October 4, 2022
4
Min read

"I used to think burnout was bullshit. Then my CEO took me to hospital for anxiety."

Written By
Steve Howe
With thanks To
Tim Cakir | Growth Strategist and Co-founder of Juno Talent

Tim Cakir used to think that anxiety happened to people who weren’t tough enough: 

“I was always thinking: burnout, mental health—that's for weak people. And I was quite aggressive about it.”

When he was 27, he moved from London to Barcelona to pursue the good life, accepting a job as head of marketing at a small tech startup. He felt young, fresh, and invincible.

Then he found himself in the back of a taxi, speeding towards a hospital. He thought he was going to die.

“The office became my second home” 

Prior to his hospital visit, Tim thought everything in his life was fine. Every morning he’d walk seven minutes from his apartment to the office, stopping off at a bakery for some fresh orange juice and a frankfurter croissant. 

He was the startup’s fifth employee. On arriving, he was thrown straight into the deep end: a company in the US was threatening to sue the startup for trademark infringement.

“They were like: ‘Welcome to the team. Your first challenge is to rebrand the whole company in two weeks.’”

To some, this might sound like a nightmare. But Tim got excited. He rose to the challenge, working hard to successfully rebrand the company in the allotted time—avoiding the lawsuit.  

He started generating inbound sales leads, but wondered why they never resulted in any customers. Tim raised his concerns with the sales guy, who shifted the blame back to marketing, claiming the leads weren't qualified. 

After Tim highlighted the issue to the company directors, the guy got fired. Tim was relieved, until he realised that not only was he head of marketing—he was now also head of sales, and had to clean up the mess his colleague had left behind.

“I’d moved to Barcelona to be outside, to enjoy life. But the office became my second home—I basically lived there.”

<quote-author>Tim Cakir<quote-author><quote-company>Co-founder at Juno Talent<quote-company>

All this felt stressful and demanding. But back in 2016, the “live to work” hustle culture at startups was not just accepted—it was fashionable. Tim embraced it, sometimes working 14-hour days in the name of fast growth. 

“I was aggressive with work. I did the crazy startup hours. I’d check my phone and laptop on evenings and weekends, on guard all the time in case a message came in.” 

And—with the office so close to home—it was easy to justify staying later and later: 

“I’d moved to Barcelona to be outside, to enjoy life. But the office became my second home—I basically lived there.” 

Meanwhile, the company continued to pursue growth at all costs. While other team members saw €1.7M in funding from the EU as “free money”, Tim had to pay the real cost—hours and hours of extra reporting to show where the money had been spent.

“Goodbye world”

The work took its toll on Tim in a sudden and tangible way:

“It was a summer day. I was in front of my computer, and the screen started moving. Then I looked around the office and all the lights were flickering.” 

To Tim, this was a clear sign he needed a break. He stood up and headed towards the exit. The CEO—Josep—looked up from his desk. “Where are you going?” he asked. “I really need to rest,” Tim replied. Josep paused for a moment, then said: “Don’t go home.” 

Don’t go home? At first, Tim didn’t understand. He repeated himself, saying he just needed to lie down on his sofa for a bit before opening his laptop to resume working. Josep insisted: 

“Oh, you’re not going home. We’re going to the hospital.” 

Tim still doesn’t know how the CEO spotted it. Something in Tim’s eyes, perhaps. In any case, Josep was now leading him out onto the street. They got into a taxi together, and set off towards the nearest hospital.

“About five minutes into the taxi ride, I realised it was good we were going to the hospital—because I was convinced I was having a heart attack.”

Tim felt his heart pounding and his hands seizing up. When they got to the emergency room and he was made to wait, he shouted and screamed in complete panic. He truly felt like he was dying—goodbye world, he thought. Josep tried to calm him down with reassurances. 

After what seemed like an age, Tim was seen by a doctor. It was only then that they told him it was an anxiety attack—not a heart attack. They gave him Diazepam. He immediately felt calmer. 

Josep stayed with him until Tim’s girlfriend was able to come and pick him up.  

Peace

Tim went home to recover. Soon after, he downloaded the Headspace meditation app and began the foundational course. It brought him peace. 

With the CEO’s encouragement, he went on holiday to his parents’ beach house in the south of Turkey. With no laptop, no girlfriend, and no dog, it didn’t feel like a normal visit to his parents. They suspected something was up. Tim didn’t want them to worry, so didn’t say anything at first. But eventually he opened up, telling them about the anxiety attack.  

It helped. Tim realised that sharing his story allowed him to accept what happened, and—he believes—prevent it from happening again. 

Once he got back to work, Tim was a lot smarter about his hours. He took meaningful breaks: 

“Before, I’d take breaks and just sit by the coffee machine. Now, I’ll go for a walk and observe the world.”  

He started to meditate, every day after lunch, on the office sofa—visible to anyone passing by. Sometimes colleagues would even join in. 

“Before, I thought everything was super-important—a fire to be put out. Then I realised that nothing was more important than my health.”

<quote-author>Tim Cakir<quote-author><quote-company>Co-founder at Juno Talent<quote-company>

He now went home at a reasonable hour, refusing to respond to messages once he left the office. If a new sales lead came in, he’d take no action. That’s a tomorrow thing, he’d think. It can wait. He’d learned to prioritise: 

“Before, I thought everything was super-important—a fire to be put out. Then I realised that nothing was more important than my health.”

It was this mindset that prompted Tim to quit a later job because it was too stressful. Before his anxiety attack, he saw stress as a badge of honour. Now, it’s a threat to his health—so he’ll remove himself from the situation. 

Tim is now a co-founder of his own company. As “the boss”, he realises the pressure—however implicit—that comes with sending a message to an employee outside of work hours. So he uses scheduling features to send messages during work hours only. 

And if you’re not part of Tim’s immediate family, good luck getting hold of him between 9pm and 10am. His phone is set to receive zero notifications during that time. He encourages his team to do the same. 

From hard work to smart work 

Some time after Tim’s anxiety attack, he went for a drink with his former CEO. He thanked him for recognising the emergency for what it was, and for taking him—literally by the hand—to hospital. 

“To my CEO at the time, Josep: I want to thank you for thinking about your team before anything else. And for seeing something that I didn’t see. Your actions changed my life.” 

Josep in turn told Tim that he’d appreciated all the work he did for the company. But perhaps he’d become too emotionally invested, which is what led to the attack. 

On reflection, Tim believes he put a lot of pressure on himself due to imposter syndrome. He didn’t have a lot of experience heading up departments like sales and marketing—let alone building them from the ground up. So he over-compensated, working around the clock to chase growth targets: 

I was all about hard work, not smart work.” 

Tim once believed that anyone who eased off work in the name of “mental health” was weak.

Now, he knows that it takes great strength.

Oliva therapist portrait photo

4 tips for avoiding a major burnout

by Oliva therapist

Catalina Pearce

1

Take a moment to pause

When we are feeling intense emotions such as stress, panic, anxiety, or even anger, our mind and body wants to react very quickly. It’s easy to feel like there’s no time to stop and take stock of things. But pausing is helpful. It could be a few deep breaths before saying yes to something—or a longer step back to really consider what is triggering these emotions in you, what your priorities are, and what is within your control to change.
2

See your whole self

Periods of intense pressure can make us see ourselves through a narrow lens. We can end up only measuring our worth by our productivity. But as humans, we all have a range of emotional and physical needs that need to be considered—or we’ll eventually feel the negative consequences. It’s important to recognise this.
3

Re-prioritise

Think about the key areas of your life: health, relationships, leisure, and work. Now think about what you need to be doing to regularly meet those needs. Be honest with yourself and consider if you’re focusing all of your energy into just one area. If this is the case, then it’s time to think about redistributing your energy more equally into other areas of your life.
4

Get rid of guilt

Sometimes we are afraid of taking a step back from our responsibilities, or of setting boundaries, because we feel like it’s selfish. This thought only holds us back from truly being able to fulfill our potential. If we’re burnt out, sleep-deprived, irritable, or stressed then it’s unlikely that we’ll be giving the best of ourselves to those around us. It’s only by putting ourselves first that we can truly be present for others.
5

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June 15, 2022
4
Min read

"I used to think burnout was bullshit. Then my CEO took me to hospital for anxiety."

Written By
Steve Howe
With thanks To
Tim Cakir | Growth Strategist and Co-founder of Juno Talent

Tim Cakir used to think that anxiety happened to people who weren’t tough enough: 

“I was always thinking: burnout, mental health—that's for weak people. And I was quite aggressive about it.”

When he was 27, he moved from London to Barcelona to pursue the good life, accepting a job as head of marketing at a small tech startup. He felt young, fresh, and invincible.

Then he found himself in the back of a taxi, speeding towards a hospital. He thought he was going to die.

“The office became my second home” 

Prior to his hospital visit, Tim thought everything in his life was fine. Every morning he’d walk seven minutes from his apartment to the office, stopping off at a bakery for some fresh orange juice and a frankfurter croissant. 

He was the startup’s fifth employee. On arriving, he was thrown straight into the deep end: a company in the US was threatening to sue the startup for trademark infringement.

“They were like: ‘Welcome to the team. Your first challenge is to rebrand the whole company in two weeks.’”

To some, this might sound like a nightmare. But Tim got excited. He rose to the challenge, working hard to successfully rebrand the company in the allotted time—avoiding the lawsuit.  

He started generating inbound sales leads, but wondered why they never resulted in any customers. Tim raised his concerns with the sales guy, who shifted the blame back to marketing, claiming the leads weren't qualified. 

After Tim highlighted the issue to the company directors, the guy got fired. Tim was relieved, until he realised that not only was he head of marketing—he was now also head of sales, and had to clean up the mess his colleague had left behind.

Quote author photograph
“I’d moved to Barcelona to be outside, to enjoy life. But the office became my second home—I basically lived there.”

<quote-author>Tim Cakir<quote-author><quote-company>Co-founder at Juno Talent<quote-company>

All this felt stressful and demanding. But back in 2016, the “live to work” hustle culture at startups was not just accepted—it was fashionable. Tim embraced it, sometimes working 14-hour days in the name of fast growth. 

“I was aggressive with work. I did the crazy startup hours. I’d check my phone and laptop on evenings and weekends, on guard all the time in case a message came in.” 

And—with the office so close to home—it was easy to justify staying later and later: 

“I’d moved to Barcelona to be outside, to enjoy life. But the office became my second home—I basically lived there.” 

Meanwhile, the company continued to pursue growth at all costs. While other team members saw €1.7M in funding from the EU as “free money”, Tim had to pay the real cost—hours and hours of extra reporting to show where the money had been spent.

“Goodbye world”

The work took its toll on Tim in a sudden and tangible way:

“It was a summer day. I was in front of my computer, and the screen started moving. Then I looked around the office and all the lights were flickering.” 

To Tim, this was a clear sign he needed a break. He stood up and headed towards the exit. The CEO—Josep—looked up from his desk. “Where are you going?” he asked. “I really need to rest,” Tim replied. Josep paused for a moment, then said: “Don’t go home.” 

Don’t go home? At first, Tim didn’t understand. He repeated himself, saying he just needed to lie down on his sofa for a bit before opening his laptop to resume working. Josep insisted: 

“Oh, you’re not going home. We’re going to the hospital.” 

Tim still doesn’t know how the CEO spotted it. Something in Tim’s eyes, perhaps. In any case, Josep was now leading him out onto the street. They got into a taxi together, and set off towards the nearest hospital.

“About five minutes into the taxi ride, I realised it was good we were going to the hospital—because I was convinced I was having a heart attack.”

Tim felt his heart pounding and his hands seizing up. When they got to the emergency room and he was made to wait, he shouted and screamed in complete panic. He truly felt like he was dying—goodbye world, he thought. Josep tried to calm him down with reassurances. 

After what seemed like an age, Tim was seen by a doctor. It was only then that they told him it was an anxiety attack—not a heart attack. They gave him Diazepam. He immediately felt calmer. 

Josep stayed with him until Tim’s girlfriend was able to come and pick him up.  

Peace

Tim went home to recover. Soon after, he downloaded the Headspace meditation app and began the foundational course. It brought him peace. 

With the CEO’s encouragement, he went on holiday to his parents’ beach house in the south of Turkey. With no laptop, no girlfriend, and no dog, it didn’t feel like a normal visit to his parents. They suspected something was up. Tim didn’t want them to worry, so didn’t say anything at first. But eventually he opened up, telling them about the anxiety attack.  

It helped. Tim realised that sharing his story allowed him to accept what happened, and—he believes—prevent it from happening again. 

Once he got back to work, Tim was a lot smarter about his hours. He took meaningful breaks: 

“Before, I’d take breaks and just sit by the coffee machine. Now, I’ll go for a walk and observe the world.”  

He started to meditate, every day after lunch, on the office sofa—visible to anyone passing by. Sometimes colleagues would even join in. 

quote author photograph
“Before, I thought everything was super-important—a fire to be put out. Then I realised that nothing was more important than my health.”

<quote-author>Tim Cakir<quote-author><quote-company>Co-founder at Juno Talent<quote-company>

He now went home at a reasonable hour, refusing to respond to messages once he left the office. If a new sales lead came in, he’d take no action. That’s a tomorrow thing, he’d think. It can wait. He’d learned to prioritise: 

“Before, I thought everything was super-important—a fire to be put out. Then I realised that nothing was more important than my health.”

It was this mindset that prompted Tim to quit a later job because it was too stressful. Before his anxiety attack, he saw stress as a badge of honour. Now, it’s a threat to his health—so he’ll remove himself from the situation. 

Tim is now a co-founder of his own company. As “the boss”, he realises the pressure—however implicit—that comes with sending a message to an employee outside of work hours. So he uses scheduling features to send messages during work hours only. 

And if you’re not part of Tim’s immediate family, good luck getting hold of him between 9pm and 10am. His phone is set to receive zero notifications during that time. He encourages his team to do the same. 

From hard work to smart work 

Some time after Tim’s anxiety attack, he went for a drink with his former CEO. He thanked him for recognising the emergency for what it was, and for taking him—literally by the hand—to hospital. 

“To my CEO at the time, Josep: I want to thank you for thinking about your team before anything else. And for seeing something that I didn’t see. Your actions changed my life.” 

Josep in turn told Tim that he’d appreciated all the work he did for the company. But perhaps he’d become too emotionally invested, which is what led to the attack. 

On reflection, Tim believes he put a lot of pressure on himself due to imposter syndrome. He didn’t have a lot of experience heading up departments like sales and marketing—let alone building them from the ground up. So he over-compensated, working around the clock to chase growth targets: 

I was all about hard work, not smart work.” 

Tim once believed that anyone who eased off work in the name of “mental health” was weak.

Now, he knows that it takes great strength.

Oliva therapist photograph

4 tips for avoiding a major burnout

by Oliva therapist

Catalina Pearce

1
Take a moment to pause

When we are feeling intense emotions such as stress, panic, anxiety, or even anger, our mind and body wants to react very quickly. It’s easy to feel like there’s no time to stop and take stock of things. But pausing is helpful. It could be a few deep breaths before saying yes to something—or a longer step back to really consider what is triggering these emotions in you, what your priorities are, and what is within your control to change.

2
See your whole self

Periods of intense pressure can make us see ourselves through a narrow lens. We can end up only measuring our worth by our productivity. But as humans, we all have a range of emotional and physical needs that need to be considered—or we’ll eventually feel the negative consequences. It’s important to recognise this.

3
Re-prioritise

Think about the key areas of your life: health, relationships, leisure, and work. Now think about what you need to be doing to regularly meet those needs. Be honest with yourself and consider if you’re focusing all of your energy into just one area. If this is the case, then it’s time to think about redistributing your energy more equally into other areas of your life.

4
Get rid of guilt

Sometimes we are afraid of taking a step back from our responsibilities, or of setting boundaries, because we feel like it’s selfish. This thought only holds us back from truly being able to fulfill our potential. If we’re burnt out, sleep-deprived, irritable, or stressed then it’s unlikely that we’ll be giving the best of ourselves to those around us. It’s only by putting ourselves first that we can truly be present for others.

5

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