Burnout, Depression, Anxiety, Insomnia, Covid and winding down a 7-figure global agency….

April 27, 2022

It has been over two years since I have been active on any social platforms! We have all been living in challenging times in a global pandemic. I decided to move back to base myself in the UK during 2019 after doing quite a lot of travel around Asia, Australia, Europe, and the US for business to grow the company and brand.

Covid then impacted the business operations back in March 2020 due to global lockdowns. After the initial impact from Covid, I stabilised the business then took some time to patiently pause and reflect. After a year of introspection it felt like it was definitely time for a change and to shake things up after an incredible experience with One Life Social Media. There were many factors that brought me to this decision, and I take full responsibility for all the mistakes and failures along the way.

Since Covid came into our lives I have been figuring out the new direction I want to take the business in that aligns with my purpose, passions and interests. I have also been focused on recovering and have been on a journey reconnecting to my mind, body, soul, health, consciousness, relationships, and life. This has helped me gain clarity and wisdom on what is truly important to me.

It has been a period of exploring, experiencing, and expanding my mindset and I have started moving a new direction in 2022 in an area I’m finding very inspiring and motivating – more on this soon! The decision to discontinue the One Life Social Media service is reflective of my inner and outer purpose and I want to focus on solving problems for the love of doing it and the meaning associated with the problem.

From an outsider’s perspective, my life a few years ago was very ‘successful’ – I was the founder of a fast growing 7-figure global digital marketing agency in the fitness industry. We operated in 20 countries that had worked with over 600 studios, helping them with customer acquisition and lead generation online. I had a team of 20+ people when I was under the age of 30. I had all the extrinsic measures of success that society says we need to find fulfilment and happiness – wealth, status, validation from others, approval, a growing company, recognition etc but the reality was I didn’t feel like a successful, happy human being. I was a successful entrepreneur but I felt like a failure. I felt unworthy. I felt inadequate. I felt like I was not enough. I felt overwhelmed, judged, dissatisfied, lonely, empty, insecure, hopeless, helpless, exhausted, confused, aversion, shame, embarrassment, sadness, regret, guilt, fear, anxiety, anger, despair, doubt, sorrow, frustration, and other negative emotions due to the chronic stress from external factors, the business, and my mind.

During this time I was having suicidal thoughts due to the pain I was experiencing in my mind, but neither was I planning nor did I have any intention to take any action. My mind was coming up with potential options to deal with the suffering and pain. As I’ve come to learn, the mind likes to solve problems. I was definitely stressed, and the anxiety and depression were affecting my sleep, which created a vicious cycle of exhaustion. I vividly remember speaking in Dubai in front of about 200 people and had not slept properly for days. It was a difficult experience to say the least.

A lot of my burnout came from how much I sacrificed outside of work, how much effort I put into my work and how much I struggled with compartmentalisation. This meant I could not switch off from work and I didn’t set clear boundaries between the work and the personal. I was managing a decent-sized team with limited management experience, and I found it difficult at times to delegate especially in areas that were struggling to work autonomously. I wanted to help team members and I would get too involved in the detail which came at a cost to my overall health and performance.

It has been the hardest period so far but it has also held the biggest blessings. I am very grateful for the lessons and the mistakes I have made – they have been my greatest teacher. I have made some good decisions over the last few years, but I have focused on understanding the failures and painful experiences as this is where the growth and transformation lies.

My mind started to go through a lot of suffering and pain about a year before covid hit and I just did not feel like myself. I was also having health challenges with my body due to sitting for long periods - I had a severe, chronic lower back pain which stopped me from being able to sit or stand for more than a few hours without serious pain. It is not really possible to lie down whilst on zoom calls!

Initially I started to feel exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally. I went to the doctors and a physio who told me I needed to change my lifestyle to protect my health. I personally did not want to take any anti-depressant medication as I didn’t feel this would get to the root of my problem. I have done my own research in this area and I know it can really help people (which is fantastic) but it did not feel like the solution I was looking for.

I then started to experience times where there was depression, panic attacks and imposter syndrome - the overwhelming emotions I was experiencing were sadness, frustration and anxiety. The pressure of running a fast growing self-funded independent global agency was affecting me - I had over-invested in the business and I had lost myself in the process.

The business was achieving a lot of success externally, but I did not feel safe and I was scared due to how I was feeling.

Covid resulted in global shutdowns, which severely impacted the operations of the business and was the catalyst for letting members of the team go and discontinuing the service. I had to make decisions within a short period of time and I made the best decisions I could during this period with limited information. If I could have made different decisions then I would have.

I was acting from a place of fear – there were mistakes made and there were some panicked decisions along the way. Letting people go is one of the hardest things to do as a leader and I am fully aware of the impact these decisions have on other people’s lives. The decisions have also had an impact on my life. I have experienced grief, loss and even though the experience was traumatic, it has helped me wake up and come to realisations for positive change in the future.

Perfect decisions can only be made in hindsight with more information. It’s scary to leave behind the comfortable job, business and what you know, but there is no courage without fear.

My gut feeling and intuition was off with several areas of the business for quite some time, even before Covid. I had lost trust, belief and confidence with several things and I had lost my intrinsic enjoyment, motivation and passion for the project due to different factors. I experienced betrayal in several ways after Covid, which was difficult to process. On reflection I do not encourage or agree with the actions of others, but I understand why they took those actions and I forgive them.

I struggled to find the right psychological and emotional support that I needed during that time. I was investing in a lot of business advice but I was not investing in enough for my personal life. I was pretty good at solving problems and so I felt like I could figure it out myself by reading the right books, exercising, living a healthy lifestyle etc. However I still continued to prioritise the business over my own health. I was actually looking for the right person to work with for a long time and tried a few people out whilst running the business, but they weren’t the right fit for me. I found the right professional support at the end of 2020 and that experience has had a profound impact on my life.

I overvalued the business and undervalued my health but without your health you have nothing. To sustainably serve others you must focus on self care and serving yourself. Unfortunately I naively sacrificed self care and serving myself.

I would not always speak my truth, I would bottle things ups, I would repress and suppress emotions, I would be constantly thinking about what I could have done better or what I did not have or what I needed to do to grow the business and I would be blown around by whatever the next train of thought would be due to a lack of awareness at that time. I did not talk about how I was feeling to many people at the time because I felt judged, embarrassed, and ashamed whenever I did. Depression and anxiety sound scary and are stigmatised, which makes people bottle things up, but these illnesses are incredibly common in western society. We are not taught about these things in the education system and we are not given any kind of operating manual on how to successfully navigate the nature of our life, mind and emotions.

Looking forward… I feel like a completely different person than I did two years ago but the recovery from severe burnout is unique for everyone and from my experience it takes time and patience. I am really excited to pursue this new project in alignment with my interests and passions to live a more meaningful life. I am intentionally going to continue to explore living in the present moment, developing my self awareness and emotional intelligence, and keep learning, growing, and evolving to be a better leader, son, brother, friend, and human being.

Finally, I got some things wrong along the way and I am sorry to the team that were effected during this time. I would like to personally thank everyone that contributed to our success at One Life Social Media – I would not have been able to achieve what we did in those years without good people around me. I wish everyone love, happiness, peace and good health for the future.

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