Charlie is 49-years-old he owns a management consultancy firm. He is also a father, a husband, an uncle, a son, a cyclist, an intelligent, fun loving quirky man.
Charlie has been working long hours for 12 years.
Before he set up his own business, Charlie was an employee working a 60-hour week, and he decided to set up his own business to have more time and freedom and hoping to spend more time with his wife and three children
His work life started to demand more and more of his time.
There never seemed to be enough hours in the day.
He skipped lunch and breaks thinking that bought him more time. He would do the calculation in his head, ‘half an hour each day works out at 10 hours back per month’.
Slowly over time Charlie started to think differently
‘Most days I can’t bear to go to work, but I am the main breadwinner and I have to provide and I can’t tell anyone I feel this way’
Charlie did not get the time, the freedom, or the ease he thought his own business would provide. Charlie was also plagued with thoughts zooming around his mind.
‘Every morning I sit in the car and I have a gut deep dread of the day ahead; it’s a living nightmare, and I can’t stop this zooming through my head, I feel like I’m driving myself mad’
‘I feel, most days, no one truly appreciates me’
‘My mind used to be sharp, and quick, now I’m unable to think things through properly’
‘So many things make me angry, even the smallest things, noise, lighting, people’
He started to feel desperate at times. He hated going into work, he hated finding out that there was more work that needed to be done. ‘My head is so full I can’t take another thing’
Charlie became hyper-sensitive to even opening emails for fear there were more things to deal with, more bad news. Charlie was often angry with others who did not do their job well, and he had to keep picking up the slack.
Charlie started having headaches, and digestive problems, after 2 years of these symptoms; he finally went to his GP.
‘I’m anxious, all the time and I can’t put my finger on one thing’.
His GP told him he was over worked and needed to calm work down. Charlie just thought that meant he couldn’t hack the normal pace of life. Thing was, Charlie had gotten used to taking on tons of responsibility and working long hours. That became his ‘normal’. He also believed that if he slowed down other business owners would overtake him; they would prosper whilst he took his ‘eye off the ball’.
Charlie had no space left to deal with any more demands on him because he had been giving his all and more for so long. He was overwhelmed and deep down feeling depressed. His hard work got him this far, but it started to wear him out.
‘I’m embarrassed about feeling worn down, and I don’t want to tell anyone’
It was not that Charlie was weak, it was actually the opposite, he was too strong, and able to override his need for rest, time off, relaxation and fun.
‘Some days I wonder what would happen if I just keep walking away, driving, or stayed on the train?’
Charlie started to have shortness of breath; panic; and couldn’t take a deep breath. A low level of anxiety was getting worse. He noticed getting to work was harder, doing the job was harder; in fact, everything was harder even the simplest of tasks.
Charlie did not tell anyone what was going on. Charlie did not realise he was burning out; he thought he had to keep going he’d eventually adjust to the pressures; he HAD to provide for his family and do the ‘right thing’.
After 6 months of feeling this way, Charlie collapsed in the bathroom at home, and was later diagnosed with exhaustion, and depression. Charlie needed medication for a while and was signed off work for two months.
That turned into 6 months off, which caused considerable stress to him, his family, and his business.
Charlie eventually got help having spoken to a friend who had been through something similar years before; he had not spoken about it either. As well as the medication, Charlie found someone to talk to who understood burnout and how traumatic it can be. Charlie learned how his work ethic, his feeling of responsibility, and his business demands became a toxic and unliveable mix.
Charlie made major adjustments:
- Cut hours
- Employed an assistant
- Ate better
- Learned to relax
- Spent time with family
- Had therapy
- Connected with friends again
Charlie was forced to approach himself differently, his thinking, and work. He went on to run his business and his life in a way that he enjoyed, could stay well, and make good money.
“You’re worth looking after. Burnout is costly in so many ways”
This case study of ‘Charlie’ is real in content but a fictional character.‘SAYING YES TO THAT CUP OF TEA YOU THINK THERE’S NOT TIME FOR IT COULD SAVE YOU FROM BURNOUT’