My blood test wakeup call… and exactly how I got off the burnout train (and became a better leader too)

I didn’t think it was possible to advance in my role without constantly working and stressing about work.

It started early for me. I went to grad school at Harvard, and some of the professors would come in to see who was working on the weekend… so they would know who was so serious about their work that they would work on Saturday night.

I never took breaks at work and was constantly rushing from one thing to another. I often forgot to eat and even go to the bathroom... The “worry wheel” in my brain was constantly spinning even after work.

But then I got what was supposed to be a routine blood test and found out I had high glucose... which is an early indicator on the path to diabetes.

I was totally shocked. I have a mostly plant-based diet with lots of greens. I exercised regularly. I thought I was doing everything right. How could this happen to me?

But I started thinking, essentially, I was constantly starving myself and then overeating because of my work habits. I was taking my body through wild blood sugar swings on a constant basis because of my terrible work patterns, and it was taking a toll on my body.

I started setting timers to force myself to stop work and eat snacks and lunch. It felt like kindergarten for a while, but it was so powerful.

So the good news is that in my next blood test, my glucose was back where it should be. Yay!

But here’s the surprising result: I achieved more in my role while working less. I had a presentation the other day that I’d been working on for weeks. Instead of just powering through my to-do list, I decided to stop and read a book for a while. I aced the presentation and had so many people reaching out to me afterward because I came in refreshed and with energy.

So if you’re struggling with work, overwork, overwhelm, and burnout, here’s what worked for me:

-I started setting a timer 5 times a day for mealtimes and snacks. While this felt pedantic, it really did help me pull out of what I was doing and gave me a structured process for checking in with my body.

-I set a timer for 20 minutes for lunch. It helped give me permission to actually take a break to eat lunch but also to resist the urge to multitask, which didn’t give my brain a break.

-Over time, I got more comfortable giving myself permission to do things like read a book for 15 minutes after lunch or taking a meditation or walk break to step away from whatever problem I was obsessing over and to dive back in with more perspective.

tanmayisai's profile thumbnail
Wow congrats @MayaPapaya! I am very inspired by your dedication. Thanks for sharing your tips with the community!
MayaPapaya's profile thumbnail
Hi @tanmayisai, thanks for reading! Glad you found it inspiring.
KatherineWilson's profile thumbnail
I remember that hamster wheel, and I am so happy for you. :) Thank you for sharing such a lovely story and tips for those who really need it. Beautiful and balanced post, in a world of competition, trust, damage, and unwillingness to acknowledge ourselves as worthwhile as our work.
MayaPapaya's profile thumbnail
Thanks for sharing your experience!