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Burnout - The Untold Story (Part One)

What is a burnout? The word we have heard so many times and perhaps most people still don't know what it means, or what to imagine behind it? Like many others, I initially thought it can be labelled as a modern day struggle, mostly affecting people with weaker character, professionals who don't manage their time efficiently and perhaps don't know how to unwind.

I couldn't be further from the truth...

Burnt match

"Burnout - The word we heard so many times and perhaps most people still don't know what it means, or what to imagine behind it?"

Let me tell you a story of my friend, let's call her Kay.

For many years Kay was working as an Executive Personal Assistant to a Celebrity client. She enjoyed the challenges of a demanding industry, a fast -paced environment where not a single day was the same.

From jet-setting around the world, seeing many beautiful places which stimulated Kay's passion for travel, experiencing the rush of engaging with, to her, unknown territory, cultures and people to spending exclusive time on privately chartered super yachts, allowing her to see the corners of the world which common people never experience in their life.

Sounds dreamy?

"Sounds dreamy?"

private yacht

Kay came from a very educated background, having studied Business Management in Oxford and building her career path on the solid ground of hard work and dedication. That's after all how she's been brought up, convinced that "Hard work pays off".

If you want to succeed, you need to climb the career ladder, start humble and make your way up.

This is exactly the mindset Kay entered the professional world with. Starting as an Assistant in Tech company alongside her studies to be able to earn some extra money to pay student loan from, to Executive Personal Assistant to Director of prestigious British school.

All this when her friends and peers enjoyed a gap year, traveled the world and focused on their personal rather than professional goals.

However tempting it was to just pack a bag, take a cheap flight somewhere to Asia or Australia, get a low paid job just to pay for the accommodation and all the fun things people her age were doing, Kay decided to stay focused, perhaps thinking she will miss out on some big professional opportunity so early in her career.

"If you want to succeed, you need to climb the career ladder, start humble and make your way up."

neon sign - work harder

Being in junior roles taught Kay what she was so eager to learn. From professional skills and practical knowledge to experiences which she thought were so important for her professional resume.

She was impressed by the big professional world, she felt like a pupil, learning from the older people around her. The way people communicate, dress, behave.. The large open space offices, glass sky-high buildings. Everything was so appealing, that Kay was convinced this is exactly the life she wants to lead.

She didn't know at that time she is setting a foundation stone to a future burnout and what she will experience will be far from the encouraging picture she just built.

Over the first few years of her demanding role as VIP Executive Personal Assistant, she lived in the same bubble she created in her early career stages, worked hard, dedicated all her free time to focus on her business. All enjoyable activities she used to do earlier in her life like horse riding, snuggling on a sofa with a good book or just chatting away with a friend seemed far away.

And for years, living the busy successful life was the key to her "pseudo-happiness". Until......

She was living in pseudo-happiness..

Kay especially enjoyed all the travel aspects of her role, thinking to see the outstanding beauty of the world is a privilege given only to few. From the realms of the seaside to the magnificent mountains, creating a picture in her mind that without this job, travelling is impossible.

She had the most amazing office in the heart of The City, overlooking River Thames.

Everyday upon travelling to work she felt a rush, thinking "Yes! I made it!"

And that's only a few of many aspects that kept her going despite the role starting to get more and more demanding, the feeling of overwhelm slowly creeping in. Her superiors were well aware of the increase of their demands but chose to push harder and continue, with only Kay taking on the responsibility for all of their escalated expectations.

It started slowly, as Kay was actually flattered she is put as the responsible figure for more aspects at her role, but one little drop every day mounts to a cupful at the end of the month. And that was only a start...

She believes it was never ill-fated, as they are so drawn away from the norm of the working society and day-to-day life. Whether it was deliberately done or not, we will never know.

sad girl sitting on sofa

Kay thought she lived life to the fullest. Enjoyed all the exclusivity her role can offer, and often found herself trying to unwind. To take away all the stress from working, practically 24/7, she was uplifting her poor mood by drinking alcohol, which became the every-day end-of-the-day MUST.

When there was actually some free time she could grab for herself, she went for a run, but not a healthy regular exercise, but a one-off ten mile run which she thought will clear her head a bit before working again. It seemed like living within the extremes was the way to go.

I think we can all see an unhealthy pattern building up right there..

When time came and her lifestyle caught up with her health, she fell ill. And that was something out of common as the stress and adrenaline of her job was keeping her on her toes at all times, which meant she was never ill. It was so bad she was admitted to a hospital and had to undertake a series of treatments and the recovery looked like weeks to months. You can probably guess how this was met by her superiors.?

I will let you wonder..

"I am not good enough for the role. I am not productive enough. It's not my superiors and the amount of demands, it's me!"

Her health began to falter, a slow descent into an uncertain abyss. The vibrant hues of life once painted her days now seemed to fade, and Kay got trapped in a vicious cycle.

And the worst of all, she started to self-doubt - "I am not good enough for the role. I am not productive enough. It's not my superiors, it's me!".

Kay started to push herself even harder to meet all expectations that have been put on her, dedicating her life to people who didn't acknowledge the value of it all.

....Upon her visit to the Doctor, she was ultimately signed off work due to BURNOUT.

................................ To be continued

I believe many professionals can relate in some way with Kay's story and in the next chapter I will bring you more insight on the Burnout Stages, in-depth look at the phases and ultimately share all the ways and tools on HOW TO OVERCOME A BURNOUT. Stay tuned for Part II.

Share this article with everyone you think might struggle with burnout.

Taking that first step to acknowledge the situation and realizing others face the same challenges can be incredibly empowering. Remember, you are not alone, and this challenging phase will eventually pass. Stay strong!"


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