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the Girl Banker’s Guide to Dealing With Burnout

the Girl Banker’s Guide to Dealing With Burnout

People that know me well are likely reading this article title and thinking, “pot, meet kettle…” It’s true… I’m often the poster child for going too hard for too long and crashing and burning. But this is my blog and I can write about what I want and this topic has been something I have recently experienced and feel compelled to share.

Jason Isbell, one of my favorite singer/songwriters ever in the history of the world, has a song entitled Anxiety that starts out with the following lyrics, “Anxiety. How do you always get the best of me? I’m out here living in a fantasy. I can’t enjoy a {profanity} thing.”Having rarely dealt with anxiety myself, I didn’t really understand this song. Until suddenly, I did.

Over the last 18 months, I’ve experienced anxiety for the first time in my life. There’s really no way to describe it other than rapid heartbeat, inability to sleep, racing mind, sometimes no appetite. The worst part? Not being able to tell yourself to calm the hell down because you know you’re just fine and all you want to do is go to sleep. Instead, the rapid heartbeat keeps on going and the racing mind doesn’t stop racing. It first happened to me when I was traveling for a speaking engagement alone. I had absolutely zero reason to be anxious. I rarely get nervous anymore prior to speaking gigs and feel comfortable traveling on my own. However, I had been going hard at the bank with several new initiatives, busy at home with a remodel, and the trip was a quick one- traveling via airplane several states away and returning back home all in an 18 hour time frame.

I was slated to be on stage at 6:30 am for sound check the next morning and back on the plane by 10:30 am. At 2:00 a.m., I awoke, my heart beating rapidly and my mind racing. I couldn’t calm myself down to go to sleep, and the more I worried about getting sleep to be rested to speak, the worse it got. I called my husband and he talked me through it having dealt with a little anxiety himself several years ago. By 4 a.m. I was up, in the shower and on stage at 6:30 a.m. I remember the speaking engagement going very well, then I crashed on the plane and was back at work the next day.A similar scenario has happened since that trip, under nearly the exact same conditions… lots going on, basically ran down, and while traveling alone.

I’m most certainly not a self proclaimed expert on anxiety and definitely not here to give info on diagnosis or treatment especially given I am new to the game. What I am here to say is that I know what the root cause was for me: Burnout. As professionals, especially those of us who are working moms, involved in our communities, and always on the go- we juggle A LOT. We often push ourselves the hardest, wear all the hats, juggle all the things, and don’t give ourselves a break. As in a literal break. Our mindset tells us that breaks are for the weak. Successful people don’t need breaks. WRONG.

After long periods of intensity, one tends to burn out. It’s natural. It’s normal. It happens to the best of us. We all likely have different triggers that lead us to burnout,  but the important thing is to recognize when you’re headed on the path and make the appropriate changes to avoid it.

4 Signs I Knew I Was Dealing With Burnout

# 1 | I was experiencing anxiety and never had before
Your body talks to you all the time, but are you listening? In my situation, anxiety was the form of communication that my body used to tell me to slow the hell down. Almost as a way to say, “if you don’t, I’ll make you!” The racing heart and mind and the inability to control  it was a clear indication that something in my life needed to change.  I met with my boss, told him I needed to take a mental health day so that I could be a more productive and engaged employee and turned my “Out of Office” on. While I only took one day and should have taken more, that day saved me. I left my phone alone, slept in, worked on my new house, and relaxed. I came back to work a different person.

#2 | I Couldn’t Turn Off
Even when I was home, sitting at the ball field watching my son play, or unpacking boxes in our new home, I was still very much “on”. I was either checking my phone for emails, thinking through my next Girl Banker Instagram post, beating myself up that I hadn’t posted a new original article on the blog, or overthinking a work initiative. My oldest son, Brody would say, “someone’s grumpy!” For those of you who have had a grumpy day, there is literally nothing more aggravating than your snot nosed 8 year old reaffirming how grumpy you really are. However, that’s not what I want my 8 year old to envision when he thinks of me- the grumpy working mom that gives her all at work and nothing at home.

My friend and coworker Jill sent me a text one day that said, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Even you.” Just like our iPhones and computers, our minds work better if we use the power off button, wait a little while, and power back up. This simple concept spoke volumes to me as I had failed to unplug for a very long time. In fact, I couldn’t even remember the last time I had taken a day off to unplug.

Keep in mind that unplugging from our cell phones and social media is one thing, but actually “turning off” is a whole other thing. Being in work mode 24/7/365 isn’t healthy for anyone. Even the most productive, successful people take time off, schedule vacations, and focus on non-work things. In my case, I waited to long to recognize it, found that I was nearing burnout and eventually got sick. Don’t wait that long!

# 3 | I wasn’t excited and passionate about work
This was the kicker with me.  I was remodeling a home, living with my parents during the remodel, busy at work, traveling for speaking engagements, and basically never ever unplugging or taking time for myself. My family was getting all of my leftovers, which were crumbs. I have no one to blame… most of it was self inflicted, but it took it’s toll. I LOVE my job. I’m going to say it again, I LOVE MY JOB. I work with the BEST people and actually really enjoy going to work each day, but I found it harder and harder each day to get out of bed and get excited about going to work and that’s not like me at all.

This can be a tale tell sign of burnout and can happen even to the most passionate of employees. I recently posed the question of how my fellow girl bankers handle burnout in my private Girl Banker Facebook Group and received the following responses which I felt were comforting that we aren’t alone:

 ” I think it’s a season of life thing. We all experience it in some form or fashion. If you say you don’t, then you’re doing something wrong. As a working parent, we all struggle and we all feel it. Sometimes I myself wonder, why am I here? Then other times I’m reminded, both at home and at work, I’m important and I matter. So does everyone else.”
“We all go through these trials of anxiety and burnout. When you really stop and think about ALL that we do and manage on daily basis in our home life, socially and professionally it’s really kind of crazy to expect anything other than a little anxiety now and then.”

#4 | I couldn’t focus
I was finding that I couldn’t focus for long periods of time on any one thing. I knew I had a lot to do, but I had let it fester in my mind to this unattainable, impossibly to-do list that never ended. My mentor and friend, Allyson Twiggs Dyer forwarded me a blog post by Mel Robbins entitled, “Hot Off the Stress”. In the post, she talked about a near breakdown she had experienced and how she powered through it. One of my favorite points she discussed was the benefits of a brain dump- the process of sitting down in a quiet place with a notepad and a pen and literally dumping all the things that come to mind that are stressing you out and keeping you from being productive. You then highlight the 3 most important things and then circle the absolute most important thing. From that point on, everything else gets deleted and the focus is on that one important thing.

Just the concept of the brain dump sounded cathartic to me and I found it incredibly helpful in pushing through my burnout phase. It also helped me prioritize and understand what was holding me back.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I’m so encouraged that mental health is becoming more of a focus in the work place. We have to continue to kick the stigma that caring and focusing on mental health isn’t a weakness, but instead a strength. I’m no where near an expert on this topic, but I know that seeking out a therapist, taking time off to unplug, and having conversations about our stress and anxiety levels with friends is essential and NORMAL.

I have learned a lot about how unrealistic I am with myself at times. I know I am capable, I work my ass off daily, and I love what I do. Somewhere along the line, however, I had loaded up my plate and the weight eventually got to me. I had unrealistic expectations of myself and lost site of prioritizing, saying no, and breathing in and out. I hope this post is helpful to you, or at least resonates. I know I’m not alone and you aren’t either.

xo, Natalie
The Remote Girl Banker: How One Community Banker Took Her Work On the Road

The Remote Girl Banker: How One Community Banker Took Her Work On the Road

I’m happy to have fellow girl banker and friend, Molly Carpenter, VP, Marketing and Public Relations of FNBC Bank, as a guest blogger on the Girl Banker blog! Molly has a unique working situation, especially for a banker, in that she works remotely from her community bank. Here is her story! 

I am a fourth-generation community banker who does not live in a community my bank serves. In fact, I don’t live anywhere near a community my bank serves. For the past year, I have been working from my house in Bentonville, Arkansas, an almost four-hour drive from my bank’s headquarters. I spend approximately 70 percent of my time in Bentonville and 30 percent at our bank’s headquarters in Ash Flat.

I had been with the bank about four years when I made the pitch to work remotely in December 2016. I love my job, but I was at a point in my life where I really needed to spread my wings a bit more. It took my boss about six months to finally give me the green light and another six months for my home to sell. I closed in mid-December, and on December 26, 2017, I made the move across the state and kicked off a new fiscal year in a new town and a new working environment.

I think my boss would tell you today he would still much rather have me in the bank every day, but that this hasn’t been as painful as he originally thought. In our early discussions, he realized this was an opportunity to test remote working for future employees and to retain an employee he and the bank were invested in. We live in a very rural part of Arkansas, and recruiting top talent has become increasingly difficult. While customer-facing roles require you to be on site, there are certainly roles that can be designed with more flexibility. I oversee marketing for our 11 branches, so I don’t have to be physically present every day, but I do need to be hands-on part of the time. Through a bit of trial-and-error, we’ve figured out a schedule that works pretty well for both sides.

I enjoy the flexibility working remotely provides for my life. While I try to be available as much as I can during banking hours, sometimes I hop on early so I can wrap up my day earlier. Sometimes I work through lunch so I can get more done and not be at my computer too late. I believe we do our best thinking in clothes that are comfortable, so not having to put on my “banker uniform” each day is also pretty nice. And on a personal note, I’ve been able to create a social life that wasn’t available to me back home.

Molly on location at FNBC’s main office in Ash Flat, Arkansas.

If I told you the last year has been a breeze, I would be lying. There have certainly been lessons learned and I have seen myself transform as a professional and as a woman. I tied a lot of my identity to my role as a community banker. Working remotely, especially in an area where we don’t have a physical presence, I miss out on having a place in the community. I continue to serve on several boards back home, but in Bentonville, I don’t feel like I’m in a position to contribute in a worthwhile way. It was hard for me at first to feel like I was still a true community banker when I wasn’t there every day and I was wearing leggings and sweatshirts, but over time I have embraced more of who I really am as an individual, and not just a community banker.

Perhaps you have a substantial commute to work each day, or you could use some flexibility to help you be a better parent and employee. Maybe it’s as simple as you just need time away from the noise and distractions to get some things done. Or, maybe you’re in executive leadership at a rural community bank and are struggling to attract the quality of hires you need to sustain and grow your organization. If any of these resonate with you, a remote working opportunity is worth discussing and exploring. Remote work can take on many different forms from something similar to my set up or even just a few days a week.

If you decide to start working remotely, even part of the time, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned:

  1. Communicate with your supervisor. My boss and I committed to one another last year that we would have open dialogue about what was working and what wasn’t as we moved forward with this arrangement. We meet regularly and always work in at least a few minutes to discuss how things are going. It’s important for your supervisor to know and be aware of the good and the bad parts of working remotely. It’s equally important for you to know if there’s an area that your supervisor feels is losing attention because you’re not there every day. Often times, just talking it out remedies things on both sides.
  2. Be as flexible and accommodating as you can to your bank and management team. In my situation, my move was entirely personal. I know I have been given an incredible opportunity not afforded to everyone, so if my boss needs me to be in the bank, I’m there.
  3. Be as accessible to your colleagues as you would be when in the office. I’m a community banker and I am one of only 100 employees. If I am unavailable or unreachable for very long, someone is going to notice. I have been asked if I am tempted to watch TV or take naps during the day. Honestly, I’m not. You might be different. You don’t want to become known as the co-worker who is never available or who is unreachable.
  4. Create a routine early on and stick to it. Rolling out of bed at 7:55 a.m. and stumbling to my computer doesn’t feel great to me. While I don’t have to put on a pencil skirt and heels, or have my hair and make-up done at 8 a.m. when I’m working remotely, I still maintain a routine that gets me up and going as early as I would if I were in the bank. I like to get my workout done in the morning, so I found a workout I love (OrangeTheory Fitness!) and make it to as many 6 a.m. classes as I can during the week. I could write an entire post on the importance of exercise and stamina in leadership – maybe one day I will! Even if you are getting up early to have a cup of coffee and read the news, creating some time and space for you to prepare for the work day ahead is important.
  5. Keep your work space away from your living space. My first six months were spent living in a small, one-bedroom apartment. My living room was my office, and that was really tough. I couldn’t ever really leave for the day. Now, my three-bedroom house allows me to have a room that is strictly my office. When I’m not working, I keep the door closed and the lights off. Even if you’re working from home, you still need to be able to walk away from your work at the end of the day.
  6. Take breaks. It’s easy to look down and it see it’s already mid-afternoon and you’ve barely been up for air. I struggled with feeling guilty if I took too much time away from my computer, but have found that it’s really important to my overall well-being. Get out of your house and take a short walk, run an errand or go grab a coffee. Because you’re in a smaller space, you’re naturally going to be moving less than when you’re in the office. It’s important to move around some throughout the day to keep your mind fresh and focused.
  7. Don’t get too lonely. I am a functioning introvert, so I absolutely miss my people. I miss popping into offices throughout the day, catching up over lunch in the break room, and just being out and about in my community. While my fur child Mabel Louise certainly keeps my company, I do crave human interaction. When this happens, get out of the house and find somewhere new to work for the day. Coffee shops are always great, but many urban areas now offer a variety of co-working spaces you can pay to drop into for the day. I will be honest and say I am really bad to not follow this advice, but I know how good I feel when I actually do get out of the house and plug in with a new view.
  8. Prioritize your time. This may happen naturally for you, but I had to be very aware of how I was scheduling my time in the bank. I usually know my travel schedule one to two months in advance, so I do my best to stack my days on-site with as many face-to-face interactions as I can. That may involve project or leadership meetings, or simply having lunch with some of my co-workers. But I strive to not be holed up inside my bank office the entire time I’m in town. Sure, that means travel weeks are a bit less productive from a tangible standpoint, but don’t forget how valuable relationship building and maintaining is for your career.

If I had to do it over again, I would do it in a heartbeat. I am so grateful for what this opportunity has allowed for my career and my personal life. I’m also thankful to work for a community bank and leadership team that recognizes the value I bring to our organization and took a big leap of faith and allowed me to move across the state.

If you are considering making your pitch to work remotely or would like to chat with me or my CEO about how this arrangement has worked for our bank, feel free to reach out to me at

Molly is a fourth generation community banker at FNBC Bank where she is Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations. A remote-employee of the North Central Arkansas-based bank, Molly lives and works from home in Bentonville, Arkansas. A proud millennial, she is the youngest member of FNBC’s Senior Leadership Team, chairs the Sharp County Community Foundation, is vice chair of the Spring River Ambulance and Paramedic Service Board, is treasurer of the Spring River Innovation Hub and serves on the Ozarka College Foundation Board. In 2015, she was named one of Arkansas Business’ 20 in their 20s: The New Influentials and one of the Independent Community Bankers of America’s Top 20 Community Banking Influencers on Twitter. She is a proud dog mom to Mabel Louise and doting auntie to James Cole.

Mom Guilt

Mom Guilt

I’m a mom. It’s my most important job. I have two boys, a husband, a house, two dogs, two fish, and a career. I commute an hour and a half to work and attempt to be home by 6:00 pm each night. I am terrible at cooking and we are lucky to be eating dinner by 8:00 pm. Who am I kidding? We are lucky to be eating dinner by 9:00 pm most days and by dinner I mean Domino’s Pizza, cereal or maybe I got lucky and my mom made an extra casserole. Seriously, I am TERRIBLE at cooking.

I am fortunate that my mom and mother-in-law watch my children during the day and that my husband, who works much closer to home, gets our eldest to school each morning and is extremely helpful with our morning routine. I couldn’t do it without their help.

I invest a lot of energy into my job because I am passionate about it and I truly love what I do. I have worked hard to get where I am and honestly don’t feel I will be satisfied until I get to the absolute top because that’s just how I am wired. And don’t ask me what the “top” is because I don’t have that figured out yet. I also never miss a ball game or practice, I help as much as I can with school activities, I make sure everyone’s pits and booties are washed every night, and I make a valid effort to tackle a mountain of laundry every weekend. (I swear the laundry pro-creates in the bin overnight). But I never feel like I’m doing a good enough job. Which job you ask? Take your pick!

I suffer from what our society has coined as Mom Guilt. While at work, I feel guilty for not being home with my boys. For not being able to go eat lunch with my son on a regular basis at his school. For not witnessing all of my youngest son’s firsts and essentially allowing someone else to be with my children during the majority of the day. When I add up the waking hours that I am with my boys, I feel ashamed and sad. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.

Brody is my eldest and is a spitting image of his dad. He has an old soul and is obsessed with hunting and farming.

Then there is the other side of the coin. I work for a very family-friendly company that empowers their employees to spend time with family when needed. I’m often encouraged by my boss to leave early enough to get home so that I can avoid the awful traffic of my commute. But when I do need to stay home with a sick kid or come in late because of a school program, that pesky guilt shows up again. However, this time, I’m guilty for not being at work and getting my job done. What if someone else has to pick up the slack in my absence? What if that project doesn’t get done on time? Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.

Recently, my youngest had Croup and the only thing that made him feel better was for me to hold him, which I did for three days straight. During those three days I got lots of good baby snuggles, an unintended upper body workout from wrangling all 30 pounds of him nonstop, and time to watch the first two seasons of Stranger Things. I tried to get some work done on my laptop but that’s not easy with a sick toddler in your lap. I became anxious about not reporting to work and worried that I was letting the bank down. The day before he got sick I had booked one of the largest loans of my career and had embarked on a project that could change the course of my future. It’s not like I had just been twiddling my thumbs. However, I allowed this voice in my head to tell me that I was failing. Not one person from work had said a word. If anything they were concerned about my son’s health. I was right where I needed to be and there’s no doubt about it. But still, the inner battle of Mom Guilt was in full-on war mode.

One day, when the struggle was particularly difficult, I wondered what other moms did to keep it all together. So, I did what people do in 2017 and turned to Facebook. I simply posted:

“WORKING MAMAS | Whether you work away from the home or at home, I am interested to know your biggest troubles, stresses, etc. as a working mom and how you attempt to balance it all.”

My intent was to start a conversation with the FB universe to see if anyone else even felt the same way. The second I hit “post” I feared that I was alone or that I would be viewed as a selfish mom who was choosing a career over her family. Or maybe, just maybe, there were more women just like me. I had a strategic planning session that day at work and wasn’t able to monitor the conversation that I had started. I picked up my phone a few hours later and was taken aback by the comments and private messages that were pouring in. I even received a few text messages from friends who had read the post and were making sure I was ok and followed up with words of sympathy just in case. But the common denominator was simple: they ALL felt GUILTY in some form or fashion. One new working mom sent me a message thanking me for posting because she felt she was alone. It gave her comfort to know that others struggled as well. Another said she was surprised to hear I struggled with this because I present myself as someone who has it all together. Sheesh! If she only knew!

My youngest, Witten. He’s a fireball and the most likely Bartholomew boy to be a banker based on his personality!

It’s important to point out that I don’t want to discount those who stay home with their children as opposed to working outside of the home. I’m sure if we compared notes, both working and non-working mommas have their own sets of struggles and dealings with Mom Guilt. I had one Facebook friend who commented that after the birth of her children she elected to stay at home. While she was appreciative of having the ability to stay at home with her kids every day, (removed but) she felt guilty for not contributing to the household finances by not having a paying job. I believe it’s safe to say that regardless of the circumstances, all of us feel like we are falling short of being Super Mom – whatever that is.

I am positive there are people out there who think I am crazy for commuting an hour and half to work, which may lead them to question my parenting abilities or label me as a “bad mom”. Or maybe that’s me being too worried what other people think. At the end of the day, if my commute and my career are OK with my family, then why should I worry about what others think? And who am I to judge any other mom out there doing what is best for her and her family? Is there a guideline that states what is required to be labeled a “good mom”? I remember being told one time that the reason you don’t see many women in the banking C-Suite is because there is a point in every woman’s career where she finds herself at a fork in the road. One path leads to a successful career at the expense of their family and the other leads them to their family at the expense of their career. There is no middle road where she can have both, where she can have it all. Well, I think that’s crap. I definitely don’t have it completely figured out yet, but I am determined to find that middle road because I refuse to believe that it does not exist. I like to think that my sons are being raised to appreciate a mom who is a strong, working woman who can transition from career to family in a matter of seconds. Perhaps they will be more independent as a result and value a good work ethic in their future mate.

I let Mom Guilt get me down daily. It can really steal my joy both at home and at work as it creeps in and reminds me of my shortfalls and inadequacies. Perhaps it’s my own high expectations and standards of top performance or the unrealistic stigmas about the perfect family that social media reminds us about. Regardless, I am never good enough in my own eyes. But here’s the deal: I don’t think there is a cure to the epidemic of Mom Guilt, and that sucks. But I also think we are our own harshest critics. Instead, we need to be having this conversation more often and tell each other that it’s OK. Let’s stop pretending like we are the only ones who don’t have it all together, because none of us really do. We all have our faults and weaknesses, but we are doing the best we can. We all need to do our part in lifting each other up and make a valid effort to not cast those judgmental stares or make assumptions of other mom’s situations. You just never know what she may be dealing with, and Lord knows this mom gig ain’t easy!