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.

By Victoria Cairl

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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.

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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).

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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.

Related: 12 Habits to Dramatically Improve Your Sleep

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.

Victoria Cairl

VP of Business Development at Show-Score

Victoria Cairl writes about women and work. She's is the VP of Business Development at Show-Score, having previously worked at Lincoln Center, The Met Museum and Disney Theatrical.

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