Asian American Women, Anxiety, and Burnout

  • Dreading work, or tired of getting things done?
  • Used to be quite productive and professionally accomplished?
  • Feeling cognitively, emotionally, and physically exhausted, but not sure what is wrong?
  • Not interested in things that you used to enjoy?
  • Feeling guilty for wanting to say “no”?
  • Starting to question yourself?

Depending on your family’s immigration history, e.g., if they’re refugees or they immigrated to improve the life for their children, there is
often a value of hard work to survive in the U.S., a notion that we “cannot afford to sit still.” Many immigrants have had to start from the beginning to build up economic stability.  Generations have survived and learned to work harder to overcome adversities of discrimination and outright racism, as Asian Americans are forever being seen as foreigners and not belonging to this country.  The intergenerational mode of working hard and always on-the-go to stave off threats to survival, may have allowed us to achieve economic stability and advance educationally.  It could also result in the stress response of fight/flight sympathetic system being constantly activated in your brain and your body.  Chronic activation of our stress response system could impact not only our physical health but could also contribute toward anxiety and depression.  Your body and mind may actually unconsciously not feel safe to slow down. Such fight/flight (or even freeze) response may be exacerbated if you’ve experienced other trauma in your life (e.g., sexual harassment, not feeling safe when parents argue loudly or parents not being very present when you were young).

As women, there is often an added expectation to be caretakers. It may be deeply ingrained to sacrifice self, to not speak up, or to say “no.”  And yet, at some point, we may start to realize that we are completely depleted, not able to think clearly, and we start to learn the hard way that our work and relationships suffer when we are not centered, not fully present, but are irritable all too often. 

In addition to gender role expectations, Asian American women also likely had to contend with the model minority expectations both at work and at home, while trying to determine our own values and priorities.  You may also have had to learn to straddle between expectations at home if you have more traditional elders, and to code-switch to find your voice in the workplace.  Gotten conflicting messages  when you switch between contexts–of being too loud, too quiet, too emotional or too cold, not smiling enough, too ambitious, etc.? 

What are some ways that you’re taking care of yourself so that you can be more present, so that you could actually be healthy while being with others?  Are you regularly prioritizing what nourishes you, what feeds you?  Do you find it hard to take these self-focused, self-care steps?

Research has found that having resilience can prevent or reduce the impact of burnout.  And, the good news is that we can all build resilience skills!  For example, having a supportive social circle helps contribute toward resilience. I highly recommend that you build and stay connected with a support system, a group of loved ones who are caring and compassionate toward you, especially those who are understanding of the challenges of straddling between Western and Eastern cultural norms, those who will remind you to take care yourself.

If you continue to have difficulties staying centered, finding yourself in tears easily or irritable too often, frequently find yourself drained of energy or not motivated at all, then please seek professional help with a licensed mental health professional.  You deserve to be well, to have down time, to focus on your own health!  You deserve time to explore your interests, what rejuvenates you, to reconnect with that powerful, centered being in you, so that you can actually feel more present and be more at ease when you’re with others.

Please also feel free to call me at 408-828-8375 or send me an email to inquire further.