How Stephanie Bounced Back from Burnout

“I can’t live like this anymore.”

That was the thought that brought Stephanie to Bossed Up. A hard-charging manager at a fast-paced tech startup in Manhattan, Stephanie was facing her moment of total burnout.

I caught up with Steph to hear her full story and learn how she overcame burnout – without leaving her job.

Emilie: So what did life look like when you came to Bossed Up?

Steph: I was in the throes of a break up, and crashing on my brother’s couch while I apartment hunted in NYC (a job in itself!).

Of course my job didn’t slow down just because my personal life was unravelling. In fact, things at work were crazier than ever.

I’m the east coast director of a campaign management team at an ad/tech startup, where I directly manage 13 account specialists who run digital campaigns for major brands like JetBlue, Walmart, Fidelity, and AMEX. I’d been working crazy 12-to-16-hour days for the past 4 years as our company grew from 13 employees to over 160.

E: Wow, that sounds like a lot to handle at once. When did you realize you needed a change?

S: For years I was blazing full-steam ahead and not taking care of myself at all. My career is very important to me, and I’m proud of the work I do, but I couldn’t live and work at this breakneck pace forever.

I took the Burnout Quiz on your website with a bunch of my fellow board members for our NYC chapter of United Women in Business, and realized my quiz results were far worse than my peers. That served as a red alert and made me realize this was an issue worth addressing.

E: You joined our online training program for burnout prevention, Bossed Up for Life, right? Did you end up making some changes?

S: Totally! So many breakthroughs came from doing the video modules with you.  The first one was critical: that I’m not alone in this, and that many other ambitious, hard-working people in particular struggle with burnout.

It was so validating to realize that this wasn’t some personal failing of mine, this is a real problem faced by so many people like me who are passionate about what we do for a living.

I wanted to give my team 100%, my volunteer activities 100% and this new challenge of setting up my life at home 100%. So of course I felt burnt out and overloaded.

E: Yes! Burnout is much less scary once you get clear on what it really means, and what the underlying causes are.

S: Yes! And that Glynnis Macnichol article you cite from Elle Magazine really struck a chord with me. I thought to myself, “I have escapist fantasies, too!” Maybe I’m not so crazy. Maybe this is a real phenomenon that plagues lots of ambitious women like me.

Then, of course, our regular monthly check-in calls confirmed this for me. I met other incredible women who shared what they were going through and how they handle the same kinds of challenges. It was beautiful to have a community so willing to share resources and encouragement with each other. It made going through this process so much more comforting and less isolating.

E: So how does day-to-day life look different now?

S: #BU4L helped me feel empowered to take back control of my time. In my outlook calendar at work, I started putting in the time I wanted to set aside for workouts, and hard stops at the end of my workday at 6 PM. I also now take real lunch breaks and schedule more walk-and-talk meetings with colleagues instead of the usual sit-downs. I used to feel endlessly desk-locked, which was a major burnout trigger of mine.

Now, not only do I feel significantly more productive than before, but I’m also more focused, have more energy, and am happier. I even feel like I have a greater reserve of willpower when it comes to making the food and lifestyle choices I want.

E: And what do your colleagues think about all this?

S: To be honest, I was most self-conscious about how my boss and my team would see this. I was afraid there would be negative ramifications, but no one said ANYTHING at all. All I’ve heard from colleagues is that I seem more happy and pleasant to be around. Socially, things have only improved.

I used to think I needed to change my job in order to find the balance I want, but I love my company and team more than ever before. I feel that by modeling the kind of work and life I want, it’s made it more possible to have these discussions with the staff I manage, too.

E: Amazing, Steph! Congratulations! What’s changed the most for you?

S: Well, as a perfectionist, I’m always going for the gold star, and I’ve been able to recognize that that’s okay, and i’m proud of wanting to do well. But but putting so much unnecessary pressure on myself, I was creating these rules in my head that were actually giving others power over me. Being able to take control and take my power back has transformed my life. It’s something I want everyone – and every woman in particular – to feel as well.

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