By Terri Williams
MultiBriefs Exclusive, May 21, 2019.
Achieving success is a praiseworthy feat that usually requires a certain level of sacrifice. But women may pay an additional price for their career achievements.
Research reveals that women are more likely than men to suffer from depression. This could be related to the stress of balancing work and family responsibilities, feeling isolated at work, and/or a host of other reasons.
Many successful women end up experiencing burnout, but is it necessary to choose between your career goals and your health and happiness?
No, according to Nisha Jackson, Ph.D., hormone expert, gynecology health specialist, and the author of “Brilliant Burnout.”
“But the reality is that we overachiever-superwomen-stress-junkies spend quite a bit of time being ‘plugged in’ and in ‘fight-or-flight’ mode, maneuvering strategically between one highly pressurized situation to the next,” Jackson says.
This type of lifestyle is like a time bomb, she says. “While our bodies are meant to react to perceived stress occasionally, they are clearly not capable of withstanding longer periods of flight or fight without some sort of breakdown.”
You need a tribe
Fortunately, there are ways to handle such unsustainable levels of stress, but you can’t do it alone. “Successful women are often loners and don’t gravitate to those who truly see them, let alone understand or support them,” Jackson says. “This is a problem, as it creates sadness, resentment, and distrust, and usually leads to retreating further into work.”
She believes that women need to build a tribe to be successful and remain sane. “Behind every brilliant woman is most likely 10 other brilliant women supporting her.”
Jackson admits that this type of support system isn’t built overnight, but she says it’s a necessary ingredient for a healthy heart, mind, and soul. “To be clear, your tribe isn’t just helping you get work done, their role is much deeper than that,” Jackson says.
These are people that see you as you really are. She says they love you unconditionally, will confront you when you’re doing something wrong, and are there when you feel you can’t take another step.
“These are the people who have your back when you can’t pull your load, will provide for you when you can’t, will prop you up, will defend you, go to bat for you, or cry with you when you need it.”
It’s so important to find people who can see you as you really are, since they’re in a prime position to help you find your way when you’re lost. “The value of a tribe for a brilliant woman is in providing a sense of nurturing that women on fire need and is vital to their success,” Jackson says.
And, she says a good tribe isn’t there to judge you, just help you become the best version of yourself. “There is a deep sense of safety that comes with people in whom we feel we can connect with and trust.”
Building your tribe
Now that you’re fired up about having a tribe, how can you build one? Jackson offers several tips:
1. Start with a clear intention and a desire to have the group you want. Find common threads in those women out there whom you feel you can share things with to help you find more people who might be able to relate to you.
2. Start small and stay focused. Think of the qualities you want a member of your tribe to have. For example, she doesn’t judge, she has a sense of humor, she is an artist. Look for one or two potential tribe members who don’t freak out about the small stuff, which is important to have in a high-stress woman’s tribe.
3. Take an inventory of your current friends, family, etc. This will help you determine if there is already the start of a tribe right in front of you. But don’t feel obligated to include someone just because you have known them your whole life.
4. Listen to that “gut” feeling about a person. Do you feel drawn to them right away or do they make you put up your guard?
5. Pay attention to their social media posts. This is a great way to root out the crazies.
6. Consider doing something you are passionate about (besides working): go to a class, join a club, or learn something new that you have always wanted to learn. This is a way to meet others with similar interests.
7. Begin spending time with these women to see if you want them in your inner circle. Ask them if they want to meet for coffee or a glass of wine before going home, or if they want to go on a Saturday hike.
8. Then you can all meet for dinner and see how it feels. It’s like a friendship pyramid scheme.
9. Find a common interest between you and your potential tribe members. This could be a book club, hiking group, entrepreneurial group, retreat, etc.
10. Find a time that you all can meet regularly, or an event that you do regularly as you are forming your group.