Anne's burnout resulted from a perfect storm of risk factors: unreasonable demands at work, her high-performing mentality, combined with being away from her support network.

Due to their eagerness and ability to excel, high-performing employees often take on unsustainable workloads where external demands struggle to synchronise with one's own self-expectations. This leaves them more at risk of burnout compared to employees who have these in check. Strong and capable high-performers are a great asset to any organisation but more often than not, the risks for these individuals are not always understood. It's often an easy solution for managers or project teams to load high-performers up with more work and responsibilities. These employees rarely say no to more work and are often reluctant to ask for help.

Anne, who lives as an expat in London, was working in a high-stress environment. She always set very high goals for herself. Her standard work ethic was essentially to work herself to the bone, always with a smile on her face despite feeling stressed and anxious. So, when there was a critical deadline to meet, who do you think the business relied on for getting the job done? Of course. It relied on Anne, who never declined any work.

And her motivation to excel was not limited to work. She was diligent with her fitness and training, and she never failed to maintain an active and vibrant social life.

Whilst the achievements were inspirational to her, with time the relentless pressures started taking their toll. She got increasingly tired and down. She would worry about the next deadline, lying awake at night. This escalated into frequent restless nights and insomnia. Many of us are familiar with the dread of heading to work for a 12-hour day ahead with no sleep.

But Anne kept going. The gym work gave her a boost and she soldiered on, keeping up the façade that she was doing alright.

Eventually, she got to the point when she was unable to do anything but just survive the day. All she could think was that she had to leave her job and that would solve everything. But with no energy to look for something else and with her family and old friends in another country, she felt lost. Unable to look after herself properly, she ate poorly and withdrew from the social life she normally loved. And even if she realised that she had to make changes, she was simply too far gone. Exhausted and depressed.

“I just wanted to lie in bed and not go anywhere. I had no energy left. My personal life fell apart and I can't even remember some things I did or how I was thinking at the time. I couldn't afford to leave my job but was too tired to look for a new one. I just knew I didn't want to be like this and be stuck in this miserable state.”
Mind puzzle

So, at this point, what could change things? Leaving the job? Taking sick leave? Moving back home where she had friends and family? Well, probably any of these actions could have helped somewhat but would that have addressed the root causes?

After three days in hospital and anti-depressive medication over 8 months, it was Anne's family that first came into contact with My-E-Health®. Anne agreed to take the initial assessment, which revealed she was at breaking point. My-E-Health® gave Anne immediate support by addressing the most acute help for coping — a counsellor she could speak to straight away.

Anne needed her income and couldn't stop working. And she didn't want to take sick leave. My-E-Health® accommodated her need within the program:

  • Counselling sessions were scheduled to fit around her work hours
  • Float tank sessions were planned for her and My-E-Health® provided details of suitable nearby locations in London
  • Anne was given “homework” such as record-keeping of negative thoughts and feelings to help her recognise associated triggers, links and patterns when she was most vulnerable
  • Anne went through meditation practice and learned relaxation techniques, such as body scans and deep breathing

“The start was so hard. I was desperately tired and wanted to give up. But I had this incredible support. My counsellor spent as much time with me as I needed. There was no 60-minute limit. The session was over when there was nothing more to say that day, sometimes even four hours long. It was fantastic. And I got complete rest and even some sleep in the floating sessions. These two components got me through the first part of the program.

After six weeks, when I retook my assessments and I saw that I had gone from red to light-green on the risk for burnout scale, it reinforced to me that what we were doing was really helping. It was very powerful. I think My-E-Health® became the catalyst for change in life that I would have needed sooner or later.”

In the short-term, the program helped Anne out of her acute burnout. She got her energy back and she found a new job that she enjoys. But there are longer-term benefits too because she has addressed the root causes leading to her burnout. She has learnt to be more assertive and set boundaries. She communicates how much work she can to take on and people around her appreciate the clarity. Her standards and expectations of herself are still very high but they are reasonable and sustainably achievable. Now fully recovered, she continues to use My-E-Health on a quarterly basis where she monitors her engagement and gets feedback from her health coach on everything from physical exercise to nutrition and her general well-being. The continuity in care has ensured that her self-awareness and confidence keep improving. Anne no longer takes anti-depressives and feels on top of her game again.

When the drive to excel at work and in life exceeds your ability to recharge, let's remember that the best investment for long-term high performance is often downtime and learning to switch off. Both high-performers and their employers need to be aware of this. The concept of presenteeism applies to high-performers as well — they may come from a higher performance level, but presenteeism reduces their productivity too.

Note: the quotes and testimonial in this text are actual but we have changed the participant's name to ensure anonymity.