How a career break can help burnout

For most of her life Tanisha Drummer Parrish has been overly focused on traditional markers of success, moving from business school to corporate America to start-ups.

And the 44-year-old is successful, by all accounts: good jobs, nice house, beautiful children. But he was also tired. As he worked day after day and night after night, thoughts of resting all began to come to mind. But, in his mind, that is not what successful people do. So he continued to work.

He reached his breaking point when his oldest daughter asked when he would leave the computer and spend time with the whole family. He couldn’t go on with his routine. It’s time to rest.

“Signs like that make it very clear that I don’t want to live this way, and this is not the person I want to be,” Parrish said. luck. “I was burned to the core.”

It took Parrish six months to give himself the “okay” to quit his full-time job. But he ultimately left his role at a startup in June 2022 and didn’t return to full-time work until January 2023.

Courtesy of Tanisha Drummer Parrish

During the six-month “extended sabbatical,” as he called it, Parrish read books, exercised, and spent time with his children. He never worked. It was a transformative experience.

“Looking back, I don’t know what I was doing,” he said. “I have nothing but peace of mind and clarity on the next steps.”

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, workers like Parrish have been negotiating what they want their future to look like as more experiences. burnout, illness, and more stress. MILLIONS has changed jobs in the last three years; others work as they can live a soft life while the lights go on.

For some, taking a complete break from work has proven to be the best option. A more and more employers offers their employees sabbaticals at giving the workers the time they need to truly feel renewed—and ready to face the working world again. Some just need a break, while others take time to plan a career change or realign priorities.

It’s still a rare benefit, though, so Parrish and two other women talk luck decided to quit their full-time jobs for long periods, from six weeks to a year. All three women said they were less ambitious during the holidays; if anything, the time away rejuvenated them and gave them space to reflect on life, work, and their place in the world. Here’s how breaks change their relationship with ambition and work.

‘I can just rest’

Shari Bryan has worked in law and then for an international non-profit for over two decades. While he loved his job, the constant travel and responsibilities of an executive vice president role took its toll. He decided to leave full-time work in 2021.

The following year, Bryan traveled to Greece, spent time with his 90-year-old mother, took classes at the Culinary Institute, and began consulting on the side, working on projects for a European foundation and of an international security company. The break had its intended effect: Getting away from the “intensity” of Washington DC healed his soul, he says good luck, and he is ready to work again after a few months.

But none of the traditional gigs appealed—while he wanted the work to be challenging, he didn’t want the stress and anxiety that came with his old job. So he decided to continue working for himself and began what he called a “listening tour” to explore his options, meeting friends, acquaintances, old colleagues, and others in his network about of possible opportunities.

“I’m ready to stay in the game, I want to be big, I want to be significant, but it has to look different than before,” Bryan said. “I don’t want it to seem like the only thing I know how to do is work. But there was nothing I could think of doing that was as interesting as I thought I would be if I kept working.

Today, the 62-year-old consults and works with friends and acquaintances on projects that interest him, including events such as International Jazz Day. He may return to the corporate world if he finds the right gig; Currently, he plans to work until he is at least 67 years old.

Courtesy of Shari Bryan

“I still have what it takes, and I still can,” he said. But the break gave him the confidence to do things he found intellectually and creatively fulfilling, rather than playing a supporting role to someone else. Since he started consulting, he has set a salary scale and won’t take jobs that offer less than that, something he wouldn’t have done before.

“I decided to help some people as a volunteer, but paid work, I insist on getting my value. I said no a few times,” he said. “Knowing your worth is a bit of a revelation to me.”

‘If you find at least one job, you can find another’

Ericka Spradley knew she wasn’t living up to her own values ​​when she quit her job as a retail store manager in 2006. Then in her mid-30s, Spradley worked in retail at various companies within 18 years. He wants to change, but what exactly he wants to do is still a mystery to him.

At that time, he lived with his grandparents; as he contemplated his next steps, he moved to a vacation rental in another state.

“For the first time in my career, I can rest. I had nowhere to go, nowhere to go,” said Spradley, now 50. “I felt centered. It changed my life.”

After six weeks, a bank offered him a job managing a financial center, something he didn’t think he was qualified for. But his sabbatical taught him that “skills are transferable.” In the following years, he worked in a bank. She eventually landed a role that allowed her to coach other female employees. He had found his purpose.

In 2018, he started a career management company, which is now called Confident Career Woman. None of that would have happened if he hadn’t taken the time to think about himself, he said. His advice: Take the leap of faith more often.

“It’s amazing that we talk to ourselves about so many things every day,” he said, noting that it can understandably make people nervous when they leave work to relax. “If you find at least one job, you can find another.”

The logistics of rest

Of course, it’s easier to take a break if you have the financial resources to do so. All three women noted that it’s a luxury to be able to withdraw from full-time work at any time—that’s not a possibility for many people, even without significant planning. .

Parrish planned her exit with her husband. They had been dating for a few months, and she was still working full-time. However, unemployment itself means a change in his thinking about money: Instead of it being the ultimate sign of his success, he realizes that other things are more valuable.

“Being the Type A person that I am, when I see the bank account dwindling, it’s like, what’s going on,” Parrish said. “I think I have to say, we’re saving for this, we’re not worried about the money coming out. There’s no more money to make me happy.”

Bryan also worked for high salaries for decades and accumulated a large amount of money.

Courtesy of Ericka Spradley

Spradley’s story is a little different. He was single and lived with his grandparents before he took a six-week break; to pay for it, he withdrew money from his 401(k). It’s not something he would advise most people to do, but it worked for him, and he doesn’t regret it at all.

Now, he earns more than retail. The bet paid off on itself.

“I believe there is more, and if I made money before, I will definitely make money again,” Spradley said. “I’m right. I was right in more ways than I realized.”

The three women said they have faith that more jobs will come. And it did: Parrish founded his own coaching company; Bryan now consults for clients from the references he has built during his decades in Washington DC

Changing priorities

Parrish still has “big goals.” But he’s no longer interested in climbing the corporate ladder or ticking the boxes he once thought were so important. What made a good life changed forever in his eyes. He is now ambitious to take care of his health and spend time with his children.

“The word ‘ambition’ has almost disappeared from my view of my goals and my life and the impact I want to have,” he said. “Before, it was about success or recognition, or how fast I will reach the top. The things that are important now are, What about my inner peace? What about my health?”

Rests are without pains. But none of the women regret their choices, and they don’t miss their old jobs.

Of course, in hindsight, they should have done something different. Both Bryan and Spradley said they would have made more plans for their vacation. While others have recovered, having more structure in his days “in and of itself brings a level of peace,” Spradley said.

“If someone is going to continue down this path … make sure you have enough support outside of your family and friend circle,” added Spradley, who announced that she has started seeing a therapist. “We don’t mean to, but we can burn them out by asking them to provide a level of support that they don’t have.”

If Parrish gets it done, he won’t wait until he’s “100% exhausted” to leave—he’ll be able to make the jump right away. If it appeals to you, there is a way to plan to do it, he says, even if it feels impossible to imagine at the moment.

“It doesn’t have to look like a six-month sabbatical. I know people who don’t even take breaks between jobs,” he said. “You can figure out what you want, and if there’s something you can crack that will fulfill that need.”

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