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Burn Out: A Lesson In Learning to Step Back

I understand as well as anyone how difficult it is for women to juggle work and life.

In fact, having experienced an exceptionally tough few months, I’ve decided to check myself into the SHA Wellness Clinic in Alicante, after realising that the stress I have been dealing with lately isn’t just a passing period of difficulty but is threatening to become much more serious.

I’m writing candidly about my burn out in the hope that it will resonate with some of you, and perhaps even act as a call to action to get help if you need it.

I first went to my doctor a month or two ago, after I noticed I’d been putting on weight and had been having difficulty sleeping. After the usual blood tests and general fitness check, she discovered that I was suffering from extremely high blood pressure – enough, she said, to potentially induce a heart attack or a stroke.

As you can appreciate, this was terrifying to hear. I’d been so focused on building EJB Events, and had also recently suffered some personal challenges, including a death in the family which impacted hard on my children, that I had entirely forgotten to look after myself. All of my energies had been directed into my business and looking after my family that I didn’t have the capacity to deal with such a sudden, tragic event.

Scientifically, my doctor tells me that as well as high blood pressure, the stress has led to a high level of cortisol in my bloodstream. Simply put, normal cortisol levels help us to return to a state of relaxation following a particularly stressful, one-off event. However, in our current high pressure culture, the body’s stress response is activated so often that the body doesn’t always have a chance to return to normal, resulting in a state of chronic stress. This permanent presence of cortisol leads to weight gain and a constant feeling of anxiety, something which really hit home.

So instead of focusing on my future, I’ve had to take a step back in order to concentrate on my present and eliminate any health risk to myself. I have ignored the warning signals for too long, and I appeal to you all to seek help at the first sign of these symptoms.

On medical advice, I’m at the SHA clinic for two weeks for a diet of clean living, weight loss and relaxation – and I shall be leaving my phone at the door. I’m putting myself first, which makes a change! Life in the fast lane is exciting, and I can’t wait to get right back into the thick of it. However, if we don’t deal with stress properly, we put our lives at risk.

If I haven’t painted out the next few weeks as a holiday, that’s because it isn’t. I’m going on a strict diet coupled with an exercise regime and will be taking ‘lessons’ in stress management to take away and implement when I get back to my life.

So while I’m away getting fit for recovery, I hope that this makes someone reflect and ask, “Am I doing too much?”. If the answer is yes, please don’t be scared to take a step back.

Written by:

Dame Emma-Jane Brown is a former international show-jumper, TV and radio commentator, passionate charity ambassador, and founder of EJB Events, a luxury concierge and events company providing bespoke services for busy people.

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