My Journey: From Corporate Burnout to Free

by | Mar 24, 2023 | Workplace Stories

I used to believe that if I took a day off, my team, my work and my clients would fall to hell in a hand basket. As my Dad fought for his life, I said yes to every meeting. “CB2, coming at you live, from the trauma ICU.” Ego was in charge of my life and it almost killed me. I worked 60+ hour weeks. I said yes to more responsibility and more clients in the midst of a family crisis. I spent more nights away on business than I did at home. I said yes to ‘more’ to prove I was strong- that I was a team player, and loyal employee who belonged in her corporate role. That narrative was supported and rewarded. I traveled further and further away from myself. My priorities were totally f’d and I started suffering from corporate burnout mentally, physically and energetically.

I chased “success” and sacrificed the things I needed to be healthy.

I allowed my relationships, sleep, yoga, meditation, the hobbies I loved and my sacred silent time to do absolutely nothing to slowly melt away. My soul food took a back seat to “success.” I kept every ball in the air and put myself at the end of the line. I arrogantly believed the world would stop spinning if I dropped a single one. I was ridiculous.

I worked to the brink of mental and physical exhaustion.

I wound up in the hospital with blood pressure so high I was kept for two days for observation and grounded from flying. My marriage started crumbling. I became a stressed-out shell of myself. When I looked in the mirror, I saw an exhausted woman I pitied and no longer recognized. But hey, I was damn good at my big job.

Stepping away was the first courageous step I took in my corporate recovery.

Just before my proverbial bottom completely dropped out, I made a decision that totally changed my life. I stepped away and took family leave for six weeks to support my family while my Dad recovered from his life-threatening accident. It was the first step to what I call my ‘corporate recovery.’ I briefed my team, trusted them to take over and let go of my sassy ass ego. I powered down my Mac, stuck it in a drawer and permanently set my phone to ‘do not disturb.’ I totally unplugged from work and social media.T

hose weeks reminded me that life is precious and that living is being present for it. I remembered that my career was only a small slice of who I was. I chose to let go of my ego and my need to control and be present in my life. Then the most amazing thing happened.  As I let go of all the useless crap I’d been lugging around, I discovered a kind of beautiful awareness and peace that I’d been longing for.

I chose to live differently.

I slept, meditated and practiced yoga. I spent hours holding my Dad’s hand, supporting my Mom and sitting in silence doing absolutely nothing. I tended my soul. I found the presence I’d willingly surrendered. I learned the world could spin just fine without me and in that knowledge, I found the perspective I needed to heal myself, heal my relationships, and understand what mattered most. Day by day, I found my way back to myself and I started living again. I resigned two months later.

This picture represents the point in time when I realized fear is a liar that keeps us stuck, bound and hopeless. It reminds me of the moment in time that I was courageous enough to choose myself because I had the good sense to pause long enough to understand what truly mattered in my life. This picture captures the essence of the woman who chose to walk away from a super healthy paycheck and the security of a company to live life on her own terms, without any certainty.

* I help people navigate career transition through mindfulness based life coaching. If you’re ready to start a new chapter in your own career, let’s talk. 

Cole Baker-Bagwell

Master Certified Professional Coach

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