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  • Jennifer Swartley

Burnout: How I Beat It & You Can Too

As an overachiever and someone who has gravitated towards success, I prided myself on being a loyal company gal with a strong work ethic. I even loved the grind of late night hours, weekend work and tough problems to solve. But it always came at a price.

The grind eventually wore me down and I started to feel like I was constantly spinning, not moving forward. I began saying “no” to new ideas and thoughts and I internalized much of my stress to the point of building unhealthy habits. I identified with the "hustle" culture and thought balance was all about being able to "work hard" and "play hard." But soon even the "play" part became a chore. I often didn't have it in me to hang out with friends, feeling so depleted and anti-social by the end of a long day, I'd curl up and numb out on the vice (or device) of choice at the time.

At first I thought it was just that I had tired of the job I was doing, so I changed companies. Then I thought my company just didn’t have enough resources so I went to a bigger company. Eventually I thought it was about being more aligned with my purpose, so I entered the startup world and worked at several amazing, mission-driven businesses.

Now all of this got me closer to my truth, but burnout followed me at every turn, even when I felt most aligned with my purpose. I kept finding myself working long hours, volunteering for culture committees, taking on responsibilities solo that should have had teams staffed to them. And somehow I thought it was all the normal toll of doing a good job and working in a lean startup.

But then I started to question whether it was more about me than it was about any of these jobs. Why wasn't I setting any boundaries? Was I asking for help at work and at home? I hired a coach to work on making a more meaningful shift in how I approached my career. I got serious about my mindfulness practices and built sustainable, healthy habits. It finally felt like I was on my way to living life on my terms.

When I began showing up in a way that fiercely protected my time and my health, I found something incredibly eye-opening - my work actually improved and I was seeing more results. I stopped wasting time on things that didn’t move the needle and I leaned into the areas where I added value and my skills were strongest. I had time and space for creativity and I didn't waste as much energy on resentment or guilt. I was able to show up as the best version of me.

Now, with better tools to fend off stress, I could self-regulate before I reached burnout. It helped that I was in an environment that supported my mental wellbeing and rewarded outcomes over facetime. And I was doing work I believed in and I knew mattered to my company and to the world at large. I had built a connection of people that supported me, and I was eventually able to go out on my own as a consultant and to build my coaching business.

I know that not everyone is as fortunate to have all these systems in place, but many of the tools that saved me along the way are available to all of us, like honest self-reflection, movement and mindfulness. And while they may not fix the systemic problems at your company, they can help you catch a breath between Zoom meetings and be more present in all that you do.

If you're ready to explore if coaching may be a good next step for you, reach out and let's chat! Or if you’re looking to provide resources for your teams at work, message me to talk about my "Step Out of Burnout" workshop.

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