Author: Maxine, a beautiful Mama, shares her own personal encounter with the burnout she faced as a Mum-In-Business, and the lessons she learnt along the way.
It can happen to us all, sneaking up when we least expect it…
The risk of burnout is real. I am sharing my story in the hope that it will help even just one person to recognise it for what it is. To call it out, and to get the help they need to get back on track.
I have learnt several things since I launched my business in 2016. In fact, it’s been a huge learning curve, featuring highs, lows and everything in between. One of the biggest lessons I have learnt though is about Burnout.
I’ve experienced this sort of thing before in my corporate role. When I worked on fashion exhibitions, we had exceptionally busy schedules as shows approached. Often working really late into the night. I was working in London at the time, so had the commute to face as well, and it was tiring. My mind would be a mess of tiredness and the things I needed to remember to do for the following day at work.
The burn out I have experienced in my business, has been a little different. In fact I would say it’s been more extreme.
There’s only me in my business. Little Old Me. The “I” in my team. Every single role falls to me. I’ve been in jobs where I have had to wear a multitude of hats before and in some ways I feel this has helped me a little. However, I haven’t had to wear finance hats, CEO hats, and sales hats. I mean, I feel like the Mad Hatter at this rate! I’ve had to step into so many roles that I’ve got no experience in. I know marketing, that’s my line of expertise, that’s my comfort zone – working out my taxes – that is not.
Originally when I launched my business, I was still working in my corporate role. I would often do a full day at work, come home, make a quick cuppa and then work for an hour before our daughter came home. Then it would be either cook dinner or do bedtime, depending on what turn my husband and I were taking. After this, I would eat said dinner, and hop straight back on the computer to do more work. My own business work.
At first, this was all exciting, but I soon realised I was hitting a wall.
I could afford to take my foot off the gas a little bit because I had the stability of my day job. After advice from my hubby and friends, I started to chill out a little bit as they were concerned I would burn out. At the time I would have said I did a couple of times. It’s only now though, having been through my first year (well come October it is) of being fully self employed, that I know what true burnout is. Mine hit me in the months of March – May this year.
Going in to self employment, I didn’t really give myself any time to adjust to the huge change I had just made to my career. I had been in employment for 17 years at this point, and now I was going it alone and what did I do? I had chained myself to my desk. At the time, I didn’t realise this was happening. It’s only on reflection, that I now see what I did, and why it lead to me burning out in March.
I went in, head first. If anything I had somehow created a corporate chain right in my own home.
I have suffered with anxiety over the years. It’s something that stayed dormant for quite some time, but looking back, I can see how I had it as child, a young adult and now in my years as a 30 something. In January my anxiety came back with avengence and I was bubbling towards burnout from everything. I remember spending days being really emotional and completely at a loss of what I was doing. I felt consumed with fear that I was doing something wrong. That I wasn’t who I thought I was. This in itself is exhausting. I felt stressed with my business and the never ending to-do list of things that somehow, even now I now worked for myself, “I never had the time to do”. I felt enclosed. Like everything was swirling around me and I couldn’t get a grip on any of it.
Then came the day I felt it really took a punch at me – 14th May. It was a Monday and I didn’t want to get out of bed and face my day. I was done.
I hadn’t told many people about how I was feeling. My husband knew and a few friends but I didn’t tell my family. They probably felt quite hurt by this. At the time though, I didn’t want to talk to them about it. Luckily on ‘that’ Monday, one of said friends happened to text me and I explained how I was feeling. She told me we were going to lunch and pronto.
We talked. I cried. Which pretty much was happening whenever I spoke about anything. We ate from the salad cart ( good old Harvester salad cart) and she helped me. She really helped me. Lending her ears and applying a little tough but much needed love in the exact right way, was the catalyst in me calling it out. It’s funny, but from there, it was like a switch going off. I immediately felt better in myself and along with some other help I’ve got myself out of that fog, and away from burnout.
You might be wondering why I am sharing all this with you. Well, not only is it good therapy for me talking about this, but I also hope that if anyone is reading this and is feeling, or has felt, this way, they will know they’re not alone. That burnout is very much a real thing. I also wanted to share because there are lessons from this. I’ve certainly learnt them and if they can help you, then this is exactly why we talk about these things.
Lessons I’ve learnt surrounding burnout in business:
1) Big Changes Require Time…
When you are making any big change, whether that’s in your work life, your home life make sure to allow yourself time to process this change. Your mind needs time to deal with it, your emotions certainly do and you will be all the better for it.
Having now looked back and realising that by not giving myself a bit of time to adjust after leaving the corporate world, and what effect that had one me months down the line. I now put breaks into place. My daughter started school the other week – a huge change for us all – I took the week off.
2) Recognise your own habits…
If you do make the change from working for someone else to working for yourself, that’s going to come with some habits that have been ingrained in you for years. Arriving at your desk on time, not leaving until you finish, don’t spend too long in the kitchen chatting… All the confines of a “job” environment that we are used to. You don’t have to do that anymore. Working for yourself – you create the rules. So start giving yourself new little habits to do instead!
As I mentioned above. I basically left one corporate chain and created another in my house. Feeling guilty if I wasn’t at my desk, as if I wasn’t working unless I did 8 hour days. I told myself I couldn’t just randomly leave the house to go to the shops. Or sit downstairs and watch a film for an hour if I fancied a break from the screen. Now I do these things, because I have learnt, the hard way, that by being a slave to my desk and my business, and putting in all those hours, doesn’t often mean I’m achieving any more than if I did 3 hours. If anything, it’s the opposite. I feel tired, grumpy even and that’s when my overwhelm kicks in.
3) This business lark is tough…
It’s a new life to get used to and don’t get me wrong, I am thoroughly enjoying it. I love working for myself and all the benefits that brings, especially now Ava has started school. However, I also know how tough this is. I think anyone who runs their own business knows this. You are riding a rollercoaster of no two days being the same, and a lot is up in the air isn’t it? The main thing is to focus on what you can control, and don’t worry about the rest. There truly is no point. It will keep you up at night when really, you could be relaxing in bed with a good book!
When I started to hit a really bad patch in January, I would often be sitting there thinking about all these things that I needed to do. Or if something didn’t go quite as smoothly as planned, how I could fix it somehow. Even if it was nothing to do with me. I started thinking about other people and almost trying to guess what they’d say, creating different scenarios in my head. Could I actually control any of this? Nope. So now I don’t even try. If it’s in my power I worry about it. If it isn’t, I don’t!
4) Talking to someone really does help…
It’s true. I know anything linked to mental health can have a stigma, as a society we seem to put that on it, when really there is no need. We all have mental health issues from time to time – stress is a mental health issue.
We don’t want readily talk about ‘it’ for fear of what people will think of us. The most common being will they think less of me? Trust me, these thoughts have run through my mind on more than one occasion. Especially sharing it so publicly here, but actually, does talking about it mean I’m not me? Does that change me as a person to people? Does this mean I’m not good in my work and my business? Nope, not one bit. Find the people you can talk to and talk to them. If anything they will probably say “I’ve been there” and you would have had no idea.
It was actually my husband who noticed I was reaching burn out and that my anxiety had returned. It was almost hidden from me in many ways. He would force me to take breaks, get out the house, have time for me, and I cannot thank him enough for that. Talking to my friend as well was a huge help, she runs her own business too and has done for a while, so totally gets a lot of these feelings, and her outside perspective really helped me.
So that’s it. My encounter with burnout is out there for you all to see.
I hope that my words may have resonated in some way and that you’ve found this really useful. Remember… burnout happens. It happens to everyone. You’re not alone in this, recognising it for what it is, and helping yourself is a good thing, so make sure you take the time out to do that xxx