5 Professional Women Share How They Are Secretly Struggling At Work And It's Only Getting Worse

Burnout is dangerous, but there are ways to recharge and recover.

stressed woman at work PeopleImages.com - Yuri A / Shutterstock

Women in the workplace feel burnout at a higher rate than their male counterparts, and that gap is continuing to widen. A Gallup poll from 2021 revealed that 34% of women feel burnout at their jobs compared to 26% of men. 

Five professional women shared how they’re secretly struggling at work — and it’s only getting worse.

1. A working woman described what being burnt out feels like.

A woman on the subreddit r/askwomen described her experience of burnout. She said, “I’m just tired and burnt out. I don’t want to work anymore. I don’t want to climb the ladder anymore.”


She described her fear that she was causing mental harm to her kids because of her burnout, saying, “I really don’t feel like a good mom [or] worker 90 percent of the time.”

Professional Women Share How They Are Secretly Struggling At Work And It's Only Getting WorsePhoto: H_Ko / Shutterstock

“I just work, take care of my kids, sleep, do house chores, squeeze in time where I can with my fiance,” she said. “And it all feels empty.”


That sense of emptiness, when the things that used to bring you joy no longer do, is an indicator of burnout. The deeper into burnout someone gets, the more that negative feeling can affect their life outside of work, including their relationships.

RELATED: 4 Harsh Things I Learned About Burnout The Hard Way

2. A medical doctor shared the 5 stages of burnout.

Dr. Claire Ashley shared the five stages of burnout, noting that it can take one to three years to recover from being burnt out, so knowing the warning signs and being able to prevent them is much better than trying to come back from full-on burnout.

“I didn’t know it was happening to me until I hit a mental health crisis,” Dr. Ashley explained. “It took me about six months to go from being fully functional, living my best life, being fully functional at work to being in a total mental health crisis.”


Dr. Ashley described how easy it is to miss the signs of burnout, which is why she’s helping others avoid it. “Despite the fact that [I've been] a doctor for like, 20 years now, with clinical knowledge and experience, plus a degree in neuroscience, I had no idea what was happening to me until I hit that crisis point,” she said. 



She then explained the first stage of burnout: The honeymoon phase, when you’re full of enthusiasm and passion and you’re fully committed to your work. As Dr. Ashley shared, “The difficulty with this phase is that you might run the risk of taking on too much.” 

Taking on too much leads to stress, which in turn leads to the second stage of burnout — the onset of stress. 


“This is the stage where you start to notice that there are more stressful days than non-stressful days,” Dr. Ashley said. She described the three things that characterize this stage: lack of time for personal needs, seeing your loved ones less often, and feeling like your work is the most important thing.

She explained that this stage of stress can come with physical symptoms, like headaches, general pain, and difficulty sleeping, as well as emotional and psychological symptoms.

The third stage of burnout is chronic stress. As Dr. Ashley noted, “In this stage, your ability to problem solve and focus and to concentrate really gets affected. You might start feeling a bit out of control and powerless.”

This phase brings with it a decrease in productivity, a sense of failure, “and a lot of guilt and shame.” The emotional and physical symptoms tend to worsen and regulating your emotions becomes more difficult. “So, you might be flying off the handle at the smallest thing,” Dr. Ashley said. “In this stage, people tend to deny what’s happening to them… and distance themselves from their colleagues and loved ones.”


Professional Women Share How They Are Secretly Struggling At Work And It's Only Getting WorseLithiumphoto / Shutterstock

“The fourth stage of burnout is burnout itself,” she stated. “This is where apathy becomes the main symptom, so that’s detachment from other people, your work, your emotions. It is where you start not to care.”

“In this stage, you’re also experiencing critical exhaustion,” she continued. “That means you’re really struggling to keep up with your work. The fatigue will be disproportionate to the stresses in your life.” Dr. Ashley shared her personal experience with this stage, saying, “It was like I had just been hit by a ton of bricks. It was so hard to do anything because of that fatigue.”


“I had really intrusive thoughts, [I was] completely unmotivated, I didn’t enjoy anything, no joy whatsoever, I was so low,” she revealed. “Despair really is what you experience at this stage.”

She detailed stage five of burnout, which is habitual burnout, stating, “This is the stage where you’re probably going to need outside intervention to get yourself better, so either help from a doctor or psychologist.”

Dr. Ashley ended her post by stating that anyone in stages one through three of burnout can “take steps now to stop yourself from progressing to stages four and five because once you hit stages four and five, it’s years to recover.”

RELATED: How I Got Into And Managed To Walk Away From Burnout


3. A mom described what parental burnout feels like.

A mom and licensed therapist named Alicia posted a TikTok in which she listed off the various signs of parental burnout. 



She listed feeling touched out, feeling like you’re ineffective as a parent, and feeling emotionally disconnected from the people around you as signs you’re feeling burned out on parenting. Being in a consistent bad mood and having a short fuse with others were also on the list.

“Burnout isn’t just reserved for those with ‘traditional’ jobs,” Alicia shared. “You’re not alone and you’re not going crazy.” 


Her concluding comment reveals what we all know to be true: parenting labor is real labor, it just isn’t financially compensated. Parents at home can feel burnt out just as much as professionals working in offices. 

RELATED: 15 Signs You're Emotionally Exhausted (And Need To Recharge)

4. A burnout coach revealed her symptoms of burning out.

Advocate and burnout coach Rhia shared the symptoms of burnout that she initially neglected and ignored, which led to her condition worsening. 



“I started finding it harder to wake up in the morning and fall asleep at night,” she said. “I later learned that’s a sign of a cortisol imbalance, which can happen when you’re not managing your stress effectively.” 


“Then, I started seeing more severe symptoms, like extreme brain fog, decreased motivation, making silly mistakes all the time," she continued. "[I] was very irritable at work and cynical.”

She shared a few words of advice, saying, “Don’t let yourself get there, because it took me two years to heal once I got to that place.”

RELATED: Why My Hustle Is Starting To Destroy Me

5. Therapists share how to heal from burnout.

A holistic therapist named Sheena shared her techniques for recovering from burnout. She said, “Part of the reason that people burn out is they ignore their symptoms. Stress ends up turning to anxiety; they ignore the stress, they push through the anxiety, and they end up burnt out.”




“I like to describe it as ‘Burnout is the injury before something major happens.’ When people don’t address the burnout, it ends up turning into depression or something much harder to get out of,” she stated.

She explained that an important part of healing burnout is “learning how to rest when you’re a goer, a doer, an achiever.” Sheena advised, “Learn how to listen to your body and your mind and your soul, when it’s begging you [to] please take a break.” 

Another therapist named Kobe Campbell, who specializes in trauma therapy, shared her take on healing from burnout, saying, “When you are burnt out, the remedy is not getting rest.” Instead, according to Campbell, the answer is restructuring your life.




“That’s gonna take more time [and] more energy,” she said, “But if you just rest, you’re just gonna come back to the same system that burnt you out in the first place.”

“I think the reason why a lot of us keep ending up burnt out is because we are wrestling with the idea that we literally have to learn how to live in a fundamentally different way or else this cycle is never gonna end,” she stated. 

Knowing the warning signs of major burnout is the first part of helping ourselves avoid it. Then, we have to ask ourselves some hard questions about what we value and how we want to work and live. Ultimately we must align ourselves and our lifestyles with whatever answers reveal themselves to us. 


RELATED: 10 Boring Things That Can Help You Overcome Burnout — That You Can Start Today  

Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers mental health, pop culture analysis and all things to do with the entertainment industry.