I like to work. Actually, I love what I do; I enjoy working with the people around me, and I find joy in helping other business owners solve problems. Like many entrepreneurs, I feel proud to be running a business of my own. It's something I always dreamed of.
Still, running a business is stressful. It's hard, demanding work and I find it difficult to balance starting this company with the rest of my life!
This tension – the one that comes from building a business that I'm proud of, balancing a full life with time for family and friends, and managing the stress of it all – it's what causes burnout. Given enough time, the effects of stress compound with exhaustion and a lack of caring properly for oneself, which ultimately creates some distressing results.
As WebMD so eloquently points out, burnout is a result of excessive and prolonged emotional, physical, and mental stress.
Burnout is characterized by exhaustion, a lack of interest in work and other activities, and sometimes higher levels of anxiety and depression. Most people with an entrepreneurial career love what they do, meaning that they're willing to carry a massive amount of stress for a long time without even realizing it. Truthfully, entrepreneurs are one of the groups that are most at risk of burning out.
So, what do we do about it?
First, Recognize Where You're At
While it might seem obvious, overcoming burnout starts with recognizing and acknowledging the fact that you're burnt out.
Sounds easy enough, right?
Many entrepreneurs have similar personality characteristics: drive, ambition, a growth mindset, and more. Oftentimes, people with entrepreneurial personalities have a one-track mindset. We're able to identify our goals and mentally block out things that distract us from getting there. We bear through things like stress, exhaustion, and malaise with intense mental fortitude so that we can get where we think we need to go... See what I'm getting at?
This kind of entrepreneurial blindness is super common. So common that people with it can be approaching burnout or entirely burnt out without even realizing it until it overtakes them.
This is why being able to acknowledge the state that you're in is so important! By recognizing where you are mentally, physically, and emotionally, you enable yourself to create a plan for healing and emerging from your current state.
(Re)invest in Your Community
No doubt, you've got an excellent workflow that allows you to remain in the zone getting as much done as possible with minimal distractions throughout the day. Productivity is an excellent tool, but an unfortunate side effect of hyper-productivity is often alienation from the community around you.
We get so focused on getting things done that everything simply melts away... sometimes even your relationships outside of work.
Close relationships are actually one of the best resources for helping to realize that you're experiencing burnout and even overcoming it. Other people help us to recognize our blind spots when we can't. The work of maintaining close relationships also helps to establish rhythms of rest outside of work, enabling you to take time away and recharge when you need it the most.
Seek Rest and Outside Counsel
Speaking of rest; burnout is a sign that your body and mind are deeply exhausted from constant stress, whether physical, mental, or emotional. The biggest aid to healing burnout is simply resting. Taking time intentional time away from work to do other fulfilling and rejuvenating things.
Rest looks different for everyone, but you'll know it when you feel it.
Now, we can't all just take two weeks off every few months in order to recover. Instead, building in rhythms of relaxation to your weekly and daily schedules helps to prevent burnout from occurring or getting worse. Instead of focusing relentlessly on getting things done and pushing the needle forward, take time for yourself to do something that's not task-oriented.
For many, it can be incredibly helpful to find a therapist, counselor, or coach to work with. Remember, it's difficult for human beings to identify the ways that we need to adjust our habits on our own! Having an objective third-party observer to work things out with brings along a birdseye view, ensuring that you're able to understand your habits and tendencies objectively. This makes changing things and finding ways to adjust significantly easier than doing it on your own.