Burnout – The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle | in-depth book review

This groundbreaking book explains why women experience burnout differently than men—and provides a simple, science-based plan to help women minimize stress, manage emotions, and live a more joyful life.

Sisters Emily Nagoski, PhD, and Amelia Nagoski, DMA, are here to help end the cycle of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.

According to the authors, a wide area of research is on professional burnout, specifically helping professionals like teachers, professors, and medical professionals. But a growing body of research is on parental burnout. It has an impact on health and relationships. It is a day-in and day-out. No wonder parenting is so exhausting. We get trapped due to human giver syndrome. Human beings have a moral obligation to just ‘be’ and Human givers have a responsibility to ‘give’. Women belong to the Human giver category, at home or professionally.

The following is a high-level presentation of the book. I highly recommend reading the book to understand the concepts, appreciate the two authors for sharing their research and learn how to implement changes to avoid burnout. Part 1 may seem obvious to many readers, but part 2 really helps us understand the full picture. I have personally gained from reading this book. I gathered insights such as – Ah! I must have been experiencing burnout from events stacking up during the past few years (covid induced) and what I need to do to prevent chronic stress and gosh even more importantly the suggestions in part 2 to overcome burnout. I am grateful to the author sisters for sharing their personal experiences and strategies to prevent burnout. One of the sisters ended up in the hospital twice due to stress, while the sister helped overcome it (read the book). I hope that women around the globe are able to gain from this book.

Part 1

Depression is anxiety on steroids. Anxiety comes from never-ending stress. You can’t get rid of the causes of stress. You can get rid of the stress itself.

Stress Response Cycle:

Stress such as work, money, family, and culture, self-criticism, body image, the future. All these are interpreted in the body as stress, being changed by a lion. Activating stress response in the form of a cascade of chemicals like endorphin. Your blood pressure increases, muscles tense, breathing increases, and Memory shifts. Other organs get lower priorities, digestion stops, and the immune system slows down.

You run – to move oxygen and fuel to muscles. If you escape and survive. You love your friends and family and you relax. Hand in hand with the people you love, you bury the lion. The stress response cycle is complete.

Not dealing with Stress Response:

If you kill the Lion your brain recognizes that the threat is gone, but your body does not. Your body is stuck in the middle of the stress response. Just telling yourself is not enough. The neurochemicals stay in the body and degrade without doing anything. The secondary system never gets the signal that it’s safe.

Chronic Stressors:

Chronic stress leads to chronic stress. You do the thing it says – you run and are rewarded with feel-good hormones. But tomorrow the project is still there, and we process it again. This is not bad, but if the stress outpaces our capacity to process it – it’s bad.

Suggestions on managing Stress Response

Physical Activity -Run or swim, sweat it out. Standing up from the chair and stretching is an excellent start.
Breathing deeply – 20 to 60 minutes a day. Breathe in a slow count of 5; hold for 5,  exhale in 10 pause for 5. Do it for 15 minutes.
Good night’s sleep. Both the quality and quantity of sleep as well as consistency of sleeping habits.
Laughter / Cry – reminiscing about times we have had together, deep impolite belly laugh.  A big old cry.
Hugs that last 20 seconds or 6-second kiss help.
Spirituality – meaning in life. Social support is provided by fellow members. It’s about feeling connected.
Creative expression –  creates a context that encourages positive emotions. To celebrate and move through life.

Finding your own strategy:

•One thing that does not work is just telling yourself that everything is okay now.
•You give your body what it needs and allow it to do what it does and over time you complete the cycle.
•You may find that a different strategy works better on a different day. If you can’t run, do breathing exercises.
•The most difficult part of completing the cycle is it requires stepping away from the situation and turning instead to their own body and emotion.
•Rumination is the most maladaptive practice. If you find your thoughts going back again and again to your suffering, ask for help

Part 2

The Game is rigged:

The female body is subjected to low-level stressors all the time. Males have advantages or tailwinds that they forget they have. So, without even being aware of these advantages, they easily blame females for not being smart enough or tough enough.

Low-Level Stressors:

Human giver syndrome: Self-care is selfish. You are born to care for others, it is your moral obligation.
Body Image: Eating disorder has the highest mortality out of all mental health issues. It is not about vanity; lives are at stake.
Systemic Bias:  Whatever is wrong, it’s your fault. You have not tried hard enough; you don’t have what it takes.
Gaslighting: You are imagining discrimination. Women and other marginalized groups are being told that it’s their imagination.

Sexual assault.


Female body – Women across the globe and throughout the course of history have endured high-degree of bias. Even in progressive or advanced countries, these low-level stressors exist. The odds are against us. Burnout occurs when we do not address these stressors.

Solutions for Burnout:

Introspect – We can tolerate any type of suffering if we know why we are suffering. Not knowing why is a form of suffering.

Find your meaning – People with a greater sense of meaning, experience better health.

Origin story – rewrite the narrative of your experience, focusing on the strengths you gained through your adversity.

Redefine your goal – focusing on incremental goals.

Redefine failing – Achieving something world-changing comes along their path to failure. You need kindness and compassion to complete the cycle of stress brought on by failure.

Positive reappraisal: Acknowledge when things are difficult and say it’s still worth it. Positive reappraisal reduces stress by changing our Brian function.


Top three things to avoid burnout.
Wellness is not a state of being, it is a state of action.
•Good sleep or Rest.
•Connection and sharing support is 

Know that…
•Stressful feelings are tunnels, you must go through the feelings to get to the other side.
•When you feel you need more grit, you need more help.•Stress is not bad for you, being stuck is bad for you.
• Wellness happens when your body is a place of safety for you.

This blog post is part of the blog challenge ‘Blogaberry Dazzle’ hosted by Cindy D’Silva and Noor Anand Chawla.

Copyright on the book belongs to Sisters Emily Nagoski, PhD, and Amelia Nagoski, DMA