The 4 Stages of Burnout, As Illustrated by 'Sex and the City'

Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw

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AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger
April 15, 2024 at 2:6AM UTC

Carrie Bradshaw is no stranger to burnout. The New York City-based fashion aficionado and columnist behind "Sex and the City" spends most of her time writing about, well, sex and the city, or at least thinking about what she'll write about, well, sex and the city for the fictional newspaper, The New York Star.

Writing about her sexual escapades and those of her close friends somehow provides her an income to not only survive but thrive in one of the world's most expensive cities. And while that part isn't so believable, what is believable is the fact that, in some episodes, she's very much burned out. After all, it's not easy being an iconic author with a column optioned for a Matthew McConaughey-produced film (season three), becoming a regular freelancer for Vogue magazine (season four), and then having a column that's compiled into a hit book (season five) — all while maintaining a number of her own messy relationships, plus her friends' divorces, affairs and sex scandals and finding time to regularly brunch dressed to the nines.

But alas, I digress. Bradshaw is still human, right? (In a fictional sort of way.) She burns out, too. Here are four stages of burnout that even she's experienced.

1. The compulsion to prove oneself is overwhelming.

Bradshaw is constantly trying to prove herself, not only as worthy of praise for her writing but also worthy of her boyfriend (and later husband) Big's love. In fact, Bradshaw is notoriously led by her emotions, always trying to prove herself to Enid, who is her abrasive and demanding Vogue editor, and always begging Big to "just tell me I'm the one." She seems to rely on validation from others to feel "enough," often doubting herself and calling herself "not perfect" along the way. None of us are perfect but Bradshaw feels like she needs to be.

2. Working too hard takes a toll on work-life balance.

Bradshaw is always working and, often, because her work involves writing about her personal life, it can take a toll on her personal life — like her relationship with Big. For example, in the Sex and the City movie, Bradshaw is so excited to be married to Big and photographed for Vogue magazine for a piece on women who are 40-something and tying the knot. Her guest list for her wedding quickly blooms from 75 to 200 guests, and her simple label-less wedding dress gives way to an enormous designer gown, in which she'll get married at the New York Public Library in the direct public eye.

Big opposes the massive and totally over-the-top wedding and ends up with cold feet, but Bradshaw was so tied up with how she'd appear in the magazine and the wedding itself that she lost sight of why she was getting married. (Big was still a heartless you-know-what, don't get me wrong.)

3. An inner emptiness becomes all too much to handle.

An inner emptiness is one surefire sign of burnout and, often, to overcome this feeling, people turn to activities such as overeating, sex, alcohol and other exaggerated vices. Of course, eating, sex and alcohol aren't necessarily negative behaviors, but, when done or had in excess, they can become poor and even dangerous coping mechanisms. Bradshaw's life is filled with this kind of behavior, as exhibited through her multiple unhealthy and arguably toxic relationships (think: Keith Travers, Sam, Patrick Casey, Giles, Jeremy, Vaughn Wysel, Wade Adams, Jack Berger, Howie Halberstein, Aleksandr Petrovsky, Big...).

When she's not dating awful men, she's usually out drinking with the girls and often seen smoking cigarettes (which she sometimes tries to quit). Heck, the woman even has an unabated shopping addiction and, let's be real: Addiction is addiction, and none of it is healthy. She hoards so many clothes, she has to keep her sweaters in her oven...

4. Anxiety hits hard.

Even Bradshaw has felt anxiety, despite how glamorous her life seems. Haven't you ever noticed how she's always "beginning to wonder if..." It's because she's always in her head, seldom living in the moment. She's constantly worried about the next steps in her relationship or the next big article she'll write. And she's certainly hit rock bottom a time or two (or more).
Remember the time she questioned, "Maybe you're only allowed a certain amount of tears per man, and I've used mine up." Or the time she admitted: "I’ve spent $40,000 on shoes and I have no place to live? I will literally be the old woman who lived in her shoes!" Or how about the time she said: "The fact is, sometimes it’s really hard to walk in a single woman's shoes. That’s why we need really special ones now to make the walk a little more fun." That all sounds a lot like anxiety taking over.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog,, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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