This chapter’s interview and burnout story are from Sophie Lang, founder of Leisurely, a sustainable bed linen brand.
Sophie founded Leisurely in response to severe burnout.
She started out in fashion production, but after a while started to get burnt out from hectic London life, and found it harder and harder to justify producing more clothes when there was already such an excess of them.
So she founded Leisurely to help the burnout generation (Millenials and GenZ – this is for you!) get the rest they need, by giving them permission to slow down in the softest and most sustainable bed linen we could create.
As a chronically bad sleeper, this struck such a note with me. As do her pearls of wisdom at the end. I hope you enjoy reading Sophie’s story as much as I did.
What’s your experience of burnout?
I’d say the seed of my burnout was planted in my last year of university. It felt like this all-important moment for starting my career on the right track. In hindside, I put way too much pressure on myself and lost sight of the bigger picture.
I felt I had to put 110% into everything, like it wasn’t enough to just show up and be myself, like if I didn’t get this right it would wipe away all opportunities for the rest of my career.
That’s how burnout can feel in the moment, we lose sight of perspective and feel we can’t allow ourselves a moment to pause.
In hindsight, were there any warning signs that things were getting out of control?
At the time it was very difficult to spot, and took a really long time to acknowledge.
Because I was coping and keeping up with things, I didn’t feel like it was bad enough to seek help or admit I had a problem.
The main warning sign for me is when I lose sight of perspective, and take time away from the nourishing and enjoyable aspects of life like seeing friends and family, and spending time outside. I’ve learnt now that it’s when I feel the greatest need to put pressure on myself that I most need to slow down and take a step back.
Now I’ve been through that experience I’m so much more aware of the warning signs, so I’m always grateful to have been through that to learn how to pace myself.
What did you do to recover from your burnout and how long did it take to feel better?
When I finally sought help I spoke to my GP and was very quickly signed up to a course of CBT.
Without a doubt the most powerful thing was the therapist validating my feelings; reassuring me that I wasn’t wrong or weak to feel how I did. That it wasn’t a personality flaw, but rather the effect of putting myself under such pressure for so long.
The self-awareness, resilience and tools I gained in that difficult period have set me up to feel secure in my ability to persevere through difficulty.
Importantly it has also strengthened my empathy and ability to help others going through a similar experience.
What impact did it have on you?
At the time it was incredibly draining as I probably went two years before getting to the point I realised I needed help. I was coping so well on a surface level, but I was emotionally exhausted and not looking after myself.
However the process of recovering from burnout has been incredibly empowering, as I’ve gained so much self-awareness and confidence in my ability to grow in my most vulnerable moments.
Since then I’ve lived abroad and started my own business; the knowledge that I can pick myself up after a difficult time has definitely made me bolder.
What impact did it have on your business?
I started my career in a very anxious place because I felt I had so much to prove.
I was so used to putting 110% into everything that anything less felt it wouldn’t be good enough, and so I was setting myself up to be constantly overachieving and worn out. It wasn’t sustainable.
I’d get very nervous speaking to clients or sharing my opinion, and often stayed quiet for fear of being exposed as not good enough.
Why do you think that entrepreneurs are so prone to stress & burnout?
As entrepreneurs we’re our own boss, and often our toughest critic. We don’t have the external boundaries and structure that comes with being employed in a bigger business, and so we have to forge our own. Also, starting a business just is tough!
We have to graft to build everything ourselves, while also being more emotionally invested in our own business than we might be working for someone else.
Because of that sometimes there’s a feeling of needing to go the extra mile, which is fine and necessary on occasions but can’t be a constant.
What advice would you give other business owners prevent burnout?
The point at which you feel you can’t afford to waste one minute not working is the point when you really need to take a pause. To me that’s the greatest sign of losing perspective, indicating an imminent burnout.
By just pausing and letting go of the reins temporarily, you can replenish your energy and stamina, and find new ideas and solutions much more efficiently than if you keep struggling through. It’s proven that rest increases our ability for creativity, learning, empathy, and accuracy, which are all essentials to running a business.
That’s the message I want to promote with Leisurely, that by taking the time to fill our cup we can define and achieve our own version of success.
If you had to go back to that situation what is the one things would you do differently?
When I was deepest in my burnout, I was so unsure of myself that I would rely on other people’s opinions about me and my work.
Consequently, the work I produced at that time, particularly on my degree, didn’t feel authentic.
I know that if I’d relaxed and given myself more time, space and energy I could’ve been more confident in what I really wanted to create, as well as enjoying the process an awful lot more!
Any final pearls of wisdom or nuggets of joy you’d like to share?
When we slow down we gain time.
I truly believe that hustling and pushing does not achieve better results, rather it obscures our view of what’s really important and worthwhile.
Free Burnout Prevention Toolkit
If you have been feeling tired, unmotivated and stuck it’s time to nip these feelings in the bud before they become burnout.Take this short 5 minute test to check in with your stress levels and guide that will help you step away from stress and give you back control of your time and energy again.