The book I recommended most in 2020 was Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, by Emily Nagoski, PhD and Amelia Nagoski.
To start, the sisters Nagoski break down exactly what burnout is. Hint: it’s not just needing a nap or wanting a glass of wine. They go further in explaining in why women experience burnout differently than men. They make a strong case for managing our stress levels, tuning in to our emotions and pushing back against the gap between what society says women should do and what is realistic. This case is strong enough that addressing the stress cycle so many women face becomes a form of activism and rebellion.
In a year where we all need more support than anyone can give*, this book felt like having a good friend coaching and cheering me on. Deeply rooted in science, Emily and Amelia have made their research accessible with pop culture references and actionable.
This book changed how I think about exercise: it’s not a “should do” as part of a wellness routine, but the best, most effective way to biologically siphon off stress. As I read through this book, I alternated between “oh, THAT’s how that works!”, “why didn’t I know this already?”, and “that has worked for me in the past and now I know why.” It also explained why choir, colorguard and college rugby were stress relievers when I was younger. Not only was I connecting with friends, but we were physiologically coregulating our breathing. It helped me realize what is missing now that I’m in my 40s. Post-pandemic, I may need to find a choir!
As I tell anyone to whom I recommend this book (which is everyone!), this is the book I wish I’d had in my early 20s. It’s especially powerful in combination with Eve Rodsky’s Fair Play, which helps women figure out a fair and balanced approach to managing all the domestic work – including the mental load and emotional labor – that happens at home. You know, a huge source of stress and exhaustion.
If reading a whole book isn’t something you have the bandwidth for right now, Brené Brown interviewed Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski on her podcast, Unlocking Us.
If you’ve read Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, I want to know what you think. And if you want someone to talk to about this (or other books), let me know!
*My BFF’s husband dropped that piece of knowledge, and I think it exactly sums up how almost everyone I know is feeling these days.