- Dreamers // Doers is a networking community of women founders, business owners, creatives, and change-makers.
- As entrepreneurs in today’s fast-paced workplace, many of their members have experienced burnout throughout their careers.
- From waking up with panic attacks in the middle of the night to constant brain fog to ending up in the ER, these women have learned how to recognize symptoms of burnout.
- Their recommendations for overcoming burnout include taking time off, joining communities of fellow female entrepreneurs, and reevaluating your long-term career goals.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
“I woke up with panic attacks in the middle of the night.”
“I wasn’t passionate about who I was serving or the business model I created.”
“I fell down a flight of stairs and didn’t have a choice other than to take time off.”
Perhaps one of the trickiest parts of burnout is that it emerges differently in every person. For some, it sneaks up in small ways over time; for others, it strikes without a moment’s notice. When you’re consumed by working hard toward your goals, it’s not always easy to recognize that you might be headed for a breakdown.
A core value of Dreamers // Doers is to openly discuss the ups and downs of work and entrepreneurship, so it felt like a natural fit to explore the important but underreported topic of burnout. In the following stories, these 15 women reflect on the moments they knew change needed to happen and their biggest piece of advice for overcoming burnout — or avoiding it in the first place.
1. “I fell into a year-long depression.”
My turning point: After 10 years of doing trauma-based immigration legal services, including founding my own nonprofit, I knew I needed a break. But when the US presidential election meant my services were needed more than ever, I felt I had to push myself even more. I gave up my life, found someone to watch my cats, and moved into a van to provide free legal services around the country in areas without access to lawyers. At the end, I moved back to my hometown for a breather, and instead fell into a year-long depression that was the worst in my life. I woke up with panic attacks in the middle of the night. I couldn’t find motivation to do anything.
My advice for overcoming burnout: I had to get over my guilt. I still feel it, but I realized that I could change the type of work I was doing that was leading to the burnout without giving up the cause. I’ve also worked a lot on boundaries and self-care. Therapy, Yoga With Adriene (free on YouTube), and lots of phone-free days help.
2. “I ended up in the emergency room three times.”
TeLisa Daughtry, founder and CTO, FlyTechnista
My turning point: From 2015 to 2017, I was doing everything and everyone thought I was killing it. In actuality, doing all of these things was just killing me! I rarely said no, I rarely slept, and I almost never listened to my body warning me against all of this — until I ended up in the emergency room three times in October 2017! I knew I had to make a lot of changes because the longevity of my business depends on the health and well-being of me.
My advice for overcoming burnout: I started a female founders and leaders wellness day one Friday out of the month. In addition to doing this, I made an intentional effort and commitment to unapologetically reinvest in my wellness and self-care weekly by booking 30-minute therapy sessions, meditation, and 20-minute massages. Additionally, I block out time on my calendar for rest, creativity, procrastination, and no work or meetings.
3. “I was doing the work of two or three people.”
Margaret Ricci, founder and CEO, Cultural Strategies, LLC
My turning point: I was hired as a COO and was promised to become an owner of the firm in two years. During the two years, I felt I had to prove myself to be accepted by the rest of the leadership team. As a result, I kept trying to do the work of two to three people and working 80- to 90- hour weeks, every week for over two years while my own personhood slipped away from me. The most influential person on the leadership team reneged on partnership because they thought I was doing great harm to myself. I lost myself during that job — in multiple ways and for nothing.
My advice for overcoming burnout: Know who you are. Know what you’re capable of. Know your worth to your firm. When others, especially your boss, don’t acknowledge that, it’s time to leave. During the time it takes you to find your next position, take time to heal. Take another stab at self-discovery, and find the next piece of you that you hadn’t seen yet, and then use it to help you excel where you can thrive.
4. “My colleagues started asking if I was OK.”
Kara Cronin, community lead, Shine
My turning point: I was managing an online community at the height of the 2016 election. I was barely sleeping, had put on a lot of weight, and became a big plan-canceler in my personal life. I wasn’t feeling like myself, but it wasn’t until my colleagues started asking if I was okay that I took a good, hard look in the mirror. I knew I had to make a change when someone told me point blank: Your bright light is dimming, don’t let it go out.
My advice for overcoming burnout: I asked for help, I set new boundaries, and I prioritized by impact. When prioritizing feels hard, ask yourself: What impact will this have on the business long term? What impact will this have on my life long term? What do I need?
5. “I needed a three-hour nap to recover from a meeting.”
Patricia Reiter, founder and CEO, Choose Adventure
My turning point: Burnout happened for me in year three of entrepreneurship. I was constantly feeling depleted — even the simplest and previously enjoyable tasks would give me anxiety. I remember it vividly one day in November 2016 after I needed a three-hour nap to recuperate from a 30-minute meeting, I knew that day it all needed to change.
My advice for overcoming burnout: I took a break and traveled extensively. I completed Ayurvedic treatments, got really savvy regarding superfoods and supplements, and slept much more than before. My best advice is to really give yourself the recovery time, and be realistic with your expectations around it.
6. “I saw no women above me whom I admired.”
Shaina Conners, COO, Global Sisterhood
My turning point: I was working in venture capital in San Francisco, many people’s dream job, and saw no women above me whom I admired. Many of them had sacrificed their lives to make a name for themselves in the industry, unlike the men who had full lives. It was also during the #MeToo era, and between that and the percentage of women that were being invested in, I knew I had to make a change!
My advice for overcoming burnout: Meditation saved me. There was a meditation group that met in my office every week, and I started going. Nothing can help you recover better than taking out time for yourself to be still and reflective.
7. “There were signs, but I didn’t see them.”
Jonna Piira, founder, Kali
My turning point: I was working full time as a CFO, consulting for another company on nights and weekends, was an adjunct professor, and was cochair of a gala. I also was working on the business plan for Kali. I didn’t realize at the time that I was burning out. There were signs, but I didn’t see them. If you don’t slow down, the universe will make you. I fell down a flight of stairs and didn’t have a choice other than to take time off.
My advice for overcoming burnout: I took some time off and reviewed everything that I was doing. I listed all of my commitments from most fulfilling to least. I then reviewed how much time each commitment was taking each week. Then I cut out the items at the bottom of my list.
8. “I made a deadline, but at the cost of my health.”
Anit Hora, founder, M.S Skincare
My turning point: A couple of years ago, I had to make about 200,000 units for a beauty subscription box. It was early days for the company, so I thought I could hire a team and do it ourselves. We made it, but at the cost of my physical, emotional, and mental health. I was so burned out at the end of it that I resolved to never do that again.
My advice for overcoming burnout: My biggest advice would be to not only take time off, but to also do a digital detox and stay away from the gadgets and social media if you can.
9. “I ended up in the ER with chest pains.”
Marissa Badgley, founder, Reloveution
My turning point: I was working over-60-hour weeks on projects I was deeply committed and passionate about, with limited support and even fewer resources. I wasn’t eating well, drinking enough water, exercising more than the walk to the printer, or spending any real quality time with friends or family, all things that I consider essential to keeping myself going. I found myself crying about just about everything, even things that were not very important. When I ended up in the ER with chest pains, I knew I needed to make a real, sustainable change.
My advice for overcoming burnout: Get in touch with your own unique needs and desires, and practice growing into the person you were put on this Earth to be. When we are clear about who and why we are, it is easier to make informed decisions about how to heal, grow, and where to go next.
10. “I had no joy in my work.”
Aditi Joshi, medical director and assistant professor, JeffConnect, Thomas Jefferson University
My turning point: After I graduated from my residency in emergency medicine, I worked in a very busy emergency department and after four years, I noticed that I had no joy in work and it was affecting my health and productivity. There was not a discussion of burnout at that time but it led me to quit my job, work locums (similar to freelancing), and pivot my career.
My advice for overcoming burnout: I spent time figuring out what it was that made me happy. Now when I recognize feelings of burnout, I look to find what is causing them and try to extricate or change whatever that is.
11. “The 2016 election made me rethink everything.”
Alex Cooley, founder and story strategist, AC Electric
My turning point: It was sitting in the writers’ room at “Madam Secretary” on CBS, the day after the 2016 election. There was a deep depression, and a sense of complete and utter waste of breath. I’m a doer by nature, so this falling into the abyss was out of the ordinary for me. If I was to continue working on making any form of change, it did not seem to me that TV writing was the way to move the needle.
My advice for overcoming burnout: I tend to do something I wouldn’t advise for everyone: Instead of renewing my contract for another three years, I did the only thing I was sure I wanted to do — travel the world, following my curiosity and taking a break. I volunteered at a Thai dog rescue, meditated with Tibetan monks, and journaled a lot.
12. “I had constant brain fog.”
Anna Vladi, founder and COO, Everex US
My turning point: I was working at AIG, managing a very large team and running a half-a-billion-dollar program. I was going through a firing squad, team restructure, change in upper management, and a high octane environment mixed with lots of politics. I was beyond exhausted, anxious, was not sleeping well, had constant brain fog, and was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease.
My advice for overcoming burnout: I started running and jogging outdoors. This helped me manage stress, cleared the brain fog, and helped with sleep and anxiety. You can only be successful when you are healthy and happy at your job.
13. “Every time I left, I would fall asleep.”
Ko Im, founder, Konakafe
My turning point: I had to go to sleep to become aware of my burnout. I realized that every time I left NYC on a getaway, I would fall asleep — as if I had permission to rest being physically far from my responsibilities.
My advice for overcoming burnout: Create boundaries, allow yourself to fully decompress, and let go. Be mindful of your mood. I don’t feel bad for taking breaks by walking outside, eating lunch without a computer, or even closing my eyes and taking a deep breath.
14. “From the outside, I looked successful. But I still wasn’t happy.”
Kristy Runzer, CEO, OnRoute Financial
My turning point: I was five years into growing a practice as a “traditional” financial advisor. From the outside, I looked successful. But I still wasn’t happy. I realized that while I loved financial planning, I wasn’t passionate about who I was serving or the business model I created. I wanted to work with people like me — female entrepreneurs who were looking to create a life and business that they love. That’s when I knew it was time to start my own financial planning business serving entrepreneurs.
My advice for overcoming burnout: I started by joining communities of other female entrepreneurs. Showing up to support others, asking for the support I needed, and being around like-minded women helped me figure out the path I wanted to take.
15. “I asked myself: Why do I care about this?”
Lamia Pardo, founder and CEO, Journify, Inc.
My turning point: Last year, I was working for a fintech company and was assigned to launch two mobile platforms in addition to overseeing the lead generation process for an ICO (initial coin offering). I was once again managing multiple work streams, performing many jobs, and getting adrenaline from achieving performance goals. However, once I asked myself “Why do I care about this?” I couldn’t go back. I got burnt out very quickly after that realization and decided to start a business helping people prevent and manage burnout.
My advice for overcoming burnout: Seeking professional help to regain clarity is essential. It’s important to isolate the problem and find a sustainable solution for it. In contrast to what many people think, a vacation or just working fewer hours often isn’t the answer.
Read the original article on Dreamers // Doers. Copyright 2020.
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