I’d been running too fast and too hard for too long, but I eventually dropped. The trouble was this time I really didn’t want to get up.
As a self-confessed achievement addict, my optimism and drive had taken me so far. I’d spent my life jumping over hurdles and landing on my feet. My friends call me the most resilient person they know, so why on earth would this happen to me?
They say stress is a silent epidemic and burnout is the same, a long insidious drop from who you once were to a person you don’t even know.
It creeps up on you when you least expect it and you’re unlikely to know you’re in it let alone admit it. I was irritable, I was sad, I was tearful but most of all, I was ashamed, I didn’t want to admit it to anyone.
We’re in a burnout epidemic with over 40% of workers in the USA and Canada reported as burnt out.
Being a high-achiever is hard, a blessing and a curse. People look at you and think it’s all wonderful and sweet, but little do they know that actually, it sends you into orbit at a blink.
Super-proofing your career is easy but super-proofing yourself is almost impossible.
High-achievers come in all shapes and sizes but here are a few things that fit:
- You love a mission and always long to achieve the next thing
- You are fuelled by a challenge and crushed by boredom
- You set yourself ridiculous goals
- You overwork and don’t know when to stop
- You get addicted to the task and can’t let it go
- You couldn’t get balance if you tried
- You feel you could always do better
- You’re hard on yourself & never give up
- Your accountability is off the scale
- Your drive has an underlying cause
Bright people burn out first.
Here are some facts on stress in the workplace1:
- Working women are more stressed than men – 88% of women are stressed compared to 85% of working men.
- 13% of women claim unmanageable stress compared to 11% of men
- 61% of working women say that workplace wellness programmes need to better address the specific needs of each gender.
- 52% of senior women executives who are mothers felt judged for prioritising family time away
- 49% felt senior management does not seriously support workplace wellness programmes
 Cigna 2019 360 well-being survey – 5th year. 23 markets
We’re all on a journey and our stories never end and I’m writing and sharing in the hope others will do the same.
Some Top Tips
- Admit it
This was the trickiest bit for me. A high achiever admitting that they’re struggling?! At a time where emotion is judged, how easy is it for us to show others just how we feel? It often takes a massive wake up (or a few) before we see it, let alone admit it.
My Advice – don’t be ashamed and admit it. Admit it and know that the brightest people burn out, the most driven people drop. Take it as a badge of honour that’s yours. My word of warming, admit it first to people that you trust and can talk to. Go to a person and place where you feel safe.
As the caterpillar said to the butterfly, I don’t want the pain of this change….
- Feel good first
I was so busy looking after everyone else that I’d forgotten about the most important person in the world, me. Can you imagine how embarrassed I was when I spoke out that the leader of Feel Good was burnt out? The very essence of my mission was completely ignored. I still feel a bit ashamed, and hate to admit it, but in the process of looking after everyone else, I had completely forgotten about me.
My Advice – feel good first. This is one of the hardest things for many of us. Taking the oxygen first before you give it to others. After years of pushing myself too hard and completely ignoring my needs, I am gradually putting me first and prioritising me.
- Fall back in Love
Even though my own business was born from love and passion, I still fell out of love with what I was doing. Not because I didn’t want to do it but because it all became too much. Too much for me and too much for anyone. I was so busy loving my business and loving my purpose that I’d completely forgotten to spend time loving me.
So many business leaders rise the ranks and find themselves in jobs they don’t love as it’s not really what they signed up for. This is particularly true for entrepreneurs and leaders that set up and build crazy ideas they believe in. Being a leader means creativity, risk-taking, sharing passion and making ideas a reality and running a business day to day couldn’t be further from this reality. This is why many business owners and senior leaders end up with their dream turning into their worst nightmare.
My Advice – don’t feel bad if you’ve stopped enjoying what you’re doing. Maybe you’ve grown out of it, or your job’s grown out of you. Believe in the power of passion and purpose, loving what you do and the people you do it with. Our purpose comes from passion so just figure out what lights your fire and fly.
Know thyself and love thyself first.
- Trust your instinct
Leaders pride themselves on their instinct but when I lost mine, I lost myself. When you’re down and low it’s difficult to believe in yourself let alone listen to yourself. One of the greatest learnings I’ve had is this. If I’m not feeling good, then there is good reason for it. Don’t brush it under the carpet and let anyone tell you you’re imagining it. There is no better coach than yourself. Listen to yourself and if you don’t hear, listen a bit harder.
My Advice –
- If it doesn’t feel good. Don’t do it.
- If you don’t feel good, act on it.
- And if you don’t feel like acting on it, don’t do anything until you do!
- Don’t be lonely
As a single mum, owner of a business, and carer for my elderly parents, being alone has made me cry the most. The trouble is that when we’re low we’re often lonely and need people to reach out and care. None of us should be lonely and we all sometimes need is knowing someone is there. This is so true of leaders, the higher you go, the lonelier you become. I’ve learn’t i’m rubbish on my own and need people more than ever. My new motto – I’ll not make it alone and I’ll not break alone.
My Advice – don’t ever feel bad about being lonely or not coping on your own. I promise you there are so many people in the same boat. We don’t need much but we do need others. We are social animals and we can’t make it alone. Love yourself and find love from others. Talk to people you trust and get some professional help from a good counsellor, therapist or coach.
Remember we are human, not super-human.
These are just a few of my thoughts and reflections. If any of this has resonated with you and you’re interested in hearing more for yourself, your team or your organisation, please get in touch.
At Feel Good Leadership, we work with high performing executive leaders, managers and teams to be more authentic, build trust and nurture better relationships that enable ‘whole-brain’ processing to create creative and thriving workplaces.
Are you and your organisation experiencing a drop in individual or team performance? Are feelings of overwhelm and exhaustion affecting progress? Are signs and symptoms of stress and burnout affecting your personal and others health? Or perhaps a lack of connection and meaning in your work due to a relentless striving of task?
If you can relate to any of this and you’d like to talk more, please get in touch. We’d love to talk to you about how we can support you and your organisation to achieve the extraordinary.
Contact Jenny at email@example.com or 01344 623749