Digital Marketing Strategist Dalia Courridge was diagnosed with severe burnout and adrenal fatigue six months before the pandemic began. Here she shares what she has learnt about burnout and the importance of self-care
Having grown up in a small village in eastern Europe, I was culturally subjected to a very traditional and ‘old school’ life. Think hard labour on the farm – from feeding the animals, toweeding huge fields of vegetables and digging up crops etc. In hindsight, I loved it, and itwas a great, slow way to live. I spent an enormous time outdoors with limited access to TVor internet. I was healthy and strong but missed out on fun side of being a child. Therewas always lots of work to be done! I guess that is where my strong work ethic stems from.
My family life was turbulent to say the least. My father was an abusive alcoholic. My mum was a young primary school teacher. She has a very strong, somewhat imposing personality, but is very kind, nonetheless. Her unwavering strength explains my stubbornness and determination in life.
I was a young mum. I only turned 17 when I had my daughter. Having a child this young in a Catholic village, and being a daughter of the schoolteacher, wasn’t kind to me. It was a huge learning curve and I had to adjust to life of being a new mum and wife – and still get my grades for school. Being responsible for someone else’s life and wellbeing made me grow up very quickly.
Moving to the UK when I turned 18 was one of the toughest decisions I had to make. But it was also one of the best ones for me and my daughter. Fast forward nearly 17 years, and I am now thriving. I have created wonderful life, surrounded myself with some incredible people and my marketing business feels purposeful and fulfilling.
Frankly, the pandemic could not have come at a better time for me. I had hit one of the all-time lows six months before. I was diagnosed with severe burnout and adrenal fatigue. I was simply exhausted. My marriage had broken down, my daughter was poorly, I was single-handedly running a business that should have had at least three members of staff AND I was contracted for a marketing role three-days per week. I desperately tried to keep all the plates spinning, but I didn’t have a support network to help me.
It all came crashing down overnight. When we went into the lockdowns, I spent most of my time sleeping. I had to close my business, was made redundant and was adjusting to a life of a single mum with a teenager. It was a scary time for me. Nevertheless, I am grateful for it. I believe that everything happens for a reason. I needed to stop and re-evaluate my life. I didn’t know what to give up and what to save, so life threw me a curveball and stopped the lot.
It was delightful to rediscover my passion for reading. I dived deep into personal development and self-discovery. Reading literature from some of the wisest successful people, clinical psychologists and doctors allowed me to recognise me for who I am, learn what my triggers are and start re-building my self-esteem again.
I have studied for a Business Management and Marketing at the UEA, so I have been in marketing for over 12 years. My first successful business was built through implementing the best marketing practices (and lots of trial and error alongside risk taking, of course).
When I closed my first business of eight years, I was at a loss of what my purpose was. Norfolk Brides was my identity. It defined me. But I no longer had the passion or vision for it. It was time to let go.
After spending lots of time soul searching, I realised that my purpose has always been to help the little guy: the small business owners that struggle with trying to keep all the plates spinning (just like I did). We always have an option to ask for help, but so many of us don’t. I wanted to do something to equip these people with the ‘know how’ and offer my services to help take the pressure off. I started to consult businesses again about two years ago, amid the pandemic. It wasn’t easy, but I knew that that was the time when small businesses needed me the most.
Marketing is something that I live and breathe. It is evolving all the time and whilst it can be too fast paced at times, at least it doesn’t get stale and allows us to keep learning and continue growing. It is also creative and data-led, which ticks all the boxes for my creative, yet analytical brain.
Having suffered from burnout once, you are, unfortunately stuck with the remains of it for the rest of your life. Four years on and am only around 80% back to normal. I very quickly learned that I cannot exert myself as much as I used to. I must pace myself and take plenty of rest. Long gone are the overnighters and working for weeks without a proper day off!
These days, naps are my best friends. I carefully watch how much work I take on, create strict boundaries with my clients, family, and friends. I try and remain calm as much as possible (easier said than done!). Learning how to let things go, especially things that I cannot control, was the most difficult, but I am getting better.
My advice for anyone feeling like they are heading towards a burnout is to be kind to yourself and ask for help. Sometimes, it is enough to have an honest chat with a friend or a colleague. But often, you need more. Spend time outdoors, stay active, eat well, and have a solid routine that works for you. Take regular breaks and learn how to say ‘no’ to people (and new projects). We cannot do it all. At least not alone. Protect your peace.
Remember, that rest is productive. The hustle culture must end. It is toxic and sets unrealistic and unsustainable pace of life. We cannot be in a sustained state of alertness and panic (alas, our brain doesn’t distinguish the difference between true danger and a report deadline!). We are humans and I believe that we should enjoy life as much as possible. I understand that with the economic climate in decline, it might sound like an impossible task, but simple things like daily gratitude or journaling can be helpful Ito stay in the moment and appreciate all that you have today.
One of my biggest hopes is that our society learns the value of boundaries and stop this toxic hustle culture. There are so many people who are on the verge of burning out (or arealready there!) and they are not getting the support that they need. Our society is riddledwith anxiety, depression and people who are stuck in the rat race without a way out.
I want to use my voice to help people to get unstuck and free themselves from this vicious cycle. By speaking openly about burnout, mental health and sharing my story, I want tomake sure that people realise they are not alone. There is help, out there.
In the future I am hoping to marry up my two passions – marketing and psychology. Within the next five to 10 years, I see myself becoming a business or life coach, but for now I will continue working with small businesses. My work as a marketing strategist and educator is not yet complete. I still have lots to learn and pass on my knowledge to those who needs support whilst growing their business. I know, first hand, how challenging it is to get started, grow, and get up after knock-backs. I want to be there to inspire and empower those who need it most.
Featured image by Brand Story Studio