Ep. 33 – Burnout, Entrepreneurship & the Patriarchy
If you’re an entrepreneur, do you know how likely you are to experience burnout, and why? And what other factors play a role in burnout aside from our work? Mich Bondesio explores entrepreneurial burnout plus the role the patriarchy, pollution and processed food plays in our productivity and wellbeing.
Any resources referenced in the episode are listed below the transcript.
Creating Cadence Transcript – Ep. 33
Hi and welcome to Creating Cadence – a podcast for life and work in motion.
I’m your host Mich Bondesio, a writer, coach, consultant and the founder of GrowthSessions.
This is episode 33, and the third episode of Season 6, recorded in June 2022.
This season I’m looking specifically at burnout, because it plays an important role in why Intentional Productivity is so crucial for our wellbeing. Intentional Productivity was the theme of Season 5 and it’s also the topic of the new book I’m writing.
In the last episode we covered the symptoms and work-related causes of burnout.
In today’s episode, I continue to explore what’s causing burnout in our societies.
I’m looking specifically at the connection between entrepreneurship and burnout. And I’ll also touch on some of the big picture influences and mitigating factors which cause an increase in the stressors that lead to burnout.
You can find the resources I reference in the transcript for this episode.
So, if you’re ready, let’s dive in.
Part 1 (01:30)
Let’s first look at why burnout is a threat to entrepreneurs.
As a solopreneur who has experienced burnout herself, this is of particular interest to me.
Whether we work in tech industries or elsewhere, it turns out that entrepreneurs of all kinds are particularly susceptible to burnout for several reasons.
And these reasons are in part a result of the VUCA-type challenges we face in typical entrepreneurial environments.
VUCA is an acronym that first came into use in the late 1980s in the military, and it was later adopted in strategic leadership and organizational management practices. VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. In some cases an additional C is added representing Chaos.
These are all typical factors that we face when starting an entrepreneurial endeavour and they can be relentless.
As we’ve discovered through the pandemic, continued uncertainty, chaos and ambiguity over a long period of time puts strain on our physical and mental ability to cope. The volatility of the economy and the complexity of our digitally-focused work lives compounds matters. The hustle culture we find ourselves in depletes our resilience.
So what other reasons might cause burnout for entrepreneurs?
Part 2 (02:55)
It turns out that entrepreneurs are also predisposed to mental health challenges.
Research by the National Institute for Mental Health has found that 72% of entrepreneurs are directly or indirectly affected by mental health issues, compared to just 48% of non-entrepreneurs.
I’m going to share some the specific things that have been found to impact our mental health.
1. Entrepreneurs have an intense and intimate connection with our businesses. So we often link our self worth to our business success.
2. We are often working so hard that there are few opportunities to socialise which contributes to a sense of isolation and loneliness.
3. The high stress that we feel interrupts our social engagement system and if we don’t already have a strong social system in place, this may prevent us from reaching out for help.
4. On the flip side, we may have strong social ties, but we may also feel like we have a lack of support from those we care about, as not everyone gets the entrepreneurial experience and what’s involved. It’s very different from working in a traditional business as an employee.
5. Studies have found that there’s also often a perceived need amongst entrepreneurs for impression management and social acceptance. They want to be seen and acknowledged on social media. And as we know, too much time playing in those arenas can cause attention fatigue.
6. Then there’s the the issue of Entrepreneurial poverty, where we don’t spend time and money on our wellbeing, because we feel we need to invest all of our resources in the business to get it going and keep it going. So we don’t switch off from work to make sufficient time for rest and recovery.
Overall, the entrepreneurial journey can be extremely challenging and it’s definitely not for everyone.
But implementing foundational practices that can support your wellbeing and productivity can boost your resilience and help you stay the course on what can be a long, bumpy road.
I’ll be covering some of the things we can do to support ourselves better in a future episode this season.
But for now, let’s look at what else is causing the potential for burnout in our lives.
Part 3 (05:08)
Now, as I mentioned in the first episode of this season, while burnout is often seen as a workplace-focused affliction, it can span the breadth of work and life.
The relentless uncertainty, fear and ongoing stress of the pandemic in itself was enough to cause many people to burn out.
It also compounded the amount of time we spend online and on social media (for both work or non-work-related activities). These behaviours overload our minds affecting our concentration and contributing to mental fatigue. During the pandemic this feeling of brain fog became known as pandemic brain.
There are a few other things that can contribute to burnout too, which may be less obvious. And those are processed foods, pollution and the climate crisis.
When it comes to our nutrition, there are a lot of suspicious additions to our fast foods and our processed foods that are meant to serve as bulking agents, flavourants, sweeteners and so forth.
There is plenty of research that demonstrates how these things can disrupt our endocrine systems, the physiological processes in our bodies and how our brains function.
So, too much sugar, and too many of the wrong types of carbs poison our system. They can put stress on our bodies causing strain and fatigue, and also serious health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. They also adversely influence our concentration, our wellbeing, performance and productivity.
Air pollution is impacting not just our ability to breathe, but also our ability to concentrate. Studies have found that the particulates from traffic pollution are causing damage in our brains, which are amongst other things affecting our focus and attention in very negative ways.
And the climate crisis, which aside from a pandemic is a very real threat to our long-term survival, is causing what is known as eco-anxiety for many.
A constant feeling of helplessness and hopelessness about the scale of the problems that we face can wear us down.
There are other aspects of our lifestyle and our economic, societal, and cultural structures, which can also increase stress and contribute to burnout.
These other factors have been found to particularly affect women, minority groups, LGBTQ+ and people who are economically disadvantaged.
Let’s look at them in more detail.
Part 4 (07:36)
If you’re in midlife, the chances are that you are juggling looking after elderly parents who may be ill, as well as looking after children, and that is a recipe for burnout in itself.
In their book Burnout: The Secret to Solving the Stress Cycle, Emily and Emilia Nagoski highlight how traditional patriarchial systems have played an underlying role in incidences of burnout over our modern history.
There are three areas in particular which exemplify how the patriarchy supports the conditions for burnout.
1. Systemic racism, misogyny, discrimination and xenophobia.
Being constantly judged based on things like the colour of your skin, your culture, your gender, your religion, your sexual orientation, and / or your disability causes underlying stress.
It makes it ten times more difficult to do your work and live your life if you face these pressures on a daily basis. Navigating these frequent discriminations, whether it’s at work, on the bus, in the street, in the supermarket or in a job interview, compounds over time and becomes exhausting.
And yet most of us are oblivious to the micro aggressions we might mete out to people who we perceive as different to ourselves, because it’s been so ingrained in our societal structures and our norms for so very long.
2. The second pervasive influence of the partriarchy on burnout is what is known as The Bikini Industrial Complex.
This is a consumer-focused movement that starts influencing us from a young age.
When all the advertising we see tells us we need to look a specific way and wear a specific thing to fit in, we feel inadequate when we can’t. Airbrushed, touched up “beautiful people” pouting perfectly at us from the pages of an online magazine or an Instagram post can be an impossible physical ideal for many of us to achieve, and it causes comparison fatigue.
It can be exhausting trying to keep up appearances when our bodies might not be built to carry off that type of clothing or that kind of makeup. And there is a marked rise in depression, eating disorders, self-harming and suicidal tendencies, particularly in pre-teens girls and young adults, as a result of their feelings of inadequacy.
Even for adults, invasive plastic surgery such as face lifts, bum lifts and boob jobs are on the rise, and we’re falling for the spiel that we the need to buy all those extra products to paint our eyebrows, botox our lips and remove our natural hair in places that it’s meant to be to protect our bodies, or that we need to colour our hair so that we forever look under 40.
The pressure to either conform to, or even rebel against, the bikini industrial complex can cause burnout. And, in my opinion, social media has a lot to answer for on this front. As you will know if you’ve listened to a few of my past episodes.
3. The third patriarchal influence is people-pleasing syndrome.
You may wonder how these two things are connected, as we may all feel the need to do some people-pleasing from time to time.
People pleasing originated from archaic cultural norms such as women being seen and not heard. From women having to pander to the needs of men.
Nowadays people pleasing is prevalent across the board because a basic human need is the need to belong, to feel seen, and to be acknowledged.
So, many of us find ourselves caught in this web of people-pleasing, because these needs are not being met, and we feel like we need to overcompensate.
Remember those insecure overachievers I mentioned in the previous episode? Well, we are constantly over-producing, over-working and doing more than we need to, just to feel recognised, to feel validated, to prove ourselves, and to keep others happy. And this happens across all facets of our lives at the expense of our wellbeing, so no wonder we are all so exhausted.
Part 5 (11:35)
When this episode was originally recorded, I had commented at this point in the episode that thankfully the patriarchy is dying. And that many people are waking up and recognising that a more nurturing, open-minded and diverse society is better for all humanity.
That may be true but there are still machinations at play which undermine their good intentions.
You see, I recorded this episode before the outcome of the latest supreme court hearings about the overturning of Roe vs Wade, which relates to the abortion law in the US.
The new laws are a fundamental violation of women’s human rights, so as a woman I can’t not comment. Your views may differ, but I’m going to share mine here.
The power and control exemplified by this situation is generated by a patriarchal legal system overseen predominantly by men and indoctrinated women who have economic and discriminatory motivations, whether they realise it or not.
The situation in the US is high profile, but no woman is safe when they don’t have a say in what happens in their bodies, and these injustices already occur in countries all around the world, from abortion to genital mutilation to domestic abuse. Even in the UK there have been a few murmurings about changing laws relating to abortion. One of the reasons why? Well, because of the low birth rate in this country, which has a future economic implication.
Whether you are a woman or not, when you fear for your life and your freedoms, it puts immense strain on your ability to function adequately in the world. And that’s the connection with burnout.
There is still a lot of work to be done to transform our norms and cultures, to open our minds to better ways of living and working, and to change our behaviours and our habits.
This is something we all need to get more self aware about.
Part 6 (13:26)
These may feel like heavy topics and insurmountable obstacles. But great change starts with small steps and it’s totally doable to prevent burnout.
The first step in making change is always to understand where we are at, because it creates a baseline from which to improve.
So for now, think about how your work habits, your culture, your relationships and your social norms might be influencing your wellbeing in a way that could lead to burnout.
In the next episode, I’ll be considering ways we can combat burnout and build better habits to prevent it from being so prevalent in our lives .
To get more resources to help you create momentum, work with purpose and live with intention, do sign up to the fortnightly Cadence newsletter on the new CreatingCadence.co website.
And you’re welcome to drop me a line with your questions or comments, please write to email@example.com
So, thanks for listening. Until next time, be brave in making change, be open to new things and keep moving forwards, one step at a time.
Bye for now.
What does VUCA mean? (MicroTool)
VUCA Defined (Tech Target)
Pandemic Brain & Concentration (The Guardian)
Burnout: The Secret to Solving the Stress Cycle (Emily & Emilia Nagoski)