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Battling Burnout – Why Black Women Experience Burnout And Strategies For Breaking Free

Written by: Twanna Carter, PhD, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

I've seen Black women suffer from burnout at alarming rates. But why? What causes this phenomenon and how can it be prevented? Let's talk about what burnout actually is before diving into some of its causes within our community.


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In recent years, there has been an increased awareness of the detrimental effects of burnout, a state of chronic stress that impacts a person's mental and physical well-being. Burnout affects people across all demographics, but it disproportionately impacts Black women, who face unique challenges related to systemic racism, gender discrimination, and cultural expectations. Let’s explore the reasons behind the high prevalence of burnout among Black women and provide actionable strategies to break free from its clutches.


Factors Contributing To Burnout Among Black Women


Systemic Racism And Discrimination


Black women experience both racism and sexism, which intersect to create unique stressors. In professional settings, they often encounter the "double jeopardy" of being both Black and female, leading to microaggressions, limited career advancement opportunities, and pay disparities. And, for women in their 40s and 50s, there is the added age discrimination that piles on top of that. This constant battle against discrimination can be emotionally draining and contribute to burnout. Leading black women to live and work in survival mode.


The Strong Black Woman Stereotype


The cultural expectation that Black women must be strong and resilient, and always able to handle adversity, can result in an immense emotional burden. This stereotype forces many Black women to suppress their emotions and prioritize the needs of others, leaving little time for self-care and leading to exhaustion. The cultural expectation that Black women must be superwomen—able to excel at work, while also being a loving mother and wife—can also lead to feelings of guilt when they struggle with any aspect of their lives.


Caregiving Responsibilities: Black women often assume caregiving roles for family members, both young and old, in addition to their professional duties. Juggling multiple responsibilities can result in increased stress levels and reduced opportunities for rest and recovery. In addition, Black women are more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to be the primary caregivers for both family members and friends. They often have to provide emotional support, financial assistance, and medical care—in addition to managing their own lives.


Lack Of Representation


Black women are underrepresented in positions of power and influence across various sectors. In addition, Black women are often expected to take on more than their fair share of responsibilities (earn the right to be here attitude). This can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and a sense that they have no control over their lives. The lack of representation also leads to feelings of invisibility, which can make it difficult for Black women to identify with the issues affecting them and their communities. This sense of powerlessness can contribute to stress levels and burnout.

Strategies To Break Free From Burnout


Black women often face unique challenges that can lead to burnout, including racism, sexism, and a lack of support. The good news is that there are specific strategies that Black women can use to avoid or break free from burnout and prioritize their well-being. Here are six proven strategies that you can implement to prevent burnout and recharge your energy.

1. Prioritize Self-Care


To combat burnout, it is crucial for Black women to prioritize self-care and allocate time for rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. This can include activities such as meditation, exercise, or pursuing hobbies that bring joy and relaxation. It is essential to remember that self-care is not selfish: it is an act of self-preservation.


2. Seek Professional Help


There is no shame in seeking help from a mental health professional or life coach. These professionals can provide a safe space for Black women to express their feelings, process their experiences, and develop coping mechanisms to manage stress and prevent burnout.


3. Establish Boundaries


Setting clear boundaries can help reduce stress and protect mental health. This includes learning to say "no" to excessive demands and creating a work-life balance that prioritizes personal well-being.


4. Cultivate a Support Network


Building a network of supportive friends, family members, and colleagues can help Black women navigate the challenges they face. By sharing experiences and offering encouragement, a strong support network can provide you with the emotional sustenance necessary to mitigate burnout.


5. Advocate for Change


By raising awareness of the unique challenges faced by Black women, we can help create an environment that supports their well-being. This includes advocating for equitable policies and practices within workplaces and pushing for greater representation in leadership positions.


6. Celebrate Successes


Recognizing and celebrating personal and professional accomplishments can help to counteract the negative effects of burnout. By acknowledging the hard work and perseverance it takes to achieve success, you can foster a sense of accomplishment and self-worth.


Burnout is a pervasive issue affecting many Black women, as they navigate a world that too often marginalizes and discriminates against them. To break free from burnout, it is vital to prioritize self-care, seek professional help, establish boundaries, cultivate a support network, advocate for change, and celebrate successes. As a society, we must also work to dismantle the systemic barriers that cause Black women to experience burnout in the first place.


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Twanna Carter, Ph.D., Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

An ICF Professional Certified Coach PCC) who empowers stressed, busy women execs, tackling impostor syndrome, self-criticism, and doubt to alleviate their stress so that they can find peace of mind and focus on excelling in their careers.


Rather than coach symptoms, she leverages her coaching so that women work on the root causes that threaten to sabotage their career and life. Which means clients see immediate change resulting in decreased stress, increased confidence, and shifting from overwhelm to relaxation.

Recognized as an Office of Personnel Management Presidential Management Fellow, Twanna left full-time federal employment to be an entrepreneur. She is currently the CEO of Twanna Carter Professional & Personal Coaching, LLC.

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