In my former role as a CEO, I routinely worked 12-14 hour days, traveled 2.5 hours each day to get to work, and dealt with highly stressful situations. I had little time for self-care, and even when I was on holiday, I would usually spend 2-3 hours working in the morning. I was no wonder that I hit the wall on several occasions, and came close to burnout.
Wanting to have control of my schedule was one of my reasons for setting up my own business. Because that feeling of constant fatigue associated with burnout was powerful and all-consuming. Luckily, I caught myself before it became serious. But I still remember how I felt. Everything pissed me off – travel, queuing, email and interruptions. My mind was no longer my own. It was whirling with ideas, worries and problems that prevented me from switching off and relaxing in the evenings and weekends. And forget sleep! I couldn’t always shut my brain off at night, meaning that my body was denied the sleep that it so desperately needed. And because I was sleep deprived, I woke up grumpy in the morning!
Does this sound familiar?
Starting and running a business is a long and often hazardous journey. That’s why periods of burnout are common among entrepreneurs. So what is burnout? According to the Mayo Clinic, burnout is defined as “a special type of stress – a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work.”
Here are some different ways burnout shows up:
1. You Feel Like You’re Running On Empty
Typical burnout shows itself in the form of utter and complete exhaustion. You feel like you’re running on empty and no amount of rest ever seems enough, ever. You lose your passion, your drive, your joy and your energy.
2. Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Burnout can cause a constant state of anxiety and stress where our senses are hyper-alert and in overdrive, putting us into a “fight or flight” state. Our breathing becomes more shallow. And this can trigger a panic attack
3. Feeling Overwhelmed
The nature of starting and growing a business means we’re continually learning, and constantly having to make decisions. Before long, we’re feeling overwhelmed, and don’t can’t see the wood for the trees.
How To Overcome Entrepreneur Burnout
The most important thing to do when you have hit the burnout wall is to focus on self-care. Working long hours on your business means you’ve probably developed tunnel vision and forgotten all about self-care. My friend and self-care expert Mel Noakes wrote a fabulous guest article for me about why self-care is your #1 business priority, and she shared some of her top self-care tips. Do check it out!
Meanwhile here are some of my favourite tips for preventing entrepreneurial burnout.
1. Have The Right Mindset
I often say that entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. Long-term success depends on our ability to maintain our stamina, which means learning to pace ourselves. You won’t get very far if you sprint straight out of the gate. Keep in mind that there’s no such thing as an overnight success in business. Building momentum takes time. Be realistic when you do forecasting, project planning, and goal setting. Remember that things will almost certainly take longer than you anticipate.
2. Progress Is Made With Baby Steps
I love looking at the big picture, but it can also be overwhelming, especially when the path to get from where we are now to where we want to be is unclear. Progress is a result of persistent and consistent small steps. That’s why I incorporate weekly and monthly reviews into my schedule. They’re an opportunity to look at the bigger picture and then focus back again on those activities that will take me a few small steps further forward.
3. Build Your Team
From a business mentor, to your business colleagues to your team, the people in your network are one of your greatest assets. They will provide you with a wealth of information, wisdom, experience and support. They’ll help you to lighten your workload and prevent you from becoming a control freak. When you’re building your team, bear important that it’s important to learn the art of delegation. One of my key takeaways from meeting The White Company founder, Chrissie Rucker, was how she had intentionally set about building her team.
4. Set Strong Boundaries
A common complaint among entrepreneurs is that they never stop working. It’s all too easy to ‘push on’ when we’ve come to the end of our capacity. That’s why it’s important to set – and stick to – clear boundaries. I can’t say I’m always successful, but I like to stop doing anything online after 9pm, including checking email and social media notifications. I find I sleep better if I have a couple of hours to unwind, watch a favourite TV programme or read a book. I have all social media notifications switched off so that I’m not distracted during the course of the day.
5. Take Regular Time Off
… especially when a big promotion or project has come to an end. When I’ve completed an activity that’s taken a higher than usual amount of energy, I like to take a day or so afterwards to unwind, rest and relax. Otherwise I’m just running on adrenaline, and before I know it, I’ve run out of gas.
Taking time off forces you to put in place systems so that the business can continuing running in our absence: an essential component of any successful and sustainable business. This also means you have to learn the art of delegation and briefing your team properly.
One of my friends jokes that, because of my high productivity levels, I must not sleep. That is so not true! Sleep is our biggest immunity booster and stress fighter. It’s impossible to work at our best without sufficient sleep. This article explains why people who sleep longer achieve more.
Looking for more advice on how to safeguard against burnout? Check out my friend and self-care expert, Mel Noakes’ guest article for my website on why self-care is your number one business priority. Also check out her Facebook group, Luminous Women, where you’ll find a fantastic self-care starter kit waiting for you.
Join The Conversation
Question: Have you experienced burnout? How did you overcome it?
Explore These Additional Resources
Did you miss?
- Why Self-care Is Your Number One Business Priority
- 6 Steps To Greater Productivity & Focus
- 9 Common Business Problems We All Experience
- Business Lessons From The White Company
Work With Me
I’m Denyse Whillier, a London based business coach and consultant. I guide entrepreneurs from across the globe to achieve profitable, scaleable growth and create businesses that are Built To Succeed™. Built To Succeed™ is my proven success system, developed during my 8 years in the trenches as a CEO, 25 years’ experience at senior leadership and managerial level and training at Cranfield School of Management, the UK’s leading business school. It’s this background that sets me apart and helps my clients to get BIG results.
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