Back then I told myself I just didn’t have what it takes. My burnout was a clear sign of incompetence (or so I thought), so I pivoted to a new job or an entirely new industry.
These days, I recognize that the root of my burnout wasn’t a lack of ability. It was a lack of balance. I was a young professional eager to prove myself and gave 100% and then some. Behind the scenes, though, I was overworked, underpaid, and struggling to keep my head above water. It was an unsustainable lifestyle that no amount of talent could overcome.
How did I make the switch from a stressed-out, burnt-out young professional to a successful entrepreneur who enjoys both sides of work-life balance? Here’s what burning out and getting back up again taught me along the way.
Don’t buy the sunk cost fallacy
You spent time and money on a degree and dedicated years to your career. That doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it. There's still time to make the switch to a career you’ll enjoy long term; in fact, many of us are late bloomers. You can go back to school or transition into a new career using transferable skills. Consider your strengths, skills, and what you like and dislike about your current job, and use that information to identify jobs that are a good fit.
Going back to college is less weird than you think
You don’t have to quit your job or cram into lecture halls with a bunch of 19-year-olds. Colleges have caught onto the demand for flexible learning, and there are way more online degree choices today than in the past. I earned my teaching degree online, and it was way less stressful learning on my own schedule rather than lugging books to campus. They even helped me coordinate preclinical classroom experience and navigate my state’s licensing requirements.
Save your energy for what matters
Does the thought of adding more to your already-full plate sound like crazy talk? If you’re constantly running yourself ragged, you’re spending too much energy on things that don’t move you closer to your goals. My personal capacity multiplied when I started following these simple rules:
Stop saying yes to things you’d rather say no to. You’ll have more energy to do what you love.
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Overcomplicating makes things harder than they need to be.
Leave work at work (even if you work from home)
This is a lesson I first learned while teaching, and it’s even more salient now that I run a business from home. You’ll get more out of work and home when you maintain strong boundaries between the two. Turn off work notifications after hours, stop checking email first thing when you wake up, and, if you work remotely, have a dedicated office and shut the door at the end of the day. These simple steps will make your work-life balance feel much more, well, balanced.
Stop comparing yourself to others
There’s no quicker route to dissatisfaction than comparing yourself to others. While there’s value in staying abreast of the competition, you can’t expect your professional journey to look like anyone else’s. Instead of benchmarking yourself against others, set specific and measurable goals for yourself based on what you’ve accomplished and where you want to go. Remember that money isn’t the only way to measure success. Impact, lifestyle, learning, and growth are non-monetary yet just as meaningful.
Your career should fire you up, not burn you out. If you’re unhappy at work, take steps to create a career that’s compatible with the life you want. With firm boundaries, focused energy, and the confidence to step outside your comfort zone, you can find balance on your path to success.
Amy Collett is the creator of Bizwell.org, a website that helps professionals and entrepreneurs build and strengthen their personal brand. When she’s not busy with helping her clients she enjoys coaching her daughter’s soccer team and is training to become a yoga instructor.
Find more stories about wellness, work-life, and self-growth at Hot Mess on a Health Quest.