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High Achiever Burnout: How to Recognize the Symptoms and Recalibrate with Hannah Tackett

In the hustle culture of today's world, it's easy to fall into the trap of "just keep swimming" – pushing ourselves to the brink of exhaustion in pursuit of success. But what happens when we can no longer keep our heads above water?

Enter Hannah Tackett, a former tech leader turned burnout coach, who learned this lesson the hard way and now dedicates her life to helping others avoid the same fate. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Hannah for an interview, where we covered some of her key burnout frameworks.

Here are some of the gems from our conversation.

Recognizing the Red Flags of Burnout

Hannah's journey began like many of ours might – with a gradual buildup of stress and warning signs that were all too easy to ignore. As she puts it, "We're a culture of hustle and we're a culture of almost toxic positivity. Like, just keep swimming, right? Do the Dory thing. Just keep going."

But eventually, the cracks began to show:

1. Physical symptoms: "I couldn't get out of bed, um, for over a month. I was in bed. I went to the doctors. There was nothing actually wrong with anything in my body, um, that, you know, registered on a panel or a test."

2. Emotional toll: "I was failing as a mom, I was feeling in my career, I was failing across the board. I was dropping all the balls and that was completely unacceptable."

3. Loss of identity: "Up until that point in my life, I'd always been like, the overachiever, the one that always got it done. Um, you know, I've been called a unicorn, you know, I was like the rock star."

The Three Stages of Burnout

Hannah breaks down burnout into three distinct stages:

1. Early Warning Signs:

- Irritability

- Anxiety

- Insomnia

- Poor concentration

- Physical symptoms (tummy troubles, headaches, migraines)

2. Emotional Impact:

- Cynicism and detachment

- Loss of enjoyment

- Pessimism

- Isolation

- Chronic lateness

- Resentment

3. Performance Decline:

- Inability to show up

- Health issues

- Poor work performance

- Mental shutdown

- Extreme brain fog

Hannah emphasizes, "The longer you stay in that third stage, the longer it takes to recover... because it really does exhaust your nervous system."

Breaking the Burnout Cycle: The Importance of Recalibration

One of the key concepts Hannah introduces is the idea of "completing the stress cycle." In our always-on digital world, we rarely give ourselves time to process and recover from stressful events. As Hannah explains:

"What goes up must come down. So if your cortisol spiked, your stress levels are spiked, you're having an intense moment. That's fine. But those need to come back down... Your body needs to, um, resettle."

Practical Ways to Recalibrate:

1. Create White Space: Put down your phone and allow yourself moments of unstructured time.

2. Movement: "Any kind of movement. I don't mean, you know, go work out just anything. You know, go dance, go for a walk. It doesn't, doesn't walk your dog, any kind of movement."

3. Tap into Oxytocin: "Petting your dog, hugging your children, um, have sex with your spouse or your partner, um, do things that connect you to the people and you know, if it's an animal, they're animals that you love."

4. Deep Breathing: "Two minutes of deep breathing is incredibly powerful. It'll completely reset your nervous system."

Aligning Your Actions with Your Values

Hannah introduces the concept of "success traps" – behaviors that may have driven our success but can lead to burnout when taken to extremes:

1. People-pleasing

2. Overachieving

3. Being a constant helper

4. Perfectionism

To combat these traps, Hannah suggests getting clear on your values and what truly matters to you. She calls this "pursuing your yes."

"By saying yes, and by, you know, pursuing your yes, it is invigorating. So it'll start to fill your cup with energy. So you'll stop feeling that like soul-sucking drain that happens when we're doing things that we don't actually want to be doing."

Practical Exercise: Energy Audit Your Calendar

To help identify what truly fills your cup, Hannah suggests a simple but powerful exercise:

1. Look at your calendar

2. Assess each activity: Does it give you energy or take it away?

3. Color-code your calendar: Green for energy-giving, red for energy-draining, yellow for neutral

4. Start saying yes to more green activities and finding ways to minimize or eliminate the red ones

Conclusion: Prioritizing Yourself is Not Selfish

Perhaps the most important takeaway from Hannah's experiences is the mindset shift required to truly prioritize our well-being:

"I think that the most important thing that you can do is realize that it's important to prioritize yourself. I think most of the women that I've worked with, uh, feel very guilty about prioritizing their own care."

Remember, taking care of yourself – whether through managing your stress, aligning your actions with your values, or maintaining a consistent fitness routine – is not selfish. It's the foundation that allows you to show up fully in all areas of your life.

Key Takeaways:

1. Learn to recognize the warning signs of burnout in your career and fitness journey. Pay attention to physical symptoms, emotional changes, and performance declines.

2. Prioritize activities that help you "complete the stress cycle" and recalibrate. This includes creating white space, engaging in movement, connecting with loved ones, and practicing deep breathing.

3. Align your actions – including your fitness routine – with your values and what truly energizes you. Regularly audit your calendar and activities to ensure you're saying "yes" to things that fill your cup and finding ways to minimize energy-draining tasks.

By implementing these lessons, you'll not only be better equipped to prevent burnout in your career but also create a sustainable, enjoyable fitness routine that truly supports your overall well-being.

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