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High-Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout Paperback – November 1, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Carter, a nationally recognized psychologist specializing in extreme stress in women, addresses the pressures highly competitive positions exert on women. Although women hold more than half of the management and professional positions in the U.S., burnout is high. Carter examines the multiple causes for stress, including double standards, gender discrimination, psychological abuse, jobs with 24-hour technology demands, and lack of support at home. Recognizing that normal de-stressors such as exercise and meditation aren't sufficient, Carter proposes her own solutions that will enable women to revitalize themselves. Such solutions could be scheduling uninterrupted time, knowing one's personality, setting boundaries in commitments, or being realistic in expectations of others. Carter (Justice For All: Challenges of the Mentally Ill in the Legal System) also offers suggestions for social support, danger signals for stress trigger points, and guidelines for societal and corporate changes. This is a practical, useful guide; hopefully, corporate women won't be too stressed out to read it. (Nov.)
"A must-read for high achieving women who have come to accept stress as a way of life."
--Cindy Krischer Goodman, Miami Herald columnist of "The Work/Life Balancing Act"
"Gain powerful tools to manage your life and to keep your engine 'revved up'!"
--Dr. Priscilla V. Marotta, psychologist and author of "Power and Wisdom: The New Path for Women"
"... not a 'one-size-fits-all' self-help throw away, but a sensitive, insightful window into the world of professional women, their unique stressors, and proven approaches to ameliorate them." --Laurie Shanks, Professor, Albany Law School
"Finally ... compelling and enlightening research combined with a realistic road map for high-achieving women to reverse burnout and find our way back to sanity!" --Caryl Ginsberg Fantel, MrFood.com Editor, Music Director, and Arts Advocate
"Dr. Bourg Carter reinforces a basic truth: control your professional job before it kills you. This is a harsh reminder of what we all need--work smarter, not longer--and take our lives back." --John Wesley Hall, Criminal Defense Lawyer
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As it turns out, I had been doing a decent job of self-medicating. However, when your "medicine" is kickboxing rather than "just relax and do nothing," it's easy to mistake the causes for the solutions.
This book does a great job of explaining why you feel overwhelmed (probably too good of a job; the whole first half of the book is this). Better than that, though, it gives great suggestions for what sorts of fuel your mind & body need to keep running at the break-neck pace that it does.
This book is heavily skewed toward CEOs and other business higher ups. However, the author does note that high octane women can also be stay at home moms or hold lower paying jobs. If you are the kind of woman who always pushes herself as far as she can go... and then tries to get a little further anyway, you might be a high octane woman. If anyone has ever told you, "I don't know how you do it," or stared in disbelief when you listed off the errands you've gotten done in a single day, you might be a high octane woman. If people always assume that your work will be perfect, because they've already tried to find flaws and consistently fail to, you might be a high octane woman.
And if you are, you need to read this book.
The book lost a star from me because the last quarter of the book absolutely does not apply to me. I'm not saying it won't apply to some other reader, it just didn't address enough of the "cure" that I was seeking.
I was also fascinated by the parts explaining what it does to high-octane women being in a man's world and how that works psychologically. This book explained a lot of things that I knew in the back of my head but now can actually do something with.
Well worth reading for an overview of what to watch out for when you're running on empty and how to deal with it when you are.
Those who have seen a performance of David Mamet's play, Glengarry Glen Ross, or have seen the film based on it, no doubt recall an early scene when Blake (played by brilliantly Alec Baldwin) delivers a bone-chilling, threat-filled challenge to salesmen in a real estate firm's branch office. "The bad news is - you've got, all of you've got just one week to regain your jobs starting with tonight. Starting with tonight's sit. Oh? Have I got your attention now? Good. 'Cause we're adding a little something to this month's sales contest. As you all know first prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Anyone wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired. Get the picture? You laughing now? You got leads. Mitch and Murray paid good money, get their names to sell them. you can't close the leads you're given you can't close s***. You ARE s***. Hit the bricks pal, and beat it 'cause you are going OUT." Miranda Priestly (played so well by Meryl Streep) in The Devil Wears Prada would never be called vulgar but she is no less menacing and probably more lethal than Blake.
High octane executives -- male as well as female -- struggle with severe stress each day and many experience burnout or at least a milder form of combat fatigue and much of the stress is self-imposed. Although Bourg Carter focuses on women, much of the information, insights, and counsel she shares is also relevant to men and can be of substantial value to them, also. What to do?
"The first step in understanding burnout in high-achieving women lies in understanding its insidious nature. Unlike a blowout, which is instant and obvious, burnout is a slow leak, a cumulative process that in most instances takes years, sometimes decades to full materialize." The results are predictable and probably inevitable: physical and/or emotional exhaustion; feelings of isolation, estrangement, cynicism and despair; and a sense of ineffectiveness, helplessness, and failure. Stress can develop from external and internal sources. To repeat, some (not all) stress is self-imposed.
Presumably Bourg Carter agrees with me that some stress can be desirable, indeed beneficial, as when we care deeply about achieving or helping to achieve an admirable goal, especially against the odds and with time constraints. Sometimes a best effort succeeds, often it doesn't. However, stress helps to create a sense of urgency that keeps us focused. Stress becomes problematic if and when it weakens us, distracts us, reduces our self-confidence, and perhaps even intimidates us almost to the point of paralysis.
These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Bourg Carter's coverage.
o Double-Edged Sword (Pages 28-30)
o Stress in the Workplace Realities (33-39)
o Gender-Based Stressors (41-52)
o Three Common Themes of High-Achieving Women (65-71)
o Blurred Boundaries Between Work and Home (75-76)
o Maybe Not Hopeless (82-87)
o What Makes High-Achieving Women High Achievers?, and, The Psychology of High-Achieving Women (90-101)
o Checking Your Gauges (101-111)
o Warning Lights (123-130)
o Six Signs of Burnout (135-139)
o Basic Maintenance (146-152)
o Regular Unleaded: Traditional Strategies (152-164)
o Overcoming Resistance to Alleviating Your Stress (175-177)
o Innovative Workplace Approaches to Burnout (182-191)
Who will derive the greatest benefit from this book? In my opinion, there are two groups: whatever their level of octane, women who are most likely candidates for burnout or are now experiencing it, and, supervisors (both male and female) who need to understand how to prevent burnout and how to respond effectively when it does occur among those for whom they are directly responsible.
When concluding her book, Sherrie Bourg Carter shares especially relevant observations by Amelia Earhart: "Some of us have great runways already built for us. If you have one, take off. But if you don't have one, realize it's your responsibility to grab a shovel and build one for yourself and for those who follow you." I certainly agree with Bourg Carter 's response: "It is only through your efforts that your efforts that your runway will expand and ultimately pave the way to make the ride smoother for the amazingly talented and passionate women who will follow in your footsteps."