Lena Dunham has an important reminder about your psychological well-being and this time it’s about burnout.
The actress recently spoke to Glamour magazine about the intense pressure she put on herself when her show “Girls” began.
“Making my deal with HBO as a 23-year-old woman, I felt that I had so much to prove,” she said. “I felt like I had to be the person who answered emails the fastest, stayed up the latest, worked the hardest.”
Dunham revealed that she often gave up rest and moments to recharge in an effort to make it seem like she was deserving of her opportunity.
“As much as I loved my job, I really, like, injured myself in some ways. If I had felt like, ‘You’re worthy of eight hours of sleep, not four; you’re worthy of turning your phone off on a Saturday,’ I don’t think it would have changed the outcome of the show,” she said. “But I could have worked with a sense of joy and excitement, rather than guilt and anxiety of being ‘found out.’”
I could have worked with a sense of joy and excitement, rather than guilt and anxiety of being ‘found out.’
Falling into this trap isn’t unique to Dunham. Research shows that excessive stress can put individuals at an increased risk for chronic disease and stroke. Burnout is a real issue, regardless of your career. A demanding schedule, 24/7 access to email and working multiple jobs to make ends meet can all be contributing factors.
This is particularly true for women, who are more likely to deal with the imposter syndrome Dunham describes (for good reason: women are assumed to be less competent and held to higher standards, according to research). Women also often deal with the cultural expectation that they must manage the home in addition to their work responsibilities and studies show that this (misguided) norm can take a toll on a woman’s psychological well-being. For example, women are more likely than male counterparts to bend their careers to fit in family life, which can increase stress and burnout.
Dunham offered this advice for women who constantly feel a need to run themselves into the ground in order to prove their worth: Your wellness should always come first.
“There will be nothing if you don’t look out for you,” she said. “And I can’t wait, on my next project, to go into it with the strength that comes from, like, valuing your own body and your own mental health.”
That’s a life goal anyone can get behind.