How women can avoid burnout

'Burnout' by Emily and Amelia Nagoski
Twin sisters Emily and Amelia Nagoski wrote "Burnout" to explain why women experience stress differently than men.
Courtesy of Paul Specht and Penguin Random House.

Ask almost any woman, and she will tell you: There's a huge gap between what's expected of women in America today and what it's like to be a woman in America today. And trying to close the gap between those two things can be exhausting.

Yet many women don't take chronic stress seriously. That bothered author and health educator Emily Nagoski. So she and her sister, Amelia, looked to science. How can women learn to release that stress? Is there more to self-care than a pedicure? How can women "lean in" when they are already giving 110 percent?

The Nagoskis' new book, "Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle," lays out a science-based plan to help women minimize stress, manage emotions and live more rested, joyful lives. On Tuesday, they talked with Kerri Miller about their research and their personal experiences with accumulating stress.

"Women don't need more grit. We need more help."

One big distinction that came out of the conversation: There's a difference between how we deal with the things that cause our stress — the stressors — and how we deal with the stress itself, or the physiological state of our bodies. You might not be able to do anything about the stressors. But you can manage the stress.

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To that end, Emily shared three tips to help us complete the stress-response cycle.

1) Physical activity

It doesn't have to be much, said Emily. It doesn't have to be intense. Just go for a walk, jump up and down, dance in your living room. Just 15 minutes of moving your body in any way is going to help your body feel like it's returned to a safe place.

2) Connection — especially affection

A 20-second hug reminds your body that you've returned to a place where you feel at home and are connected. A six-second kiss can do the same thing.

3) Creative self-expression

For 15 or 20 minutes a day, create music. Make art. Journal. It's not about technique. "We need to find a safe place for you to put all of your exhaustion, frustration and rage," said Emily. "Step away from the stressors and deal with the stress. Let the physiology of it move through you and return to a place of safety in your body."

Emily and Amelia Nagoski, twin sisters and authors of the new book "Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle"

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.