In 8 years, I have never spoken about my experience with burnout to anyone, in any detail at all. It was such a harrowing experience that my mind blocked most of it out.

Recently, my friend and colleague Toby Jenkins asked me to share my story of burnout with his network, with the intention of informing, educating, and inspiring action from leaders – either to seek personal support to address their own burnout, to better support those around them going through burnout, or to implement strategies in their organisation to prevent burnout. 

In this article (originally posted on LinkedIn), I share the reality of what burnout looks and feels like firsthand, the science-backed strategies I used – and continue to use – to recover, and the key lessons I learnt about myself and my health, in the hope that my experience provides support to those of you who need it most right now.

This is my story, but it is also my Why fuelling my business – why I’m so passionate about preventing other women from burning out, at a crucial time in their career.

Please grab a cuppa and have a read. I would love to know what resonates most, and what has helped you in the difficult times in your career.

Here’s the intro from Toby.

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I know, your inbox and social media is full of emails and posts about goal-setting and how to “plan your best year ever!” right? Well, in this article I am going to be talking about the year ahead, but I’m actually going to be focusing on the year that was. Why, you may be asking, when it is essentially done and dusted? For one great reason – you achieve a hell of a lot in a year and I’m guessing that the majority of us don’t stop to acknowledge that! We just power right on through into the next year, scribbling down all our grandiose goals on New Year’s Day, without actually stopping to consider what actually went down this past year. Take a moment. What did you actually accomplish this year? What were the good bits, the hard bits, and the lessons you learned from both? What’s worth keeping and bringing into the new year, instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater and starting all over again?

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I’m just going to come right out and say it early – I myself am terrible at setting realistic expectations. I have been most of my adult life, come to that, but I live in the hope of reform.

I should be better, I know. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to learn about setting expectations, between two uni degrees, over a decade-long professional career, and years of racing triathlon. Yet despite the many, many disappointments I have experienced in each of these areas, I never fail to keep setting the bar too high for myself, and continuously setting myself up for failure. Ironically, it’s kind of become…an expectation.

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I’ll be honest with you straight up, I’m not even sure what possessed me to agree to an amateur boxing match. It certainly wasn’t my intention to fight when I signed up to the gym a year ago, I was actually just so bored running and cycling on my own for hours on end that I decided I wanted something a little more social (if joining a boxing club can be classed as social!). Another disclosure – I am prone to challenging myself in quite extreme ways and often things I consider highly entertaining and fun cause most of my friends to question my sanity. I guess this could be classed in the same category. Read More

I had an interesting discussion with a very close friend and colleague in academia about managing high workloads and the expectations and pressure placed on work output. Both of these topics have been major issues for both of us for most of our short careers, so the current situation and ensuing discussion was nothing new; sadly, it was quite familiar. So here we were on a Sunday night, she was home working on her laptop (as she had been doing all weekend in a desperate attempt to “catch up”), and I was on Skype for moral support and to “workshop” the issue of reducing her workload to a more realistic level, and integrating some steps towards work-life balance. Read More