12/01/2014 09:45 am ET Updated Jan 31, 2015

Burnout's Silver Lining


To me, burnout always seemed a likely side effect of getting ahead. By sheer determination, I thought I could "win" against it or at the very least coexist with it.

I see now how bad it was. I was a workaholic -- checking emails in bed before my eyes had fully opened, thinking first of work before my family and my health. I was totally one-dimensional.

With that workaholism came a bunch of other -aholisms: I was a shopaholic, my saving and spending habits totally flippant. I was a foodaholic, with terrible workout and eating patterns -- yoyoing from intense structure to total binges. And I was likely an alcoholic, having no healthy outlet for my stress.

I witnessed my burnout and convinced myself I could live with it; it was a necessary side effect to a stable job with status. See, my burnout wasn't "real." That was Hillary Clinton and Arianna Huffington passing out, their bodies forcing a timeout. To me, those were extreme cases of extremely successful people.

I was delusional.

Had it not been for a move across the globe, I may not have made the changes that saved me from being consumed by my job and unhealthy lifestyle. Many of us need a slap upside the head in order to change. Otherwise we'd keep pushing forward in a steady state of burnout.

Catching your burnout is a gift that'll show you a better way. The silver lining to my burnout was two-fold:

1. The Glorification of Busy

Burning out highlighted my false expectation that to be successful I had to constantly feel pulled in every direction.

Truth is, busy doesn't signify power, greatness or success. It's simply the way we've set up our lives in an attempt to "do it all." The most enlightened people know that to find and sustain success, they have to say no.

2. Success Is an Inside Job

I learned that outward success can't be sustained without working on my inner wellbeing first.

We're constantly searching for the Holy Grail, this place we'll get to one day that'll lead to total happiness and fulfillment. This is so far off. There's no title, amount of money, or time when everything will fall into place. When we can finally exhale. We need to learn to make ourselves happy with our lives now. Otherwise, what's it all for?

If you've recognized an addiction to your work, the one-sidedness of your life and the exhaustion you're living with, not to fear. There's an easy way to come back from burnout:

Mindset shift

Changing your experience is a choice. Imagine watching yourself as a character in a scary movie. You see her walking through her dark house toward danger. What would you warn her against? What would you shake her and tell her to avoid? With burnout as the danger, give yourself that same advice. Decide to live differently.


Think about who you want to be versus what you want to be. My mentor says, no one reads your resume at your eulogy. Who do you want to be remembered as?

Make your goal happiness and wellbeing rather than money, recognition, title, or power. Showing up as your best self, in your zone, is how you find happiness in the present.

You'll notice yourself in that zone as a feeling of being energized and focused without much effort; where time flies. Pay attention to how it feels and when it shows up (in your personal or work life) -- our purpose is to create more experiences where you can be in your zone.

Own Your Assumptions

What do you believe is necessary in order to be successful? Get honest with yourself. Many times these show up as thought patterns: ____ needs to happen in order for ____ to happen (to make more money/feel stable in my job/make a change/be happy). Facing your assumptions can help you see the choice you have in living them or not.

Also, learn to flex your "no" muscle. In order to avoid being busy for busy's sake, eliminate any false expectations of what you should do. Right now, remove one should from your calendar.

Get Uncomfortable

If living in a state of burnout is your norm, you'll need to break habits and change a few addictive behaviors. Start small with technology. Try completely unplugging for 30 minutes a day -- no screens. You can work your way up to two hours a night or even up to a full day of tech detox as necessary. Use this time to meditate, to focus on the present, on stillness or on the people physically in your presence.

Treat Yourself

What would relax or reinvigorate you? An extra 30 minutes of sleep, a massage, a night out with your partner, an early morning run? Whatever it is, schedule it. Protect your health and wellbeing as you would someone you love. If you do nothing else, at the very least, sleep more!

Listen, the world won't end if you take time for yourself or don't respond to email instantly -- you won't get fired and business won't collapse. These small changes will lead you to a greater, more mindful level of success; one you'll be able to sustain long term.

In the end, burnout has a silver lining. It's a warning that we need to heed. Luckily, it isn't inevitable, and it's not hard to come back from. In fact, it's totally optional.

You don't have to trade in your success in order to avoid burnout. You simply have to decide to get there differently.

So I ask you, what assumptions do you have about success? Where can you work more within your sweet spot? Let us know in the comments below!

Anne Omland is a Leadership & Career Development Expert dedicated to helping women define their leadership style and use it to create meaningful success. She specializes in 2 distinct forms of career development: millennial women navigating corporate life and emerging female leaders looking to develop their leadership style. Her in-demand offering Discover Your Signature Style is a leadership assessment tool that helps you find where power and potential meet: think Buzzfeed survey meets personality test meets career advice. Click here to get started!