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Understanding Stress vs. Burnout: Exploring Cognitive Output

In today's fast-paced world, the demands of everyday life can often lead to feelings of stress and burnout. While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they actually represent distinct experiences, each with its own set of symptoms and implications. Moreover, factors such as neurodiversity and gender can significantly influence how individuals perceive and cope with these challenges.

Stress vs. Burnout: Understanding the Difference

Stress: is defined as pressure or tension exerted . It is a natural response to external pressures or demands, which can arise from various sources such as work, relationships, or financial concerns. Stress says " I have a lot going on right now." It typically manifests as feelings of tension, irritability, and heightened alertness. While stress is a common and often temporary experience, it becomes problematic when it becomes chronic and overwhelming.

Burnout: on the other hand, is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged exposure to high levels of stress. Burnout says " I have a lot going on right now and I can't keep up." Unlike stress, which is primarily a response to external stimuli, burnout is characterized by a sense of detachment. Think of if like you leave your house and you're get stuck in traffic, then the next day you leave earlier only to still get stuck. While trying to exercise some control over your situation you still feel you're in the same situation. I.e. feeling hopeless, cynical , and a decline in motivation and performance. When experiencing burnout you may feel depleted of energy and struggle to find meaning or satisfaction in their daily activities.

Gender and Burnout

Research suggests that women may be more susceptible to burnout compared to men, due to a variety of social, cultural, and biological factors. In many societies, women are disproportionately responsible for caregiving responsibilities, both within the family and in the workplace. The new coined phrase stay at home working mom speaks to this. Women are expected to work ( inside or outside of the home) transition from that job into domestic management , meal planning, school pick up/drop off, meal preparation, bath time etc. One study from the maven clinic stated 28% of working mothers will experience burnout than working fathers.

This "double burden" can lead to chronic stress and exhaustion, as women juggle competing demands without adequate support or recognition. Research suggests that women are more likely than men to internalize stress and blame themselves for perceived shortcomings or failures. Societal expectations of perfectionism and the pressure to excel in multiple domains can lead women to set unrealistically high standards for themselves, which can be difficult to maintain over time. This tendency to self-criticize and self-blame can erode women's resilience and self-esteem, making them more susceptible to burnout. Additionally, gender disparities in the workplace, such as the gender pay gap and lack of opportunities can also contribute to feelings of frustration and disillusionment among women.

Intersectionality and Additional Challenges

It's important to recognize that the experience of burnout is not uniform across all women and can vary based on intersecting factors such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation. Women who belong to marginalized or underrepresented groups may face additional challenges and barriers in the workplace and society, further increasing their risk of burnout.


In conclusion, the higher susceptibility of women to burnout compared to men can be attributed to a complex interplay of social, cultural, and structural factors. Addressing these disparities requires a multifaceted approach that includes promoting gender equality in the workplace, challenging traditional gender roles and expectations, providing support and recognition for women's contributions, and fostering a culture of self-care and resilience for all individuals. By addressing the root causes of burnout and creating more inclusive and supportive environments, we can work towards a future where everyone can thrive. But more to the point we have to dismantle the systems that are in place that drive the burnout. In our communities neighborhoods friend groups etc we have to care for one another. To feel validated in our experience and to cultivate resiliency, call your friend and ask how they are , not to respond with " girl me too." Tell your spouse how you are feeling, be intentional with your needs, boundaries and desires. Seek help through your doctor, therapist etc, clear your calendar one day and schedule rest. I'm talking to myself here too, being neurodiverse I have to be very intentional with my cognitive output, what may take you 5 mins make take me 1 hour. But that's a blog for another day. I see you, I hear your and as always for more information don't hesitate to reach out.

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