Editor’s Note: This is the third in a three-part series based on new research from the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) on how COVID-19 is negatively impacting the mental health of entrepreneurs.
Burnout can be devastating as Marie Chevrier, the founder and CEO of Sampler, knows all too well.
Her story is a second follow-up to our first article on the subject posted two weeks ago about a new report from the Business Development Bank of Canada on the overall mental state of Canadian entrepreneurs, many of whom are grappling with a pandemic that has caused untold harm.
Findings revealed that upwards of two in five business owners report feeling depressed at least once a week and two-thirds feel tired or have low energy.
Sampler is a Web platform that helps brands as diverse as L’Oréal and Nestlé deliver samples online in order to build one-to-one relationships with their customers. Since its launch in 2013 there have been a multitude of successes, but Chevrier admitted last year, it came at a huge price.
In a posting on LinkedIn entitled My Burnout Story, she chronicled what it was like to burnout. At the time it happened, she was in constant business travel mode as well as living simultaneously in both Canada and the U.S.
“For six years, I’ve been working hard building Sampler, often acting as the face of our company,” she wrote. “Always on, always smiling, and wherever our company needs me to be, I go. So much so that my family and friends often say, ‘where are you this week? How long are you here for this time? and where do you live these days?’ I love every single minute of it, I feel so blessed for it and I wouldn’t change a single thing. Regardless, at some point it took a toll and I suffered from a burnout.
“For me, burning out meant that I would wake up everyday crying. I would spend most of my day pretending to be my usual self, but my mind was foggy, my thoughts were never organized, and my memory felt gone. After what seemed like the most drawn-out day, I would come home crying the entire way there and put myself to sleep for 10-12 hours, barely finding the appetite to eat dinner with my husband. This lasted for just above a month.”
She writes that she was compelled to share her experiences after reading a post “on my LinkedIn feed where someone stated that they didn’t believe ‘burnout happens if you truly love what you do.’
“That type of statement scares me,” Chevrier wrote. “What if I had read this when I was going through a rough time? How would that have impacted my recovery? What if I was an employee at this company and I secretly had been dealing with my own turmoil. Please remember this: burnout is real and very much alive in our society.”
In an interview with Ontario Podcast host Céline Williams, business strategist and executive coach, Chevrier recently talked frankly about how she was feeling at the time and more importantly, how she overcame burnout.
In terms of advice, she referenced some key advice contained in last year’s post and “what I learned along the way.” It is worth repeating.
“Looking back, even my burnout would have seemed like a productive period for some people but it wasn’t for me, because I wasn’t myself and I was suffering terribly,” Chevrier wrote and suggested the following:
- No one is immune: This notion of ‘if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life’ is simply not the case – while it might not feel like work, being a highly-productive individual takes a toll on you. Loving what you do as much as many of us do, can seriously impact your health if you do not check in with yourself and stay balanced.
- It can happen anytime: The challenges I was facing at the time of my burnout were no harder than they had been before. My personal life was doing amazing. It just happened, one day it was all too much for me to handle.
- Tell others: When I started suffering, I quickly told a few people on my leadership team. They were so incredibly understanding, and they immediately looked to take on some of my tasks. I had no reason to be afraid about sharing, they knew that the speed at which I had been operating was unsustainable and they were glad I was finally taking time to think about myself.
- Stop: Once I realized it was a real problem, I started working four days a week. It was my way of pressing stop. Considering I am often on the road, no one noticed except me. I was available for important messages and emails but one day a week I stayed in pyjamas, took naps, and read. Important note: I read fiction not business books.
- Find perspective: Lucky for me I had a trip planned. I went away for 10 days and picked a place which I had never been, a place that looked different than any place I had ever been, and I found a way to let myself be fully there. Immersed myself in a new place, new food, and a new culture. The biggest lesson I learned while I was away though, was that the company would do absolutely fine without me there for a long period of time.
Relying on the team you create, she says, is paramount as is simply just checking out: “Everybody can stop. If you do not stop you will be forced to stop because burnout is a very concerning issue. If you feel mood changes, you are dealing with something that is a mental problem as opposed to a physical problem and that needs to be addressed.”