“When my gut broke down, that’s when I thought maybe something’s wrong.”
— Yumiko Kadota, the author of “Emotional Female”
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Most young girls don’t grow up worrying about workplace burnout, but by the time they’re adults, and fully entrenched in careers, many will experience it. Over half of women surveyed in a 2021 CNBC and SurveyMonkey poll said their mental health at work was suffering to the point of burnout.
For women of color, the numbers are worse. Black women experience accelerated “biological aging” in response to repeatedly encountering stress. While 9.8 million working mothers in America experience workplace burnout, it’s more pronounced for Black, Latina and Asian mothers, according to the largest study on working parents to date.
Living through a pandemic takes an immense toll on mental health too, of course. The Centers for Disease Control found that 40 percent of U.S. adults were struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues because of the pandemic, although mental health concerns were already on the rise prepandemic. Add work to the mix and it can feel untenable. Nearly three million women have left the U.S. work force because of the pandemic, many of them quitting because of a lack of child care options.
challenging for Black employees, while anti-Asian hate crimes rose nearly 150 percent in 2020.
It’s a recipe for burnout, which the psychologist Christina Maslach defines as “a psychological syndrome emerging as a prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job. The three key dimensions of this response are an overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment from the job, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.”
Two friends from childhood, Dr. Yumiko Kadota, a surgeon in Sydney, Australia, and the author of “Emotional Female,” and Ruchika Tulshyan, a Seattle-based journalist and the author of “The Diversity Advantage,” discuss how compounded stress leads to burnout, and how to get through it.
Their conversation — their first since they were classmates in Singapore 20 years ago — has been condensed and lightly edited.
bamboo ceiling because there’s just so many stereotypes about us.
Ruchika: It’s been tremendously hard to see the anti-Asian hate and violence in the U.S. How is it in Australia?
Yumiko: I’ve grown up feeling a lot of anti-Asian hate here in Australia. And racist comments from politicians have escalated the anti-Asian hate over the past year. I remember feeling self-conscious on public transport at the start of the pandemic when masks were not yet mandatory. I chose to wear one, but was worried that it made me look like I had the virus.