👋 Hi, I’m James. Thanks for checking out Building Momentum: a newsletter to help startup founders and marketers accelerate SaaS growth through product marketing.
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The last fifteen years have seen a bust and boom cycle, we’ve struggled through a global pandemic, and now we’re trying to finish spreadsheets and write messaging whilst Russia invades Ukraine.
And as product marketers, we lead and support so many crucial parts of our businesses. It can feel like we’re carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders.
It’s a constant juggling act: balancing customer needs with internal constraints, all whilst trying to keep our heads above water with the day-to-day.
It’s no wonder that product marketers are burnt out: exhausted, swamped, overwhelmed, and drained.
I’ve had so many friends and colleagues deal with debilitating stress, anxiety, and self-doubt – to the point where they’ve had to take extended mental health leave or quit completely to save their sanity.
I wanted to highlight a couple of real stories.
First, here’s what an anonymous product marketer in the health-tech industry had to say:
Ranee Soundara also shared an insightful, personal thread on the effects of burnout on her mental and physical health:
“At the peak of my burnout, my emotional work exhaustion manifested these ways:
+ PTSD nightmares about work, due deadlines, being angry about the unmanageable workload on myself and my team, rage quitting
+ wake up with nausea, and throw up some mornings before going on Zoom
“The raw feelings of anger and resentment would carry from my nightmares and into my woken state—and the insurmountable mental exhaustion and depletion virtually internalized in such a way I began to feel like a complete personal failure: ineffective and worthless.
“I didn’t know how much burnout affected me until my best friend pointed out I was withdrawn from my normal social routine, and literally told me: “I’m worried about you. You’ve had stressful jobs before, but right now you are a completely different person.” I was gutted.
“At first, I thought it was just the pandemic. Everyone was under lockdown, and I was isolated—living alone, and distantly socialized with only a handful of friends that chose to remain in New York. Then more friends began to say the same things: “we can tell how sad you are…”
“My mom suggested I increase my monthly therapy sessions to bi-weekly. That way, I could unpack some of the emotional burden I carried and also be in a safe space to carefully think things through. With a therapist’s help, I could identify the changes to improve mental wellness.
“Additionally, during my annual medical exam, my doctor explained the long-term negative effects of burnout on my body and fertility health. That if I continued on this path, I would become at-risk for hereditary diseases, and it’d be increasingly challenging to freeze my eggs.
“It was in my doctor’s exam notes that finally motivated me to leave my job:
+ My mental wellness has been completely depleted
+ My burnout has caused me to have early stage PTSD
+ As long as I was working, I couldn’t make the best decisions to improve mental and physical health
“I understand the reluctance to leave a job. We are pressured to constantly be “onto the next” without taking time off to deal with stressors and refreshing our mental health—most having to prioritize family and financial obligations. The reality is, we can’t afford time off.
“Of course we all want a good job, to do good work and feel validated in the value we bring an organization, however, when conditions don’t enable us to do our best work and becomes wholly demoralizing, we cannot continue living with it. No job is worth jeopardizing your health.”
You can also read more about Ranee’s story on CNBC.
“It’s difficult to isolate product marketing’s contribution to success, often we have an amplifier effect that can make or break the success of a product, marketing team, or even the business overall. But the downside of this is that product marketing can often be hidden, undervalued, and can feel thankless. It’s exhausting having to create space to showcase your work, make sure the right people are paying attention, and it can be really exhausting – especially if you crave external validation.”
Personally, I’ve also cycled through peaks of burnout every few months for the last few years, overwhelmed by the amount of ‘small rock’ tasks that I need to complete – in addition to making progress on the ‘big rocks’.
Tips for dealing with burnout
If you’re in urgent need of support, I encourage you to find the help you need from your manager, HR team, doctors, and other professionals you have access to.
Here are a few tips for dealing with burnout.
- Understand what burnout feels like for you. It might be feeling increased stress and pressure to the point of exhaustion, or it might be withdrawing from your normal lifestyle.
- Get support. Most companies have woken up to the importance of mental health, and offer coaching, therapy, sick days, and other support for burnout. Make use of any Employee Assistance Programs.
- Work with your manager. Be transparent about your needs with your manager. Ask for help, let them know you need to step back, and deprioritise projects so you can focus on fewer things.
- Build working habits. Take your full allocation of PTO. Set work/life boundaries, like no work after 6pm. Take walks during the day to reset. Adapt your working style to maximize your day-to-day health.
- Give-and-take. Maybe controversial, but sometimes you’ll need to work under deadline – requiring weekend work or late nights. And that can be fine, so long as it doesn’t become an expectation. Make sure to take back time you’ve worked in lieu whether an official policy or not.
- Communicate. Talking about burnout, being transparent, and showing vulnerability is not a weakness. Things will only get better as a culture and society if we can speak up with confidence and be proud that you’re prioritising your mental wellbeing.
I’d love to hear your tips on protecting your mental health – drop me a reply or comment on the post below with your thoughts.
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