5 Things I Did Before I Completely Burned Out
This startup executive made a personal pivot that saved her sanity and reinvigorated her passion for work.
I hate being negative. I just have no time for it. I have this rule that if something is bothering me, I do something to fix it.
Sure, you can run into complicated issues, but there’s usually a way to resolve them. Often the hardest issue to acknowledge or face is yourself. And lately, I've been pushing myself to the brink.
After seven months at a startup, I was burning out. I wasn’t sleeping. I was constantly working. When I tried to go to bed, my mind would speed up rather than slow down. I gained weight. I realized that I needed to take care of myself before I wasn’t any use to the team.
Startups often make mistakes and then find a way to pivot. I realized that I needed to pivot personally. So I took a step back and thought, What can I do that will have the greatest positive impact on my life in the shortest amount of time possible?
Here’s what I did:
1. I stopped drinking for a month.
A huge part of my work life is lunches, dinners and drinks with clients. It was not that I was drinking to excess, but two glasses of wine every night out led to restlessness, being tired but not really sleeping. Not drinking has helped. I don’t plan on doing this forever, but the break was key.
2. I started walking for 30 minutes every morning.
I used to work out at a fancy gym and sometimes even with a trainer, but it became too expensive and too time-constraining for me, so I fell out of the habit. But 30 minutes walking at a track or around the city or to work seemed doable. I challenged myself to keep to this attainable goal and so far, so good.
3. I scheduled in things I love to do.
You owe yourself seven hours a week of doing what makes you happy. This was a hard one. I rarely take even one day away from checking my email or doing something for work. But now, I have added back in an hour-long hike on a Saturday, a yoga class on a Sunday and a few hours of writing or simply watching a little Netflix. (My current obsession is the show on women’s wrestling called Glow).
4. I put down my damn phone.
I forced myself to put my phone away for a few family dinners a week and when I put my toddler to bed. On a date with the hubby, my phone is in my pocket on vibrate, not on the table between us. Yes, I'm tempted to peek constantly and, of course, I checked in occasionally, but the constant tethering needed to stop. It was a simple change that had a huge impact.
5. I made sleep a priority and didn’t apologize for it.
Sure, I want to stay up and hang out when I get home. I’d love to join in family movie night or hang out with friends, but now my bedtime is closer to 10 PM than 12 AM. I used to love to brag that I could exist on 5 hours of sleep a night, but I never did brag that I looked like a zombie when I did it.
So after making all these changes, how do I feel?
Well, the stress didn't disappear overnight, but I feel better. My energy level is higher. The more I sleep, the better I function. The walks in the morning are helping me set the agenda for my day and give me the time to sort through a million ideas in my head.
I encourage you to think about five quick fixes you can make immediately to better yourself. What can you do to make a personal pivot?
Take care of yourself. You'll have many different jobs, but you only have one you. And you are worth the effort.