Nonfiction Friday: Burnout, The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski

For a term I had never heard of before, “Burnout” is my new go-term term for being at the edge of insanity. This engaging and insightful book is a must read for women everywhere who are just about to give up.


Burnout. Many women in America have experienced it. What’s expected of women and what it’s really like to be a woman in today’s world are two very different things—and women exhaust themselves trying to close the gap between them. How can you “love your body” when every magazine cover has ten diet tips for becoming “your best self”? How do you “lean in” at work when you’re already operating at 110 percent and aren’t recognized for it? How can you live happily and healthily in a sexist world that is constantly telling you you’re too fat, too needy, too noisy, and too selfish?

Sisters Emily Nagoski, PhD, and Amelia Nagoski, DMA, are here to help end the cycle of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Instead of asking us to ignore the very real obstacles and societal pressures that stand between women and well-being, they explain with compassion and optimism what we’re up against—and show us how to fight back. In these pages you’ll learn

• what you can do to complete the biological stress cycle—and return your body to a state of relaxation
• how to manage the “monitor” in your brain that regulates the emotion of frustration
• how the Bikini Industrial Complex makes it difficult for women to love their bodies—and how to defend yourself against it
• why rest, human connection, and befriending your inner critic are keys to recovering and preventing burnout

With the help of eye-opening science, prescriptive advice, and helpful worksheets and exercises, all women will find something transformative in these pages—and will be empowered to create positive change. Emily and Amelia aren’t here to preach the broad platitudes of expensive self-care or insist that we strive for the impossible goal of “having it all.” Instead, they tell us that we are enough, just as we are—and that wellness, true wellness, is within our reach. from Amazon.

“Burnout” Pink Cover with ripped page


Burnout is defined in this book by three components: (1) emotional exhaustion – the fatigue that comes from caring too much, for too long; (2) depersonalization – the depletion of empathy, caring, and compassion; and (3) decreased sense of accomplishment – an unconquerable sense of futility; feeling that nothin you do makes any difference.

Upon first reading this, I felt I’d been spotted. There must be cracks in my facade!

But I am in good company. According to the authors, “burnout” is a phenomena affecting whole groups of people who work in positions of, “people helping people.” Teachers, medical professionals, humanitarian aid workers, and parents are all suffering from burnout in large numbers. Oddly, women are more deeply and specifically impacted.

Now, as a die-heard feminist I like to believe that men are just as susceptible to things as women are capable. However, in this case, I have to agree with the authors. As they walk the reader through historic gender problems, most specifically “human giver syndrome,” it is difficult to argue that differing treatment in childhood wouldn’t have some impact. I can accept that women who are raised to believe that being thin is good and looking pretty is important will result in burnout just as easily as toxic masculinity has roots in “boys will be boys” and “real men don’t cry.”

Be nice, be strong, be polite. No feelings for you

The chapters are broken down into manageable chunks of pertinent information. It was clear to me that the authors had taught because each chapter laid the foundation for the one before it and built on the prior. And, for those who need reminders or who are too busy to read the details they provided a Too Long Didn’t Read (TLDR) at the end of each chapter. By using personal anecdotes, stories from friends, and those from popular fiction, the book was as fun to read as it was informative. Although, I could have done with a lot less Moana references (but that’s just me!).

Chapters one and two clearly lay out what is causing stress in most women’s lives and how to deal with it. Some of the information was new to me but the fact that really stunned me was the notion that our bodies need to get rid of stress. Whether that it through exercise, affection, or even creative measures, we are biologically programmed to need that outlet. Sounds simple enough but they way they explained it resonated with me so deeply I have completely transformed the way I work out and how I prioritize sleep.

Things were a little less solid for me in certain sections. For example, chapter three was about meaning, as in the meaning of life. While your life having “meaning” is one of the main elements that promotes happiness finding your “Something Larger” is important for feeling that your life has a positive impact. Initially I struggled with this section because how can you have “something larger” and avoid falling victim to “human giver syndrome?” But, I suppose being a stay-at-home Mom because you want to be is entirely different than being one because society limits you to that role. Similarly, I can make monetary sacrificing in my career if I want to do that kind of work as long as I am not limited to my choice of jobs by what is appropriate for a woman.

The remainder of the book explains why what sounds simply is so difficult for women. From acknowledging that the game is rigged, fighting the patriarchy, and gaslighting, being a women is fundamentally difficult. And if you don’t get a chance to read the book just know this fact,

“The body mass index (BMI) chart and it labels – underweight, overweight, obese, etc. – were created by a panel of nine individuals, seven of whom were ’employed by weight-loss clinics and thus have an economic interest in encouraging use of their facilities.'”

For every woman out there who is feeling crushed under the weight of the world, this book really helped me. I used to look around at my male friends and wonder, “Why are they so carefree, what’s wrong with me?” There is nothing wrong with me. I was just experiencing burnout.

Tell me, please!

Do you ever feel uniquely stressed?


4 thoughts on “Nonfiction Friday: Burnout, The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski

Add yours

  1. I’ve been dealing with health insurance drama and every time I’ve spoken to the people at the state insurance line, they start off really prickly and distant. Eventually as we get into it they just wear down completely and almost every one has ended up telling me how hard the job is to do, to have to hear difficult stories every single day and not be able to help how they’d like to. It seems like one of many such professions where it’s so easy to burn out completely.

    That’s so interesting that we physically have to get rid of stress. I’d never really considered that. Also Bikini Industrial Complex cracked me up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so sorry for your insurance drama! The people that talk to us there must be terribly burned out. Fighting insurance companies is kind of a hobby of me at this point in life!

      Ever since I thought about physically getting rid of stress I try to just work out for five minutes when I feel overwhelmed and it has transformed my calm.


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