Burnout is an epidemic. The WHO classified it as a syndrome in 2019, pre-pandemic saying defining it as “Chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”. And now? It’s a problem that has gotten even worse as moms have disproportionately been responsible for child care during the pandemic. 
Women in general truly try to be so many things for so many people and one of the very last things we are is for ourselves.  It makes us unhappy, getting the crumbs of who we are. We overextend ourselves, saying yes because we don’t know how to say no. We are people pleasers, everything to everybody, getting the short end of the stick. And in the end, we burn out. I know, it happened to me.

Here’s My Story

I landed my first job in my early 20’s, fresh out of college with a communications degree. I was hired as a desk clerk at a local company, but my understanding was that I would be up for a position as the communications director in the near future. Sure enough, a couple of years later the position opened and I was sure that I was a shoo-in for the job. Long story, but I was wrong. I was passed over to someone outside the company. 
I didn’t leave right then and there for a number of reasons, one being that there weren’t too many options in my town, population 10,000,  and another being that while I wasn’t in a position that I had thought I would be, I was starting to make money. But as time went on, while the pay and benefits were amazing, I was constantly stressed out. I was responsible for billing all 37,000 accounts, all customer complaint calls were sent to me, and on top of it all, I was struggling with fertility issues. This went on for years.
Fast forward to my late twenties. Now a mom of two, I was still under a lot of stress. There were times I'd leave and when I came back, there'd be 60 voicemails waiting for me with an hour left in the day. And that was hanging over my mind all night and into the next morning plus all the new calls. And it got to the point my anxiety was going through the roof. I’d been handling it and I just hit a wall. 

My Stress Eventually Caught Up With Me

One day, I was talking to a coworker, and all of a sudden, it felt like I wasn't in my body anymore. I felt like I was on the outside looking in. I was trying to talk to her but I didn't know what I was saying and I wasn’t making sense. Everything was going blurry and there were these strange lights in front of my head. They rushed me to the hospital and I ended up being life-flighted to the Neuro ICU at Vanderbilt University hospital. 
In the end, they told me that it was likely a mini-stroke, but they kept coming back to the fact that I was so young and they couldn’t understand what had brought it on. They also found a hole in my heart and diagnosed me with arrhythmia. Surprisingly, I went home after just two days. And then,  I went back to my stressful job. Except now I was wearing 8 heart monitors every day and also driving 2 ½ hours twice a month to visit heart specialists at Vanderbilt. I’m not sure why it took me so long, but I realized that I had to find a way out. 

I Found an Escape

During this time, I realized I needed an escape. I started getting ideas of things I wanted to make and began taking pictures of the home my husband and I had recently renovated and posted them to Facebook. I started getting a lot of really positive feedback from people. So I did more. I rehabbed pieces of furniture and was inspired to try new crafts. I wondered if I was as talented as my friends were saying. It just all came together and I started my blog. 
In the midst of everything going on at work and with a 2 and 4-year-old at home, all of my creativity worked its way out and I’d be up until 3 or 4 am blogging. I wasn’t making any money and I was still working full time, but it was the release I needed. And finally, six months later, when it came time to take a leap of faith, I was ready. I quit my stressful job, leaving behind a great salary and two retirements. But I could see the growth and I could see the potential.
I wasn’t making any money and I was still working full time, but it was the release I needed. And finally, six months later, when it came time to take a leap of faith, I was ready. 
It took 2 ½ years until I truly started making real money. And now I have two 7-figure businesses, a blog, and an online boutique. And when I look back, I know that had I gotten that Communications Director position, I would probably still be at the electric company, because I thought that was what my life was going to be. But as an entrepreneur, it’s so much better. I am living out my passion and my purpose. 

It Can Still Be a Struggle

When I left my stressful job, I didn’t all of a sudden cure myself of stress and anxiety for life. It’s a daily battle to keep my life in balance. But it has changed. Keeping it in balance when the pressure comes from something you are passionate about, isn’t as bad. Now there’s more pressure and the stress is there, but I’m so excited about what I do and love it so much, it’s different. I could even say that the stress I experience now is worth it. 
Here are my tips for how to keep it in balance:
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We all have 24 hours in a day and it’s up to us to make time for the things that make life worth living. A lot of times it’s not the job you’re doing that is making the bigger impact. Living in that moment too. Follow your heart to do the things you want to do in your own life. Nurture that part of your heart. You never know what those things can lead to later in life.


Brooke Riley