No one wants to be depleted of energy, motivation, and enthusiasm. But it happens.
Burnout affects anyone; even the most passionate and strong-willed entrepreneurs are not immune to it. A Business Insider article on depression in the startup community, 50 percent of the general population of business owners experience burnout.
What exactly is burnout? What causes it? And how does one break out from this phase and come out driven and hopeful?
Read on to understand it better and to learn how to address it.
What is Burnout?
Burnout refers to a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion brought by too much stress. It happens when you feel swamped, emotionally depleted, and unable to meet the demands of your professional and personal life.
Wellness expert Elizabeth Scott that job-related stress is the primary cause of burnout. Lifestyle, unhealthy thought patterns (e.g., pessimism and perfectionism), as well as personality traits are also a contributing factor.
Burnout lowers productivity and energy levels, making you feel helpless and resentful. Gradually, it may make you feel like you’re too spent to do the things you used to enjoy.
You may be on the verge of burnout if:
- Every day seems like a bad day.
- Working hard and maintaining your home feels pointless.
- You’re always tired.
- You often dread working and find it dull or overwhelming.
- You’re underappreciated and everything you do makes no difference.
- You often experience headaches and stomach ache.
Burnout can be chronic, meaning it can persist or happen on and off. You may not always notice the symptoms at the beginning, but it can get worse over time.
See the symptoms above as warning signs that something’s wrong and that you need to address it. Pay attention to what you feel and minimize your stress right away to avoid breakdown.
Stress vs. Burnout: What’s the Difference?
Burnout may be the result of constant and compounding stress, but it’s different from excessive stress.
Stress can come from being under mounting pressures that heavily demand your physical and mental energy. But no matter how exhausted they get at the end of the day, people who are stressed out can still manage to stay afloat and feel better afterwards if they find a way to control their situations.
Whereas people who are burned out feel empty, mentally exhausted, and lack the drive to move forward. They don’t see a sliver of hope in their circumstances. Stress feels like you’re buried in responsibilities, while burnout makes you feel you’re all dried up.
Why Are Entrepreneurs Prone to Burnout?
A study suggests that entrepreneurs are more likely to get burned out because they:
- Tend to get immensely passionate about work
- More socially isolated
- Have limited safety nets
- Function in high uncertainty
Another study published in the Harvard Business Review shows that entrepreneurs who are ‘obsessively passionate’ were more likely to get burned out than those who are ‘harmoniously passionate.’
Obsessively passionate entrepreneurs said that their work was more emotionally draining, requiring great effort. They get frustrated with work, and even this frustration is taking a toll on them.
The study also revealed that entrepreneurs who have a fixed mindset were also prone to burnout. They were so rigid about job fit that it affected their passion, which eventually led to burnout.
In short, excessive passion, a rigid mindset, and a fixation on job fit are possible reasons why many entrepreneurs are prone to burnout. Passion is a necessary ingredient in putting up a successful business. But too much (to the point of pushing yourself to your limits) can cause you to feel restless, empty, and exhausted.
Striking the right balance, assessing your motivations and work behaviour, and keeping a flexible career mindset all help to keep burnout at bay.
More Tips to Avoid and Manage Burnout
Whether you’re feeling the warning signs of a looming burnout or you’re already caught up in it, take a pause and extend compassion to yourself. Learn how to move past the rut so you can feel your best again.
Local SEO Search founder John Vuong and vice president for sales Roger Murphy share a few expert tips on how entrepreneurs can overcome burnout:
- Understand why you’re burning out. Take some time to look into yourself and trace the underlying cause of burnout. Could it be that what you’re doing isn’t anchored on your big ‘why’ for starting your business?
Are your actions and decisions aligned with your purpose? Are your actions fueled by the right motivations? Recalibrate your thoughts. Make sure your purpose, goals, plans, and actions are all in sync.
For some people, their burnout is tied to extrinsic factors. They may be growing exhausted because they’re not meeting their sales targets.
Others are frustrated because they’re spreading themselves too thin trying to manage their business and doing administrative tasks on the side. And some business owners are growing impatient because they’re devoting too much time and resources on a project, but aren’t seeing the results.
Really identify the factors and discover ways to resolve it.
- Get as much rest as you can. Burnout makes you feel worn out, irritable, unenthusiastic, and dissatisfied in what you do. It also clouds your judgment. So take some time off to get a well-deserved rest.
Sleep in. Read a book. Watch a feel-good movie. Go for a run. Take your spouse shopping. Spend quality time with your kids. Or pursue that passion project you never got around to doing because of your hectic schedule.
Feel free to do any activity that will take your mind off your business for a little while.
- Learn to say ‘no.’ Many entrepreneurs may feel compelled to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity that comes their way, attempt to do certain tasks on their own (even menial ones) to save a dime, or feel obligated to accept invitations to social gatherings even when they’re too spent to do so.
All these things can eat away at your physical and mental energy. So if you can find a way to slash your commitments, do that. Learn to say ‘no’ to anything that doesn’t align with your goals.
Only grab opportunities that increase your bottom line or contribute to the growth of your business. Delegate routine tasks to your staff or hire someone to do them for you so you can focus on running your business. Avoid attending gatherings at the expense of rest.
- Set realistic expectations. Unmet expectations can result in frustration. And many entrepreneurs may beat themselves up for ‘not doing enough.’
As much as possible, set goals and objectives you know you can achieve. Set realistic sales targets or expansion plans based on your present situation, time, resources, etc.
And pat yourself on the back for a job even if you haven’t reached your goals or if you still have a long way to go. Any amount of progress is worth celebrating!
- Set more time for yourself! Learn to take a step back once in a while to recharge, think, and reflect on your life. Sometimes, entrepreneurs can get too embedded in their business that they forget that they’re human beings too who need some downtime.
A time away from your business will also help you to come up with fresh ideas and determine creative solutions to your existing problems. Schedule these alone times on your calendar so they become a part of your routine.
Burnout can impact your mental and physical wellbeing. So be honest with yourself and recognize the signs. Apply the changes you need to make right away.
If you’re having difficulty dealing with your situation or suspect that you’re experiencing mental health concerns like anxiety and depression, seek the assistance of a professional.
At the end of the day, your health and wellbeing is still your greatest investment. Take good care of yourself before you take care of your business.