In my former corporate life, I was living the dream. The position and title I held where literally created just for me, and I loved every single aspect of my budding career. The busyness, the travel, the long days, the high profile projects – it all fed my ambitious drive for success.
And success was achieved – so much so that I climbed the corporate ladder from starting off as a contractor with a 4-month assignment to being promoted to an Assistant Vice President within three years, and all before my 30th birthday.
Ya girl was on fire!
Everything was going my way – but it came at a price.
And it would be another four years into my career before I fully understood what my lack of boundaries would eventually cost me.
As a glimpse … at the height of my career, I managed a team that maintained compliance oversight for 52 independent centers across the country. And I traveled to these different centers a lot – for the first four years of our marriage, my Husband literally only saw me on the weekends. I also had to meet frequently with my East and West coast partners, so my often double or triple booked schedule kicked off around 5am and would easily extend beyond 6pm to accommodate their availability. I regularly sustained myself on coffee, adrenaline and pure grit.
To put it mildly, the boundaries in place around my time sucked. I would met whenever, with whomever and do whatever it took, even if that meant no rest and sleepless nights – which over time became my new normal.
But eventually, I started to feel unusually tired. The kind of tired that no matter how much coffee I drank, I never felt energized.
Then I started having these unexplainable headaches. The pain in my head was both consistent and distracting. It wouldn’t go away no matter how much Tylenol I took.
Soon after the headaches started, so did the crying. The moment my boss would give me even the slightest constructive feedback on a project, I’d cry. Like I’d have to leave my desk, go outside, cry it out and then regroup to pull my shit back together kind of crying.
There would be days that I’d be sitting at my desk and just not feeling ‘right’ so I’d walk over to the company nurses station only to discover that my blood pressure was sky high. The well meaning nurses would inquire about new stress or pressure I was under at work and I’d always reassure them that nothing new was happening with me – just business as usual.
Then came the negotiations. Before leaving for work, I would literally stop at the front door and beg my Husband, tears running down my face for him to cosign on me staying home from work. I couldn’t articulate why, but in those moments I was just so overwhelmed by the mere thought of going into the office.
I knew I was in trouble the morning I drove myself into the office, and on the way my palms started to sweat, my heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest, tears flowed from my eyes, my breathing was labored and it felt like I had a million thoughts racing through my mind all at once.
I was in a full blown panic attack in the middle of morning rush hour traffic.
Once I safely made it to work, I walked to my desk, called my Husband and told him what had happened during my commute, that I was leaving the office and would be coming back home soon.
The next phone call I made was to a psychologist.
A couple of prescriptions, a lot more tears and six weeks of short-term disability later, I turned in my resignation letter and said goodbye to my corporate life.
Burnout – 1.
Me – 0.
Looking back, I recall a conversation I’d had with a coworker of mine a few years prior. He’d been watching how much I’d been working (and how little I’d been living) and he approached me with his concern about my quality of life. He encouraged me to slow down, rest and pace myself. He clearly saw the writing on the wall, while I however, still had blinders on.
My response to his concern was the equivalent of ‘ain’t nobody got time for that.’
I had goals to crush, money to make and future promotions with my name on them. Investing in rest was not a priority of mine.
In hindsight, my lack of boundaries around my time cost me so much – my career, my financial stability and my physical and mental health.
But a version of my journey, does not have to be your reality. There is a way to accomplish your ambitious vision and live your best life, and it starts by taking care of your greatest asset – you. Below are some quick #RescueRituals you can begin to use right now to help you set boundaries and invest in rest:
Set an ending for your day – work will expand to fill the time you give it, meaning it will always be there. So set an end time for your day, work your ass off during the time you set aside for work, then keep the promise you made to yourself and end your day on time.
My time in Corporate America now seems like a lifetime ago. Now I spend my days helping my private clients infuse self-care into every aspect of their lives - including their business operations. I help them get ‘ish done, without burning themselves out.
Establishing healthy boundaries is a form of self-care. As a self-care expert, I’ve developed systems to hold space and protect the time I need to successfully juggle being a wife, mom and entrepreneur.
My calendar tool for example, only allows one-on-one coffee dates with me or other networking connections to be scheduled on certain days within a particular timeframe. Saying yes to a coffee date outside of those established boundaries, has the potential to distract me from important quality time with my Cub. And that’s simply a tradeoff that I’m not willing to take.
And in practicing what I preach, I too have lunch (the nap notation is for the Cub lol) scheduled on my calendar each and every day. It’s time that I take to make and enjoy some yumminess with my son when he gets home from preschool. We sing, talk about his day and usually play a game while we sit at the table and enjoy lunch together. And once he’s down for his nap, I resume my afternoon hours in my office. For the way that I’m wired, having that relational self-care infused into my daily schedule is critical and serves as a battery recharge to get me through the rest of my workday.
I’d love to hear from you about how a lack of time has been a hurdle to you practicing consistent self-care. Send me an email at email@example.com
Until next time, take care of yourself!