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I Didn’t Burn Out Because of the Work

Written By: Lauren Howard

I didn’t burn out because of the work.

But, what? It was work burnout. I worked too hard for too long.

Yeah, but the labor that burned me out had nothing to do with my job duties.

I burned out because of the mental gymnastics that came from working in a toxic environment.

The constant thinking, wondering, and questioning - but not about my work product, but my place within the organization.

The systems that were designed to be opaque and inflexible despite being fed endless lines about being a family and how employees mattered.

The discrete managing up to be able to make incremental changes.

The off-the-calendar quick meetups to make sure that our work would not be undone by the next impulsive pivot.

The stress of knowing that decisions would be made that would affect people and that the reaction to those decisions would be treated as the ultimate problem.

The chest tightening that comes with that feeling of not getting the whole story.

The productive work wasn’t what burned me out, even though there was much too much of it and I put in way too many hours.

The energy spent managing the physical and emotional stress of working in a toxic environment burned me out.

That recovery required much more than rest. It required boundaries, getting real about workplace abuse, and learning that value is inherent and not tied to output.

I thought I would be able to lie on the couch for a week and bounce back.

I didn’t realize that I had a literal year’s worth of work ahead of me to undo what had been done.

That work was as hard, if not harder than the work that put me there to begin with.

But it was necessary work to get to this version of who I am.

If you work 9-5 but stress 5-9, that stress will burn you out eventually.

It’s not fine, even if you’re surviving it.

Burnout is real, and it was the scariest physical thing I’ve ever been through.

And it had very little to do with my actual job duties.


Founder & CEO at elletwo


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Jennie Van Heuit
Jennie Van Heuit

“It’s not fine, even if you’re surviving it.” Well said.

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