8 Tips for Women Who Struggle to Take Time for Themselves

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As Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, said recently at a conference: The one word you’ll never hear associated with women is “Relaxed.”

Have you scheduled a summer vacation yet? Are you someone who struggles to take time for yourself? If so, you may want to take a second look at your calendar. See if you can find some time to get away from work and family obligations and relax. If this sounds like an unrealistic luxury, or if you feel like your boss can’t spare you, listen up: Research shows that taking a vacation is good for you–and for your organization.

How is you taking a vacation good for your firm?

If you’re burnt out or bored-out, it’s not good for anyone. You, your team, your boss, your household or partner. Taking summer vacation, and taking time for yourself, which I call “You Time,” is essential.

And, as it turns out, summer vacation is not only beneficial for you but also for your company’s bottom line.

According to research published by the recognition and engagement company, O.C. Tanner, for employees who regularly take a one-week or more extended vacation in the summer, there are positive correlations between their workplace engagement levels and work ethic. The study found that 70 percent of respondents reported feeling highly motivated to contribute to the success of their organizations, as opposed to only 55 percent of respondents who do not regularly take a week-long summer vacation.

The demands of work and family are stressful–but especially for women.

We all juggle the daily demands of our personal lives and our work lives, but women, in particular, describe feeling pressured and struggle to take time for themselves. One of the things I hear from my female coaching clients is that they are doing it all, all the time, for everyone. They tell me they don’t have time for themselves. They don’t have time to work out, time to relax, or time to recharge.

And I get it.

As women, we are socialized to take care of others. In addition to work, most women manage their children and family’s obligations. An increasing number of women also these days care for their aging parents. “According to the July 2016 Journal, Brain and Behavior, on top of juggling multiple responsibilities and roles, women have different brain chemistry and have to deal with hormone fluctuations,” says Yvonne Williams Casaus. “Also, women tend to cope with stress differently. The hormone fluctuations are the kicker,” she adds.

Women are also groomed to be perfectionists so we don’t know how to let go of the 20-30 percent of tasks that may not be vitally important–or can wait a day or two. Seriously, we need to remember: If the kids go to school with two different color socks or store-bought cupcakes, it’s really not the end of the world.

The importance of sleep.

We tend to underestimate the importance of getting enough rest. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, sleep is involved in the¬†healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. In today’s global workplace, we’re online 24/7, but we shouldn’t be. We need to set those boundaries for ourselves because those boundaries aren’t being set for us. And, as women, we often find this hard to do.

As I said, I hear stories about the struggle with stress and burnout from my clients all the time. For example, a workshop participant who worked “part-time” recently described her typical day:

“I get up at 5 am, get online, then wake up the kids, get them ready for school, eat breakfast, make lunches, take them to school and go to work. I work five hours straight through without breaks–since I’m only part-time. Then I leave for school, pick up the kids, take them to a play-date or host one, get back online, make dinner, get the kids ready for bed, get back online or do house chores I couldn’t get to, and go to bed around 11 pm.”

She said all this in front of a male executive, and he looked her incredulously after she finished describing her day, and said, “I would never do that!” Meaning, he would never live his life like that. He didn’t respect the fact that she was essentially working full-time in a part-time position. He also was puzzled by the fact that she managed home, family and work without taking time for herself, to recharge and release stress.

What to do: Eight tips for recharging when you struggle to take time for yourself.

Making time in your life for yourself is critical. It doesn’t always feel possible, but there are things you can do. If taking a vacation this summer is not an option for you, here are some tips to start taking a little bit of time every day to recharge. Start here:

1. Begin to make yourself the priority–even if it’s only for a small amount of time every day.

2. Stop beating yourself up. Silence that critical inner voice that says you have to be perfect.

3. Do something, even something tiny that will make you feel good each day.

4. Make time to rest. Even a few minutes of deep breathing will help.

5. Start meditating. Just five minutes can make a massive difference.

6. Exercise. Walk more, or find a family activity that you can all do together to be active.

7. Begin planning a future vacation. Half the fun is in the planning.

8. Find a colleague to be your “accountability buddy” and keep each other accountable for finding that “You Time.”

Need more help? Contact me. I have more than 20 years of experience coaching women to take charge of their lives and become more empowered.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo: 123rf.com

You’re Not Burnt-Out. You’re Bored-Out.

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About two and a half years into a job he had previously been really excited about, my client Nick found himself getting increasingly restless and bored. He described his situation to me as a “mountain of sameness,” and said he was beginning to dread going to work.

Margaret, someone at the mid-point of her career, was slowly dying on the vine. Of what? Of boredom. She came to me for help identifying what had gone wrong with her career, desperate to find a way out of the stultifying daily sameness of her job.

Boredom at work is a real problem for business today. According to a survey published in January by the Korn Ferry Institute, the leading reason respondents reported looking for a new job was that they were bored with the job they currently hold. And, participants in an OfficeTeam study reported feeling bored for at least 10.5 hours per week.

Boredom at work can have severe consequences.

Employee boredom, labeled bore-out, is a growing workplace trend and is seen as a psychological disorder that can lead to burnout and illness, according to co-authors of the book, Diagnose Boreout, Peter Werder, and Philippe Rothlin. According to Werder and Rothlin, early symptoms of bore-out include demotivation, anxiety, and sadness. In the long term, they state, burnout will develop, generating a strong feeling of self-deprecation, which can turn into depression, and even physical illness.

According to a study published by Udemy, 43 percent of workers report feeling bored at work. The research found that more women than men report workplace boredom (48 percent vs. 39 percent) and Millennials are almost two times as likely to be bored. 51 percent of respondents who described issues with boredom stated they feel this way for more than half of their work week.

What are the symptoms of bore-out?

As Steve Savels describes it, you are left with little energy. “You become irritated, cynical and you feel worthless. Although you don’t have enough to do – or what you have to do is not stimulating you enough, you get extremely stressed, ” he states. “With a bore-out, you get stuck in your ‘comfort zone’ for too long, until your personal development comes to a halt. A burn-out happens when you stay for too long in your ‘effort zone’ until all your energy is gone.”

The consequences of bore-out can impact an entire organization.

Employees can begin to stretch tasks out for longer and more extended periods of time to appear busy and engaged. They start to do just what is required and nothing more. They come in late to work, leave early and call in sick more often than their counterparts. Moreover, their attitudes can begin to impact the rest of the team.

“A high incidence of boredom among segments of the workforce directly impacts performance, morale, and retention,” according to the Udemy research. “39 percent of surveyed employees called in sick to work due to boredom.” 51 percent of employees stated their coworkers regularly describe feelings of apathy or disengagement, which can spread among the workforce leading to low morale throughout the organization. And, as the research revealed, bored workers are more than twice as likely to quit than their non-bored co-workers.

Boredom is known as a leading indicator of disengagement.

“Not only can disengaged employees create a negative work environment but they can also cause a company to lose money,” writes Paul Slezak for RecruitLoop. “According to a Gallup poll, actively disengaged employees cause U.S. companies between $450 – $550 billion in lost productivity per year.”

What can you do?

Among the things I tell clients who come to me with concerns about boredom at work is that you don’t have to leave your current job to fix the problem. You really can turn bore-out around if you’re willing to work at it, take the right steps, and reach out to others in your company and network.

Here are eight tips to help turn a tedious job into something that has challenge and meaning:

  1. Ask yourself what exactly bores you about your current situation and what kinds of new responsibilities would seem appealing.
  2. Meet with your manager and ask for new challenges. Ask for a career counseling and brainstorming session to come up with ideas for moving forward.
  3. Increase your networking, inside and outside of your company. Take the time to get to know new people and ask them about their jobs and what they find interesting or exciting.
  4. Get involved in volunteer projects within your company. Ask to be included in a corporate social responsibility (CSR) project and work to get to know the other people involved.
  5. Check into job shadowing. You may be able to shadow someone from an entirely different part of the company and learn something utterly unrelated to your current job.
  6. See if you can take part in one of your organization’s fellowship programs. Some companies offer short-term fellowship programs that last three to six months and may take place in other parts of the country or even offices abroad.
  7. Work on increasing your visibility within the company and in building your personal brand.
  8. Work with a coach to uncover new ways to build meaning into your work, no matter where you are employed.

Do you need more help? Contact me. I help to grow leaders, empower teams, and bridge cultures by facilitating innovative learning programs. With over 20 years of experience in international leadership development, coaching, and team-building, I have helped countless individuals and organizations to be more equitable, productive, and happy.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo credit: julien-pier-belanger-499884-unsplash.com