Navigating Burnout

Sue Willman, VP Chronic Condition Management at Athenahealth

Sue Willman, VP Care Collaboration for Athenahealth, shares her powerful story of changing her personal narrative and self-expectations. The openness and wisdom that Sue shares during this conversation is an inspiring example of how to ride the waves of change.

Navigating Burnout and Prioritizing Well-Being During Turbulent Times

In our recent podcast episode, Sue shared her profound journey through a period marked by overwhelming challenges, reflecting on how external stresses compounded with personal trials can push us to our limits. This resonates deeply, especially in a world confronting multiple global crisis.

Sue, who faced an extraordinary series of challenges over eight years, including the loss of all three remaining parents within five years, candidly shared her struggles. These experiences shed light on the toll of continuous stress, leading to feelings of emotional exhaustion, guilt, and a sense of inadequacy. Amidst these hardships, Sue reached a critical turning point about a year ago. She realized the profound impact on her personal and professional life, grappling with the inability to balance both spheres effectively. As a relatively young parent and a pivotal figure in her extended family’s support network, Sue’s journey mirrored the challenges many executives face in high-stress roles.

Embracing Vulnerability and Self-Care

The journey towards healing began with a courageous decision—to prioritize her well-being and her family’s over career obligations. This involved stepping away from professional responsibilities to focus on personal recovery and family healing. Sue’s decision, though daunting, opened unexpected avenues for self-discovery and resilience. Reflecting on her experience, Sue highlighted the importance of vulnerability and self-care. Initially finding solace in simple activities like watching TV and listening to podcasts, she gradually integrated healthier routines such as exercise and gardening. These steps not only nurtured her physical well-being but also helped restore a sense of purpose and joy.

Reshaping the Narrative

Central to Sue’s journey was the reshaping of her personal and professional narratives. By embracing uncertainty and challenging societal expectations, she found a renewed perspective on success—one that prioritizes holistic well-being over conventional career trajectories. This shift not only empowered her but also inspired openness about mental health challenges and the need for work-life balance. Throughout her journey, Sue emphasized the pivotal role of supportive relationships. Whether from understanding colleagues or compassionate peers, these connections provided crucial emotional support and practical advice. Sue’s story underscores the value of fostering inclusive, non-judgmental environments where individuals can openly discuss personal challenges without fear of stigma.


Sue’s journey is a testament to resilience and the transformative power of self-care. Her story encourages others facing similar struggles to prioritize their mental and emotional health, challenge societal expectations, and embrace vulnerability as a catalyst for personal growth. In navigating life’s inevitable challenges, Sue’s experience offers valuable insights into resilience, self-discovery, and the importance of fostering supportive communities. Her journey reminds us that true strength often lies in:

  1. acknowledging our limitations
  2. seeking help when needed
  3. redefining success on our terms


Recommended Resources

Listening to Shame - Brené Brown

Daring Greatly - Brené Brown

Brené Brown - The Power of Vulnerability