportunities'. Send feedback to glenfordsmith@yahoo.com.