Burnout is not just a buzzword—it's a real and serious issue that affects many of us in the workplace.
This is the second of a two part conversation where I invite Antoinette Daniel to share her personal experience with burnout.
Continuing the conversation, we delve into the recovery process after burnout. Antoinette highlights the importance of taking breaks, both small and big, and shares her experience of going on a solo trip to a desert island as a form of self-care. She discusses the need to set boundaries, prioritize well-being, and focus on self-care without feeling guilty. Antoinette also addresses the challenges of being an overachiever and perfectionist, and how she learned to prioritize and say no to additional commitments.
Antoinette is a former PE teacher, now entrepreneur who is passionate about seeing justice done in all areas of her life. She is the founder of an award-winning London cleaning agency called ‘Just Helpers’ and they are aiming to make the world a better place, one clean at a time. Strong justice Ethics are at the heart of all they do.
Find more about one of Antoinette’s business, Just Helpers
And connect with her on LinkedIn
Big shout out to my podcast magician, Marc at iRonickMedia for making this real.
Thanks for listening!
Life is way too short to persevere in a role or a situation that is not nourishing you differently to the stresses of everyday work life, but something that is systematically not nourishing you and allowing you to thrive, leave, life's too short. I genuinely think that the stress of it shortens your life. Eventually it negatively impacts the relationships with yourself and with those around you. So jump, I'm a fan of just saying jump. You might land with a broken bone, you might scuff your knee a bit, but the view on the other side is usually worth it. It really is. I'd come over here it's yes. And that's someone that I would say I'm on my third career change. Now I've got another pivot in the I know it and I'm excited by it. It's not as scary as you think when you're standing preparing to leap. I mean, it's, it's scary, but it's not going to wreck your life that can only make it better.Catherine Stagg-Macey:
Welcome to unset work. I'm your host, Catherine Stagg Macy and executive and team coach, I am interested in the conversations that we don't have at work. This week's episode is a continuation of the conversation on the topic of burnout that I had with Antoinette Daniel last week. In last week's episode, Jeannette shared very openly about her two of her experiences and burnout, what was going on? How did she know that she was burned out what she did her learnings and her wisdoms that she was gathering at that point, we kick off this episode, continuing with her third experience of burnout. And then we really get into the details of her recovery process, we talk honestly about what we see, as the expectation of the time it takes to recover both of us have a view on that, as you say, as a lot of her wisdom about setting boundaries, daily routines, small and long breaks, and the need for a lot of self compassion. I'm so very grateful for her willingness to come on and share all the experiences. She says in the episode talking about it is even hard for her. Even though her experiences are in the rearview mirror. It's dropping a pickup on our conversation, starting with the experience of her third burnout. The third burnout scenario and more recent ones in your 20s as you came up to your 40s, and then a more recent one, that wasAntionette Danielle:
post COVID. That was the more challenging one because I didn't recognize it. I just thought we're all stressed. We've all been through a pandemic, everyone should be feeling this way. I've got no right to take my foot off the gas right now. My company depends on me, my people depend on me. This is just tiredness from COVID. And again, still not adding up the dots that this was heading for burnout Central. Fortunately, I had a series of one to one. So if you Catherine and you had the grace and the expertise to very gently name it, actually naming it and saying out loud, I was able to connect the dots and put plans in place to not go so deep down that path. But I would say it's taken me. So COVID was 2020. I think we met towards the end of that year.Catherine Stagg-Macey:
That's about right here.Antionette Danielle:
Where are we? We're 2023 I would say turning the corner into this year, and beginning to feel myself. I mean, my sparkle came back but not full tilt.Catherine Stagg-Macey:
I think it's such an interesting point there that it takes from where I'm sitting with some experience, but also watching so many times go through this cycle. The recovery time is so much longer than what you think it is. And clients say to me, I'm just going to take a two week break. I'll be back. I'll be fine. I'm like, complete bullshit. Yeah, it's like it's just not it's just not going to do it. Yeah. You never said that. There was there wasn't even enough experience with it. I think people are horrified to realize how much space they've got to give themselves to rehearse.Antionette Danielle:
I realize more and more. I can't I can't afford to get there because the recovery takes so long. So when I met you, I was talking about a four week sabbatical. And that felt terrifying. And you managed to negotiate me into an eight week sabbatical, which felt awful, and I came back from that eight week feeling as exhausted on day one. Another thing that you helped me to see like you asked me to name my ideal break, because she said, I need a series of breaks. Not just one big break, but many breaks and big breaks. And I remember getting very tearful in that session where I admitted I think what I need is to go away alone to a desert island almost. And as we wrote it all out, it felt really selfish and indulgent and expensive, but I did it. And it was one of the best things I have ever done for myself. And now is a routine that I will do every year. And I actually stipulate like I think I want to go to a black majority country that sounds awful. But no it's I got off that plane I blended in I collided along with every other black person didn't stand out and then just retreated by myself. So that was all part of walking away from a situation that wasn't a full blown burnout. So how much more if I really hit the skids without with each burnout that I've had it's taken nearly two years to fully come back to myself.Catherine Stagg-Macey:
If I was to reflect on that why that might be the case is the wheels of the of the bus keep Having to keep on turning. You don't get to check out of life for a period of time and you still have to pay the bills, maybe in reduced way. Or often people go back into the system and which created the burner like an organizational system. And as I always say, you can't recover from burnout in the system that created it. It's just not the way you just can't do then you've got an eye look for another job. Yep. I worked with people where I'm thinking you actually need to be out of here, in order to recover, that you've lost all your confidence and energy to go looking for a job. Yes, it is heartbreaking to see people there. Because the decks that are stacked against them in the recovery.Antionette Danielle:
That's the scary place of it all, you're overwhelmed anyway, you're in a system that keeps you overwhelmed, but you're needing to make some really tough life changing decisions with nothing left in the tank. And so I think at every stage, it's taken someone external to almost lift my head out of the bucket and say, Look up. SOS, we need to do something drastic.Catherine Stagg-Macey:
I mean, that's my experience as a coach, like the number of times I've had to go, this is burnout. You know that? Because I think we are in deep denial. Yes. Not me. Not this time. Yes. I can't. I haven't got hunger time for you. I'm just tired. Yes. Yeah. It's someone else's story. Yes. In my role has happened to see a fair bit of it's so freakin obvious. And they're like, really? Yes. No, yes, yes. But I nailed it. No, I did that in 2018. I'm not doing that again. It's like, yes, I would never do that. Again. I've said my whole life, but wouldn't do it again. Return to exercise. I mean, if you if someone's listening to this, then going, Gosh, I recognize so much of what entity is talking about in terms of the symptoms, the signs, the red flags? What would you if someone's possibly, if they're thinking they might be in burnout? What would you be suggesting to them, if you were mentoring them,Antionette Danielle:
be honest with yourself and acknowledge the markers that can be hard to get help. So get somebody that can journey alongside with you, to help you stay on the path out, whether that's a coach, a life coach, a business coach, a mentor, I would definitely say seek some sort of therapeutic or medical intervention, as well. There is no shame in needing whatever help, whether it's tablets, medication, all of the things that strong people don't do. All of those are just tools, right tools to get you back to yourself and get you back on track. So utilize all of them. At some point, you've got to ask yourself, this very big question is staying in the situation that I'm in worth jeopardizing my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health? Long term? And that's a tough question, because invariably, the answer is going to be no. But once you can say no, then you can start to think about, okay, what's the worst that's going to happen if I stay here? Armageddon, probably. So is a period of unemployment better than Armageddon? Yeah, is admitting to friends and family that I'm not coping better than Armageddon. Yeah, is being admitted to a psychiatric unit. Because that's where we're heading, is that better than having a couple of months out? And trying to give myself a break and figure out what's the way forward? So you start to be able to face some of these very difficult questions when you can really see the situation that you're in, name it call it toxic. And think about what are the other solutions that could be out there, including almost doing nothing? That's got to be better than this. Right? SoCatherine Stagg-Macey:
get help. I love that then that fit the fit the facing the fear, and then once my greatest, because I'm staying here because I'm fearing something else, and employment, telling my son a loved one. Yes, whatever that is, and really looking straight in the face. Yeah, it's a great, it's great advice.Antionette Danielle:
You're not just gonna wake up one day be able to do that. So it's why I think you need a cheerleader that walks alongside with you,Catherine Stagg-Macey:
clients, get doctors to sign them off. In terms of your catalogue of medication. So I think that's in there. And I think, different from 25 years ago, and your first experience, I think doctors are much more I don't know if they're necessarily capable of coping with it, but they were willing to go yes, I will sign you off. And then the organization has to deal with right that's it.Antionette Danielle:
I've actually I've even written that down like get signed off work. One on one. But yeah,Catherine Stagg-Macey:
you're not like your head was like, well, either we cut your pay. While there was hardly a reasonable choice. I will set a client ended up being admitted to a psychiatric, he was at the time but ended up being in a psychiatric unit. went that far. I mean, it's real. It is yeah, it's a possible partner when that you want to go down. If you're listening going, I don't think I'm burned. I could perhaps if I carried on and six to 12 months I might be on the path. What advice would you be giving around changing course ahead of time.Antionette Danielle:
I would say that life is way too short, to persevere in a role or a situation that is not nourishing you differently to the stresses of everyday work life but something that is system statically not nourishing you and allowing you to thrive, leave, life's too short, a genuinely think that the stress of it shortens your life eventually negatively impacts the relationships with yourself and with those around you. So jump, I'm a fan of just saying, jump, you might land with a broken bone, you might scuff your knee a bit. But the view on the other side is usually worth it. It really is.Catherine Stagg-Macey:
I'd come over here, it's great. Yeah,Antionette Danielle:
yes. And that's someone that I would say I'm on my third career change. Now I've got another pivot in me, I know it, and I'm excited by it. It's not as scary as you think when you're standing, preparing to leap. I mean, it's scary. But it's not going to wreck your life, it can only make it better. So take courage, get help get people around you that will cheer lead you on and then jump. There are plenty of people that want to need the skill set that you have. And I think particularly in this economy, where we're needing people to show up and be brilliant, you will fit better somewhere else.Catherine Stagg-Macey:
I often say to people who are living in a toxic environment and have toxic bosses I said, I promise you and I know this because I work with these people there are amazing human beings out there trying to do good stuff in organizational context creating healthy organization healthy cultures, where you thrive as gets the call staff and you get a boss understanding this is an authentic support you they exist. They're not unicorns, I promise. I know these people. So I think a lot of it's like, well, what if I jump? I think people stay. I'm always amazed at people's tolerances for putting up with toxic environment. And I think it's because then maybe there's nothing better. And then there's always something better, always something better.Antionette Danielle:
There is the advent of zoom, where we can now work anywhere in the world where we can work from home where we can travel and work. There are so many more options available to individuals now. More exciting. It's an exciting time to be around.Catherine Stagg-Macey:
Yeah, I saw recently a there's quite a few of them now. But you can get these lists of jobs that are 100% remote and digital. So you could be anywhere in the world. I mean, I call it tackles that back. Just gonna be like, Okay, I'm gonna work in Bali, and I'm gonna find a job working from the word go that the organization's Yeah, you can care where you work. We kill the app, but not where you are. Yeah, I mean, that's not for everyone. But that's there. Also, as you say, there are lots of exciting opportunities. You also said something it made me think about the signs of admitting where you are. There's a kind of recently this week, he said he gets 200 emails a day in his inbox. None of that is spam. All of that internal emails. He's emailed books is completely out of his control. If you add that up, it's 50,000 emails a year. Wow. And I think there are, I think there's some signs that are outside of you like your inbox, your relationship, the inbox is like a canary in the mind. I think, if it's out of control like that, there's other biggest systemic problems going on in the organization, the culture and expectations of you that are just outrageous. And that's not going to end up well. I would agree the same breath he gets and I'm five, five minutes ago, he said to me, he's on blood pressure medications. And make your head might be fine. Yes. Your body is not Yeah, no, really, I'm fine. Your blood pressure is. I mean, it's so interesting. I'm having an argument with him when his own doctor is saying you're, you've got some issues going on. Sometimes we're more awake to the signs external to us, if we're not then in tune with our body and what the messages are that our body is giving us.Antionette Danielle:
And again, I would say that's probably a perfectionist, High Achiever trait. So my body always knows, is always trying to tell me things are not right. My mind is like shut up and get on with it. We're doing fine. So yeah, again, learning to look at triggers, what's not even the triggers the behaviors that I'm exhibiting and then reversing that, ah, hang on, you're doing a, b and c, could you bet up? Could you be stressed? These are the kinds of conversations that I have to have with myself.Catherine Stagg-Macey:
What you're demonstrating so beautifully is like it's an ongoing dance of personal exploration and compassion and curiosity and maybe a bit of laughter like, Oh, my God, I'm here again. Instead, I wouldn't be here again. I ended up yelling at the dog the other day for nothing. And you're like, Wow, what's that about? Why am I here? I've been doing all the things I said I would do and everything seems to be okay. And yet, here I am. That's a sign for me that the lack of compassion, the lack of empathy for others, is a warning sign.Antionette Danielle:
One thing I have instituted a couple of years ago with two friends to friend, business women. We have a Monday morning check in and we designed a 10 point scale, where 10 is like barley, what Nick 10 is for me, lying on my back in the Caribbean seas, looking at the sun with a margarita being sworn out to me. That's 10 One. One is my toes. I'm standing on the underground, and I'm thinking about jumping. These are two scenarios that have happened in my life. And so every Monday, we ask for a number between one and 10. And our rule with each other is six is not great. You're allowed to six but if you've got three sixes in a row, there's an intervention that happens that Monday and question didn't get arcs okay, it's cool that you're seven, what could make it an eight or what's making it seven. But it's a weekly check in, that could just simply be a number it takes 10 seconds every Monday, but it's to other people that are just asking you those tough questions as well, very quick, but very regular, and makes you stop and think every Monday. Oh, that's interesting. And this number, so it's just a little bit of mindfulness once a week. And support Yeah,Catherine Stagg-Macey:
from people that people are completely committed, and the vulnerability and sharing together and something like your therapist asking you would always feel so one sided? Yes. What, what's your experience of burnout, having experienced burnout, but what's changed around how you set boundaries, using the word know,Antionette Danielle:
potentially nothing, but that's not true. So I have fire breaks every week. So Sunday is a day, which is virtually low tech, I wander away from my screens, I don't commit to anything beyond church on a Sunday, I have a big nap and give myself permission to do that. So there's that rhythmical rest that happens, I've finally understood that I am not Superwoman, or the Savior of the world. And that if I say no to a potential mentee, or anything, really that the world is not going to crumble. So I have, I mentor people, but I only allow myself to have a certain number of people ever on the go, so to speak, so I can be fully present for them. And I will say to anyone else, I have a waiting list. And that's it. Full stop. And that's even people that are desperate to mentor, because I really can't wait I had on the waiting list. I have this annual holiday. Now that is just me. And I'm unapologetic about it. Now. I revel in it. I'm that woman with her iPad and her glasses on. It's just basically say no go away. And I'm unashamed about that. I've identified who my life givers are and who my life drainers are, I have time for all of them. But I have more time for my life givers. And at peak times that matter to me. So, you know, I've had to train myself to say I've become more selfish, because it's not selfish, I've become more nourishing towards myself and ensure that I've got more things that give me life to enable me to give life to others to more people. So a lot more taking care of myself. And a lot of that is because of the accountability things I'm setting off as well, that have people holding me to account for some of these behaviors and habits that I really want to build.Catherine Stagg-Macey:
There's a thing that I like to just say no to protect your Yes. And I hear that's everything you've just said. And there's been a box like there's lots of nose but it's in in order to. For the Yes to be a big yes. Because I'm fully here, I'm presently my energies here. Absolutely all wisdom has to get to this place. Yes. And your experience of burnout has that influenced your aspirations and goals in any way?Antionette Danielle:
That's a really challenging one. And harder when you own your own business. But I think more than anything, there's a sense of legacy that I want to leave behind in the world, that by owning a business, there's a sense of privilege of being able to dictate your own path a bit more. There's still challenges with that. But I have more control now over what I will say yes to what my business will say yes to who I will have in my business, what I've realized is that I'm finite, and I have the potential to break. I've worked hard, all my life. And I find myself saying quite often it's my time now I'm ready to live the life that I want. So I invest a lot more time and energy in that and the life I want. It's still serving people, right? It's still aligned with all my values. But it's about being really mindful and really intentional about what I give my finite energy to, so that I can maximize my impact and my joy in the world. It was a big thing for me.Catherine Stagg-Macey:
I can relate to that. There's a humility that I've learned over the years around, I can't do everything. And the things that I matter. I want to do wells back to like the overdue and collection of stuff. So there's got to be a lot more stuff that I don't do that I don't take on. And it's an identity thing for me. I don't know why it is for you, this South African leader who says yes to everything. You can do everything from fighter snake to build a business like I there's something in this African persona that's so overly tough, nothing takes us down. I had a South African friend of mine stay last weekend. Like we're just as bad as each other. It's not helpful. I mean, that's on a path, that that form of identity that is mine, and it's not yours, but there's my sense of how I identified with myself. I have to come up with a space and then identity because that's that puts me on the path to burnout. I can't do everything. I'm not some Superwoman I guess. Danny I know it's ridiculous Yeah, so me it's about dialing back goals and aspirations. Darling, nothing back maybe be more choice for not realistic it's just stressful. As a 50 year old menopausal woman, what do I have the capacity for the energy for the time for me Things get more intentional never more joyous for me. And and if you feel the same way,Antionette Danielle:
yes, absolutely. And I'm realizing that my younger self, wanted to change the entire world. My older self says I've been placed in a corner of the world. And I just want to impact that, even if it only involves the person right next to me. Because who knows what they'll go on to do and change and be. And so it's just taking a lot more satisfaction in the small actions, the lesser number of people and recognizing that they're not less significant. It's as significant if I show up with my whole self into that situation. Who knows what ripples will happen, and I'm content with that. But yeah, less, less is more. And I'm okay with that. Now.Catherine Stagg-Macey:
I want to thank you for your time and spin it like you've been so open and that deep conversation sharing some stories and some of the aspects I didn't even I didn't know. So for the sake of our people listening who might be feeling burned out or might have someone they love on the path to burnout, industry grateful for you showing up and finding a time for this conversation. My pleasure. Thank you internet for her time and her vulnerability and sharing her journey of burnout is such a tough place to be in and if you're concerned about your mental health, please get advice from healthcare professional, here's my parting tips for you, if you are feeling burned out, is recognize that you are on an island of burnout with kindness. You didn't do anything wrong to get there. It's not your fault. It's just where you are. And I think this is the unhelpful narrative of where we take too much responsibility for being where we are and organizations don't take enough creating circumstances that put you there. As you've heard from internet creating a space to recover like whatever is possible. You take extended leave, get a sick note from your doctor remove responsibilities and expectations of you. Asking them to take over care responsibilities at home step away from the project you've just said yes to your whatever it is, you're just going to need some space to recover and allow yourself that D space to heal and recover. Now the timeline here is months. It's not weeks, it's months, your environment, your life, the small things of joy, that you know whatever that means your slow cup of coffee a long walk, allow your body your soul to catch up with your body and know that none of this is permanent. If you recognize where you are, you can build a bridge to get out of here. So yeah, appreciating internet sharing a story I think we learn and we heal through understanding that we aren't alone in these can feel like weighty dark times. So that's it my friends. This is your lien woman signing off until next week.