I was a “yes girl” when I started my career coaching practice in 2013. I’d speak on college campuses every week, stand at booths at college conferences (word of advice to new coaches—don’t do this!), and travel around the country for unpaid speaking engagements in hopes of attracting clients.
The good news? I got tons of clients and hit the six-figure mark within the first year, and I was in love with my work.
The bad news? Only eight months in, I got burnt out…It hit me like a ton of bricks.
I’m talking Netflix-binge-for-three-days, can’t-move-from-the-couch, pizza-delivery-guy-knows-me-by-name sort of burn out. It wasn’t pretty.
So what did I do? What any responsible business owner would do. I tied up loose ends with my clients and booked a month-long trip to Hong Kong where I sat on the beach eating watermelon popsicles, and doing a bunch of nothing.
The end result? I was still burnt out. When you let yourself run on empty for too long, it takes a lot to fill your tank back up. My burnout impacted my business, and I thank my lucky stars I was able to bounce back. But many people don’t. Burnout can be expensive. Here’s what it can cost you.
1. It will make you utterly exhausted.
Burnout doesn’t happen overnight, so it’s easy to miss the warning signs. Before you know it, the physical and mental exhaustion can take over your life: depression, anxiety, trouble concentrating, lost sleep, frequent illness, and chronic fatigue. And that’s not to mention that it can lead to heart disease, high cholesterol, obesity, and substance abuse. The toll that it takes on your physical and mental health is just not worth it.
2. Burnout will impair your job performance.
You might be working your butt off thinking it will help you get ahead, but, in reality, the opposite is true. Overworking yourself and failing to find a healthy balance in life will substantially impair your ability to perform, causing you to fall behind. As your ability to focus wanes, your engagement in your work will suffer. It’s a cycle that will continue until you regain control of the situation. We all want to succeed at work, but giving yourself a break to recharge is necessary to maintain your optimal performance.
3. It causes major losses for employers.
If you think you may be burnt out, know that you’re not alone. Stressed, burnt-out employees are prevalent in the professional world today, and it costs employers a lot, whether it’s due to increased healthcare costs, loss of productivity, or employees calling off. As many as one million people per day miss work because of stress. Studies suggest that all of this translates into a loss of anywhere from $150 billion to $300 billion annually for U.S. employers. The effects of burnout take a toll not only on individuals, but also on businesses and the economy.
4. Burnout can sabotage your personal life.
If you’re putting in long hours at the office and constantly buried in your phone when you’re not at work, chances are you’re not carrying your own weight at home. Relationships aren’t easy, but a mutually supportive dynamic is very important to a successful union. While that support will rarely ever be equally balanced at any single point in time, when it’s constantly tipped to one side, it can cause resentment to build and create a rift in your relationship.
Put yourself in your partner’s shoes: would you want to be completely responsible for all the housework, chores, and errands because your spouse or significant other is chronically absent, whether physically or mentally or both? If your answer is no (which it probably is), then it’s probably not what your partner wants, either, especially if they have their own job to worry about. Sure, we should always work to pick up slack for our partner when they need a boost, but when the burden is always on one person in the relationship, it’s going to cause problems.And that’s not the mention the unsavory effects of burnout on your personality: anger, irritability, depression, pessimism. Not exactly the type of person most of us would want to come home to at night, right?
Recognize if you are actually experiencing burnout: are you exhausted, experiencing anxiety, forgetful, frequently sick, or feeling isolated and detached? Making small, manageable changes goes a long way. I got through my burnout by developing healthy habits and sticking to them. I vowed to only check my email twice a day. I started exercising again. I made time to see friends. I made sure to have priorities in life other than just work. Most importantly, I stopped judging myself for “not working hard enough.”
I get it—you’re an overachiever, you’re gonna put on your cape, and run the world. That was my plan, too, when I first launched my company. But I realized, fortunately before it was too late, that the greatest success you can achieve is balance. We live in a world that celebrates complexity—you want to be interesting? Then simplify.
This first appeared in Forbes.