Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski

The introduction to Burnout reads: “This is a book for any woman who has felt overwhelmed and exhausted by everything she had to do, and yet still worried she was not doing ‘enough’.” Um, hello! The Nagoski sisters have been reading my mail.

A1+-unICxaLI loved this book. I need to own a copy to be able to flip through and underline and reread. There are so many good points in Burnout that I decided against writing a traditional review and simply share some quotations that meant the most to me instead. Here goes.

  • “Physical activity is what tells your brain you have successfully survived the threat and now your body is a safe place to live. Physical activity is the single most effective strategy for completing the stress response cycle.”
  • “To be ‘well’ is not to live in a state of perpetual safety and calm, but to move fluidly from a state of adversity, risk, adventure, or excitement, back to safety and calm, and out again. Stress is not bad for you; being stuck is bad for you.” 
  • “Meaning is not made by the terrible thing you experienced; it is made by the ways you survive.”
  • “At the heart of Human Giver Syndrome lies the deeply buried, unspoken assumption that women should give everything, every moment of their lives, every drop of energy, to the care of others. ‘Self-care’ is, indeed, selfish because it uses personal resources to promote a giver’s well-being, rather than someone else’s. “
  • “Feeling helpless and hopeless after watching news about the state of international politics? Don’t distract yourself or numb out; do a thing. Do yard work or gardening, to care for your small patch of the world. Take food to somebody who needs a little boost. Take your dog to the park. Show up at a Black Lives Matter march. You might even call your government representative. That’s great. That’s participation. You’re not helpless. Your goal is not to stabilize the government… your goal is to stabilize you, so that you can maintain a sense of efficacy, so that you can do the important stuff your family and your community needs from you.”
  • “Maybe you don’t look like you used to, or like you used to imagine you should; but how you look today is the new hotness. Even better than the old hotness. Wearing your new leggings today? You are the new hotness. Hair longer or short, or a different color or style? New hotness. Saggy belly from that baby you birthed? New hotness. Gained twenty pounds while finishing school? New hotness. Skin gets new wrinkles because you lived another year? New hotness. Scar tissue following knee replacement surgery? New hotness. Amputation following combat injury? New hotness. Mastectomy following breast cancer? New hotness. The point is, you define and redefine your body’s worth, on your own terms. Again and again, you turn towards your body with kindness and compassion.”
  • “Instead of just looking at your body to evaluate her well-being, turn to her and ask her how she feels: ‘What’s wrong, honey? Are you hungry? Thirsty? Tired? Lonely?’ She can definitely tell you, if you listen. You might have to stop what you’re doing, take a slow breath, focus on the sensation of your weight on the floor or the chair, and actually ask out loud, ‘What do you need?'”
  • “Your body is not the enemy. The real enemy is out there – the Bikini Industrial Complex. It is trying sneakily to convince you that you are the problem, that your body is the enemy, that your body is inadequate, which makes you a failure.” 

What my body needs right now is to stop writing this post and get up and stretch – ha ha! Reading this book was like talking to a very wise, compassionate friend. The tone is so intimate and warm, but also pragmatic. Here’s the situation, and here’s what you can do about it. It’s the kind of book that can start to crack deeply ingrained thought patterns and let in some light and freshness to your stale habits. It’s also refreshing that it doesn’t put all the blame for this crap on the individual – it acknowledges the big societal and cultural structures and attitudes that contribute to our stress. I am so grateful I happened upon this book. If you are a woman who feels overwhelmed, run down, worn out, helpless, or like you need a boost of confidence, this is a book for you!




22 thoughts on “Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski

  1. This sounds great, in a one-size-fits-all kind of way. The scars from my knee replacement surgery are often hot with swelling, but not “hotness.” I can see learning to love them, because they are part of what has gotten me on my feet again, but I don’t believe we have to think of everything as “hot” eg sexy.
    I just read a novel that would be a great companion piece to this (and wrote about it): The Islanders. It turns out to be about work and power, and how working moms can use the power they have more effectively.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad that the author notes what body comparison can do to a person. When I pause and look around and compare myself to other people I see in real life (NOT on any screen where filters can be used), we’re all so ridiculously similar — moles, fat, unruly hair, different large and small disabilities — and doing this activity makes me very, very calm and happy.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ok so I asked WordPress what is happening, and they said you have to contact Akismet. But! If you give me your email address I can contact them on your behalf, just in case there is something wrong with my website!


      1. Not to butt in here, but if you are using a different device to comment (e.g. tablet, phone, desktop) sometimes one will “get through” and sometimes the other(s) won’t. Which makes it seem like the issue is related to the destination but it has as much to do with where/how you’re sending from? Sometimes a workplace’s security settings are different from home computers too. (Not that you would ever be using work time to answer/make comments. LOL)


  3. I just started this book so am thrilled to see how much you liked it. I feel like it is long overdue for women. And I do know that without my visits to the gym I would be in prison for some kind of rage explosion.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can immediately think of so many people who would love to read this book: thanks for bringing it to my attention. In the past few years, I’ve had to come to terms with this idea that stress and change are part of life, not something to be avoided (as I was taught), and this really simple idea has made a world of difference in my life – literally a life-saver and, in a more general way, it has made smaller day-to-day struggles so much more manageable. I was able to apply this to parenting for a few years too, but I wish I’d been even better equipped to relay this outlook to the girls when they were much younger…talk about valuable life lessons! 🙂


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