WHY HITTING BURNOUT SAVED MY LIFE

silhouette photo of woman against during golden hour

By Samantha Harman, Award winning Editor and Personal Stylist

“It’s not my place to tell you this, really,” said the optician, staring at me sternly across the desk, “but you’re only young. The way you are working is insane and if you don’t start making time for wellness, you’ll need to prepare for illness.”

You know how sometimes people talk about the ‘wake up call’ that changed their life? This was mine.

Photo by Julia Volk on Pexels.com

For months – years even – I had been existing in a life that made me miserable.

I was an editor of newspapers. I had achieved the dream I’d held since childhood, despite all the odds stacked against me. This was it. The pinnacle. I’d made it.

So why did I feel burned out, jaded and anxious?

Newsrooms are tough places. You sink or swim. And due to massive industry changes over the last decade, the landscape looks totally different to how it was when I started.

The workload was massive and I’d often find myself at my desk late at night – I missed weekends, Christmases, even my own birthday party. But, hey, this was how it was SUPPOSED to be, right?! This is what it means to be ‘successful’ according to our society.

Go to school – get the grades – go to university – get a job (you’re already in massive student debt) – maybe if you’re lucky you’ll get a mortgage – work and work and work until you retire or die.

This is the corporate dream!…

So why does it feel like a nightmare?

When the pandemic hit, my work life went into overdrive. The news cycle was 24/7… and so was the amount of time I spent in the office.

Added to this was the increasing pressure from outside forces. You have to have thick skin to be a journalist. You are threatened and abused daily.

It got to the point where I was feeling incredibly cynical about the world. Every day, after a long shift, it was my responsibility to sweep through the hundreds of comments that had been left on our social media pages – absorbing it all. People aren’t accountable for what they say online. They don’t understand that what they type doesn’t disappear into the ether. It is read and processed by a human.

It all took its toll on me and I was exhausted. Having worked 40 days consecutively, a Saturday off finally rolled around… and I could not drag myself out of bed. When my husband eventually coaxed me downstairs with the promise of coffee, I couldn’t stop crying.

I began to get incredibly bad headaches, my eyes were so sore I could barely see. I went to get it checked out and that’s when the optician told me that my long-term, stress-related psoriasis had gotten into my eyes and caused an infection.

That was the moment she looked at me across the desk and changed my life.

All the signs had been there, but suddenly it was like I was seeing things clearly (despite my inability to actually see clearly!)

Why had I let myself become so depleted? Why had I allowed the opinions of others to weigh me down and limit my expectations for myself?

What was it I REALLY wanted from my life?

It was the middle of a pandemic, but I knew this was my moment for change. I knew I’d been putting off what I wanted to do, because despite the stress, bathing in these toxic, shallow waters kept me safe. There was a big, deep ocean out there and now I was ready to dive right in.

I’ve ALWAYS loved two things – women and clothes!
I’m one of three girls and I have a natural affinity to women. I love helping them shine.

I’d always managed to marry my personal style (think sequin peacock) with my workwear. This was no mean feat in a high-stress corporate environment, but I was determined to be authentic and, through my authenticity, encourage more women to do the same.

When I began posting my outfits on Instagram, I would get messages from women asking for my styling advice. In particular, they had questions around how to dress for work; how did they represent their brand through their clothing? If they had an important meeting upcoming, how should they dress?

Styling went naturally with my experience as a magazine editor and I could see there was a gap in the market for someone who could offer a complete personal branding package (styling, media strategy and confidence help).

And so I qualified as a personal stylist, hired a coach, quit the job that made me ill and decided to GO FOR IT.

Yes, some people told me I was mad. Didn’t I realise there was a pandemic on?! First of all – I’d done nothing but report on the pandemic for months… yes I knew about it, thanks.

Secondly; when people say something is impossible, they mean for them, not for you.

Mindset work helped me realise I’d spent a lifetime kowtowing to other people’s limitations and expectations.

There was a vibrant woman buried underneath a landslide of societal rubbish and I was determined to smash it all to pieces and find her again.

I know so many millennials feel like I did. We have been sold a lie. We’re taught that happiness is contained in material things – we spend our lives chasing milestones we’re conditioned to need and when we get them? We either realise this isn’t happiness OR we’re too exhausted to enjoy them.

My job now is to help other women level up, unlock their potential and find their confidence again. It is the most rewarding, wonderful work I could have hoped for.

Here are three things I’ve learned on my journey:

1) You are NOT trapped
When we have a calling in our souls, our ego tries to keep us safe by telling us all the things that could go wrong. You’ve got bills to pay, mouths to feed? Stay safe – stay stuck. Sure, you might be miserable, but.

But… but… here’s the thing. Whatever job you’re in right now; it isn’t guaranteed. We think there is safety in employment. And so we keep working towards someone else’s dream instead of going after our own.

You are NOT stuck. You have a choice. Don’t put your future and your happiness in someone else’s hands.

2) Mindset is EVERYTHING
You can have all the dreams you want. But until you tackle your blocks and put in the work, they’ll stay as that – dreams. I didn’t realise that I was carrying memories and lies that have shaped my experience as a woman. Some of them went back YEARS. It’s only by addressing these that you can properly move forward. Yes, it’s painful, yes it takes work. But I really do feel like a totally different person to this time last year.

3) There is no such thing as competition
‘But loads of other people are doing it’ – that’s something your ego will tell you about your business dream.

YES, they might have similar businesses… but they aren’t competition, because they aren’t doing it how YOU do it. The reason the Universe has given you a calling is because you are supposed to help people. And all the while you shrink yourself and ignore the idea that’s in your soul, you’re failing to use your gifts for what they were meant for.

Samantha is an award-winning editor and personal stylist, dedicating to helping women smash their goals. She made her way from trainee journalist to editor in the space of a few years, having funded her education by doing jobs like housekeeping and cleaning. She has been named Editor of the Year, Journalist of the Year and USA Today Individual of the Year. She was the first female editor of the Bucks Free Press in its 160-year history and today edits Oxfordshire Living. She founded The Style Editor in 2020 after being constantly asked by women how they could incorporate their personal style into their work wardrobes. She helps women level up their confidence through personal styling and media strategy. Her clients have been featured in the national press, on TV and radio. She can be found on Instagram @Samantha_style_editor http://www.thestyleeditor.co.uk

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