RAINA BEUCKELAERS, 47, CO-FOUNDER OF PURE CIRCLE INNER WELLNESS CENTRE
I was living in the Belgian countryside, and every morning on my way to work in the city, I'd drive past fields of horses. I'd often park my car beside the road and step into the field, just to be with the animals for five minutes. It felt horrible getting back into the car. But I couldn't admit there was something wrong. I wanted to think I could cope.
I'd been working as a marketing consultant for 16 years. The past few years hadn't been fulfilling. I didn't enjoy it, I found it difficult. But I kept on going, thinking, "I'll survive." But it was making me so unhappy. I was constantly suffering from colds, flu, stomach problems. I wasn't sleeping, and I was crying a lot. It affected my relationship with my partner, Mark - I'd get disproportionately upset or irritated at the slightest thing.
One evening, a friend said: "I think you're in danger of burnout." I didn't want to acknowledge it. I didn't want to let down my employer. But the following afternoon at work, I felt the tears welling up and I thought, "I can't do this any more." I closed my laptop and left the building. It was such a relief. I went to my GP. He signed me off work, and I stayed home for seven months.
My burnout was a combination of going above and beyond with the job, and no longer feeling as if I was really me. But I rarely reflected, "Is this making me happy? What would I be better suited to do?"
The one positive about burnout is it forces you to think about changing direction and helps you discover who you are. If you can do that, everything turns around. It gives you the potential to become much happier.
My GP suggested I see a psychotherapist. We reflected on my values, why I was a perfectionist, and whether I fit in to that corporate world. He also referred me to a physiotherapist to learn to breathe properly again, to help calm my system. I saw a massage therapist and did yoga. I hadn't realised I was so cramped up and tense.
I realised what made me happy was connecting with people and animals. I wanted to do something meaningful. I was interested in psychology, and equine-assisted therapy - so from 2012 to 2016 I studied for a psychotherapy degree.
I couldn't immediately jump to a new life. Financially it wasn't possible. But after seven months I quit my job, and worked as a freelancer so I could build in study and travel.
Mark and I adopted animals: we have four cats and last week adopted our fourth dog, from India.
Having a new purpose in life helped me. I thought how great it would be if a centre existed that offered all you needed to recover from burnout, so you don't need to run around. We moved to the UK in January 2018, and opened our Pure Circle Inner Wellness Centre on the edge of the Cotswolds, last summer. We offer weekend retreats, and short courses on stress and burnout coaching, workshops to help people realise their values, as well as yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, and creativity workshops to help people recharge mentally and physically.
My new life means I can thrive - and give something back.