From the outside, it may look like you're one of those women who have everything: interesting friends, a high-profile job, a gorgeous home and a perfect family. What may not be so apparent (even to you) is that, in truth, you're at the end of your overachieving little rope. It's called burnout, baby.
"Burnout is an emotional and sometimes physical state where you can no longer focus, activities have lost their meaning and you're just holding on by your fingernails," says Barbara Moses, Ph.D., a career-management consultant and author of The Good News About Careers (Jossey-Bass, 2000). "Women are more prone to it than men because they think they can do it all. They feel the need to be super career women and set high standards for themselves as mothers, partners and homeowners as well." To beat burnout:
1. Take on even more. Sounds crazy, but it isn't, if it's more of the right stuff. "Women tend to assume that it's work, work, work, followed by home, home, home," says Nicola Godfrey, co-founder/editor-in-chief of ClubMom.com. Pursuing other interests (seeing a movie with friends, or taking a weekly pottery class) gives you a revitalizing distraction.
2. Identify the true source. Often, burnout occurs when you're overworked, but not always. "I've seen people burn out because the nature of their work doesn't engage them," says Moses. "Assess whether you're doing work for which you're fundamentally unsuited."
3. Don't compromise when it comes to exercise. Endorphins are the body's natural antidote to stress. "I never thought of myself as a 5 a.m. kind of person," says Julie Wainwright, chairman/chief executive officer of Pets.com. "But because of my hectic schedule, it's the only time I can work out. Exercising daily keeps me sane."
4. Bow out sometimes. "Women tend to overestimate the consequences of saying no, but usually they've never tested those assumptions," Moses says. "A lot of the things people get involved in at work, especially, are discretionary. If you know what's really necessary to your well-being, it'll be easy to decline sometimes."
5. Cater to your pacing style. Do you thrive on being busy all day? Or do you need to focus on a few things at a time? If your style is at the limited-projects end of the spectrum, try to get to work 30 minutes earlier to have time to prioritize. Or take breaks from the phone and e-mail, so you can focus on the task at hand.