Something ambitious women know all too well is burnout. It almost feels like it’s part of our DNA. It begs us to ask the question, “can we really live a happy and successful life without feeling stressed out all the time?” Based on my personal journey with burnout, the answer is YES.
I was that girl who stressed herself out over her grades – in high school and college. On top of working as many hours as I could at my part-time job. And somehow managed to have a boyfriend and looking back, a rather sad social life.
Burnout didn’t hit me hard until I was 25. When I quit my job in NYC and moved sight unseen to the San Francisco Bay Area in California. Did I also mention that I’d never been there before and I didn’t have a job lined up?
Yup, I had that kind of burnout.
The kind where you finally realize the life you’ve been living isn’t going to cut it. It was beyond feeling unfulfilled in my life, it was my body feeling so stressed out and overwhelmed I couldn’t think straight. It felt like I had lost… well.. me.
Looking back, burnout is something I am truly grateful for. It taught me quite a few surprising life and business lessons:
1. You don’t have to conquer the world in one day
In fact, you shouldn’t. The good parts of life take time. They need time to marinate. You know, work out all the kinks. Much like what you’re doing now in your business.
I use to try and get everything done in one day because only when everything was done could I then relax. That relaxation never happened.
Which leads us to lesson #2.
2. Relax frequently
Waking up each morning and immediately being on our devices, fueling the day with caffeine and not eating a real breakfast, while going all day without taking breaks, doesn't give our bodies time to live outside of fight or flight mode. We end up conditioning our bodies to live in a stressful state.
Burnout taught me how to relax more. To take a 10-15 minute break when I needed it. Eat a lunch that didn’t happen at my desk. And to get outside for daily walks. Walking lowers stress hormones and releases endorphins, which make us feel happy.
It’s up to us to create the space for relaxation and visit it frequently. Plus, the more you visit, the more you’ll want to come back to it.
3. Be selfish and take care of you first
When your schedule is too packed you don’t really have room to properly take care of yourself. It gives you less time for exercise, meal planning/prep, fun activities, and no room to mentally check in with if you’re living the life you truly want.
So I learned how to be selfish and know it was crucial to my health, emotional well-being, and my job performance.
It’s also like when the flight attendants tell you to put on your mask first in case of an emergency, before helping others. Even before your children. Because if you’re not taken care of, how can you help anyone else?
Becoming more selfish and taking the time you need can alleviate any kind of stress you feel.
4. Don't say yes to everything
Ahhhh saying no. Something us ladies tend to think isn’t in our vocabulary but should be at the top of the list. I learned that I didn’t need to be in every meeting and it was ok to delegate. And I could, in fact, say no without hurting someone else’s feelings or ruining a relationship.
Additionally, I learned I had to say no to more than just other people. I had to also get comfortable saying no to myself. Like how I strove to be the best. Striving for perfection was not getting me anywhere. It was only causing more overwhelm and unnecessary stress. And frankly, it just isn’t worth it.
When we become more accepting of ourselves and we know we’re not going to be the best at everything, this creates freedom – in our bodies, lives, and in our work. Focusing on our strengths is how we can excel in whatever area we choose. Just not all of them. And that’s ok.
5. Ask for help
Before I reached the burnout phase and left my busy Manhattan life, I didn’t ask anyone for help. I kept thinking that I knew it all and “I was fine”. I didn’t reach out to friends and I buried my emotions real deep.
Well, those emotions don’t just go away if you bury them. Chances are they’ll come back stronger than ever, and at the most inconvenient times.
Asking for help is not something to be embarrassed about, like you’ve failed somehow. It’s the exact opposite. I learned how to recognize when I reached my max and asked for help in the areas that were causing me the most stress. Sometimes even just talking out a problem with someone else can help you find an even faster solution.
6. Sometimes you need burnout to find what you’re really meant for
I believe everything in life happens for a reason. If I didn’t get so burned out and realize I needed to make a drastic change, I don’t know if I’d ever have the courage to move 3,000 miles away from a cushy job and the comfort of my hometown in New England.
It took that physical resistance that I felt in my body and the significant unhappiness I had been feeling about life, to make a change. It empowered me to move forward and take a leap of faith by trying something new.
Burnout set me on the path that my heart had been searching for all along and opened my life up to be happier and more fulfilling than I ever thought possible.
If I'm being really honest, it also led me to start my business. Because I had vowed to never go back to that place of burnout and I could only be in that space when I could direct my own schedule. You know when you’re meant for that entrepreneurial life and sometimes feeling burned out in other jobs leads you to your path.
These are the six lessons I’ve learned from burnout. I’d love to know one of yours! Drop it in the comments below.