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I was on the verge of burnout. Here’s what happened when I took almost a month off

Designer Autumn Adeigbo was watching her dreams come true but simultaneously felt exhausted and had a hard time staying positive. Then she forced herself to take time off.

I was on the verge of burnout. Here’s what happened when I took almost a month off
[Photo: Deanna Ritchie/Unsplash]

This past year was a major year of growth for me and my company. In 2019, I raised more investment capital and launched our collection on Rent the Runway, one of the fastest-growing fashion startups of the past decade. And after applying to about 100 accelerators, pitch competitions, and venture capital firms, I finally landed my dream fellowship with Tory Burch. I was feeling very lucky, watching my dreams come true before my eyes.

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But simultaneously I was exhausted and having a hard time staying positive. Why was I feeling so tired and anxious around work?

I was on the verge of burnout. The Mayo Clinic says, “Job burnout is a special type of work-related stress— a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” According to a recent Gallup study, two out of three workers feel burnout at some point. The reasons vary from person to person, but all the factors in Gallup’s report spoke to what I was going through.

Unfair treatment at work

It’s well documented that female entrepreneurs are not treated equally to our male counterparts. For me personally, it’s compounded by the fact that I’m a black female founder. Women are often overqualified and underfunded, and many of us have families and children to support at the end of a workday.

Unmanageable workload

My workload had dramatically increased, but my everyday support had not. I handled what seemed like everything: design, product development, sales, team management, production, customer service, capital raising, office management, marketing, travel, writing articles, cleaning, working out, eating healthy, and managing social media. Sometimes I felt a little overwhelmed.

Lack of role clarity

Small-business owners have so much on our plates as we manage all aspects of our business. You certainly feel a lack of role clarity when your job in the early days is to make sure everything gets done.

Lack of communication and support from a manager

Managing myself as a first-time entrepreneur, I often wonder if the choices I’m making are the right ones. Even the question of whether I’m working too hard or not working hard enough can be an agonizing battle of indecision.

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Unreasonable time pressure

I constantly feel the stress of having way too much to do and not enough time to do it.

Making the decision to let go and take time off

And then by chance, after eight months with zero time off, I was afforded the opportunity to invest in two areas critical to avoiding burnout, according to the Mayo Clinic: relaxation and work-life balance. I took most of the month of August to recharge in both ways.

Relaxation

During the first part of August, I traveled to Los Cabos, Mexico, to stay at Le Blanc resort, a 5-star hotel and spa. Besides tourism, Los Cabos has a culture of surfers, retirees, couples, and individuals who are looking to take it a bit slower in life. The aesthetic of the resort reflects the area’s natural environment: minimal, serene, rustic and earthy.

I spent four wonderful days at Le Blanc hotel. I had a top-floor honeymoon suite with an ocean view where I could clearly see the sunrise daily. My butler would also set up my daily spot on the beach and offer any logistics I needed for each and every whim during my stay. One day, I visited the town of Todos Santos or All Saints, a colorful and beautiful town full of art galleries and local artists. I had a wonderful massage at their spa and ate all the delicious food I could. But mostly, I spent my time lying on the sand looking out at the Sea of Cortez and reading Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation, which was a page-turner.

Restoring wellness

I spent the second part of my month of rest and relaxation at the wellness retreat Hilton Head Health (HHH) on Hilton Head island in South Carolina. Recently voted No. 1 health and wellness resort in America by USA Today 10 Best, it has a focus on creating a purposeful vacation with weight loss and longevity programs.

When I arrived I wasn’t sure what to expect. I stayed in a beautiful town house with golf course views and was picked up by HHH staff for my daily activities, which ranged from a metabolic test to learn what my daily calorie intake should be in order to achieve my weight loss goals, to a work-life balance consultation, cooking classes, and a range and flexibility test. HHH provided me a diary so I could be accountable for myself from my calories down to the glasses of water I drank each daily.

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I was on the “Living Well” fitness track, which is geared toward executives looking to get their health, fitness, and overall wellness back on track. My personal favorite activities were paddleboarding at Outside Hilton Head (shout-out to our guide Jean, who was easily one of the best parts of my Hilton Head stay), the Spin Class at the Hilton Head cycle bar, and my almost daily visits to Hilton Head’s Bikram yoga studio around the corner (which is my regular workout at home because it burns 700 calories in 90 minutes).

HHH’s staff, coaches, and other guests were so incredibly kind that it actually inspired me to be a kinder person as well. I finished my stay at HHH with a facial and two massages.

I also met someone special, and that experience gave me the perspective of remembering the reason I am doing all this. I don’t want to climb the ladder of success to arrive at the top and see the view all alone. Love, friendship, romance, growth, and quality time are all the things that make life worth living. So don’t forget to take care of yourself and find others you can nurture as well. Make time for balance, rest, relaxation, and love.

Autumn Adeigbo designs colorful and conversational clothing for executive, creative, and high profile women.
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