Danielle Prescod Breathes Through The Burnout

Danielle Prescod discusses hustle culture, millennial burnout, the unexpected effects of IVF treatment and the way she has breathed her way through all of the above.
Danielle Prescod Breathes Through The Burnout

“Disney+ came out the other week and my sister and I started watching old episodes of Lizzie McGuire. There was one episode where she says, ‘Oh my God, I got a ‘B’ on this paper. I'm never going to get into college. Then, I'm never going to get a job, and then I'm never going to be anybody!’ That is so real. That is a perfect example of the millennial spiral.”

Danielle Prescod loves hiking, horseback riding, and reading a lot of books. She’s a Leo, and a very curious person about most things. Danielle is the Style Director at BET, but hates when that question becomes the focal point of everything we know about one another.

Danielle worked as a fashion editor for over a decade, before she began to realize that the life she had built was burning her out. Was the stress worth the warped sense of success?

“In cave-man times, stress was a positive [survival tool] that helped you escape a predator – but our [modern] bodies can’t differentiate between being chased by a lion and the thought of being chased by a lion. We’re living in a constant state of stress, especially in places like New York, where work culture is so extreme. So, we have these warped reactions: being nervous about meetings creates the same stressors as being chased by a predator.”

DANIELLE WEARS THE SCOOP IN MERLOT AND THE BIKINI IN MERLOT

“Hustle-culture on social media makes it even worse. You think that you always need to be working – that you need to take your laptop on the beach during vacation, to never stop, to wear nonstop work like a badge of honor. I used to do this. Working hard feels great at first, but it’s really unhealthy and will eventually drive you crazy.”

“Burnout is very common for millennials and even more common for people who live in New York. We work so hard, constantly, for terrible salaries. For what? You finally stop and say, ‘I’ve worked this hard to get to the middle?’”

“I was 18 years old when I started working in fashion. I got my first internship at NYLON magazine. This was my dream: to be able to see the inside of all the magazines I read. There’s also this [desire] to be accepted into ‘the club.’ You’re on constant audition to get accepted, but once you do, you look around and think, ‘What’s so great about this?’”

“I’m a classic overachiever. I pushed myself so hard to get somewhere in my career and when I got there, I hated the life I had built. I continued working in magazines until 2016. I went through some personal things – a betrayal, a breakup – but the 2015 election really [shifted things], too. I was reading the news, watching everything that was happening, yet my job was to tell women how to dress exactly like Kate Hudson, from head to toe, every day. I finally thought, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’”

Leaving a job is hard, especially in a world where the question, ‘What do you do?’ seems to precede almost everything else. And once you’ve left, a new identity doesn’t always immediately take form. The risk in leaving is often followed by ambiguity. You’ve seemingly lost momentum – but Danielle learned that the real reward was in this opportunity to slow down.

“I took a new job at a media brand, but that atmosphere was extremely toxic. They ended up firing me after two months. We did not see eye to eye. That was the first time in my entire life I got fired from anything, and I was devastated. But it ended up being a great thing, because I had never had time to take a break. I took the summer off. I traveled. I slowed down.”

After this break, Danielle joined the BET team to help revamp their lifestyle division. She was energized by the 360° approach to fashion and beauty topics, compared to her more limited verticals of the past. Back in business, however, she made sure to also take a 360° approach to mindfulness, protecting her energy, and buffering herself against the burnout.

“I had tried the 30-day meditation challenges, but always gave up on day 31. Then, I went to Canyon Ranch [for a retreat this summer] and they compared meditation to brushing your teeth. It doesn’t feel like you get anything out of brushing your teeth – except for not having rotten teeth. So, why would you let your brain rot? That changed the way I think about meditation. Now, I take the time every single day.”

“I’ve always held onto things. My family always jokes, ‘Danielle is still mad about something that happened in 1993.’ I’ve struggled with depression over the years. I’m still not totally there, but meditation has helped me be more present and let go of a crippling desire for control.”

DANIELLE WEARS THE SCOOP IN MERLOT AND THE BIKINI IN MERLOT

“I’ve learned that depression is too much focus on the past. Anxiety is too much focus on the future. So, learning to be present, to be OK with what’s happening right now, has been a huge learning experience. Meditation has really helped me find the middle.”

There are some moments in a woman’s life, however, that our bodies beg us to think of the future. Having children is one such circumstance. As Danielle entered her thirties, amidst efforts to slow down and be present in the moment, she made the decision to freeze her eggs and regain control over the anxiety that an internal clock presents to so many modern women.

“From a very young age, I always knew that I was going to be a mom. That’s what I feel I am meant to do. When I was 29, however, I broke up with a boyfriend I thought I was going to marry and have kids with. That made everything cloudy. When I turned 30, I was determined to take control over the situation. So, I froze my eggs over the summer and, finally thought, ‘Oh, I can relax!’”

“I don’t see a downside to the decision. If I don’t find a partner right away, I can feel comfortable in my path [to motherhood.] If I do find a partner, well, I can control my kids' ages! That being said, I was not prepared for the process at all. It was a very intense few weeks. I had anxiety leading up to it and I was not ready for the after-effects.”

Controlling her opportunities to become a mother came with other compromises of control. During IVF treatments, a woman’s body and emotions can shift significantly – without a baby ending in your arms at the end of the process.

“I gained fifteen pounds in three weeks [during the IVF treatment]. I used to be really restrictive with my eating. I was always on a diet and I was always hungry. I’ve definitely chilled out, but this kind of weight change was wild. I promised myself I wouldn’t diet during the process, but I’ve never felt that out of control with my body. At the end of IVF, most people get pregnant. They get their baby. I didn’t get that – I just got constipated. And gained fifteen pounds.”

To get back into her body, Danielle is no longer focusing on the past or worrying about the future. She’s challenging herself to appreciate what her body looks like in the moment, day in and day out. Her daily check-in is a meditation we all could benefit from.

“I was always kind of terrified of my body. I never took pictures of myself in bathing suits or underwear. So, I’m taking a picture of myself every single day, as a kind of desensitization-therapy. At the end of the year, I’ll have a picture of what I looked like every single day. I don’t send them or post them,” Danielle laughs, “They just sit in my phone. It’s crazy, though, because I’ll look back a month later and think, ‘Oh my god, I looked so cute that day!’ I won’t remember feeling bad. It’s helping.”

Interview and Article by Molly Virostek. Photographed by Stephanie Lavaggi. Styled by Emily Newnam

Tags: bodytalk , Purpose

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