Being an entrepreneur is demanding.
For the sake of getting your business off the ground, you’ll work longer hours than you thought possible, taking on more responsibilities than you ever expected you could. It can be immensely rewarding, sure — but you also need to take care to avoid burnout. That starts with recognizing the subtle signs that you’re on the verge of it.
As an entrepreneur, you’re probably no stranger to long hours of grueling work. After all, it’s what you signed up for when you set out to build a business driven by your passion.
As much as you doubtlessly love your career, however, you need to be careful. Given the nature of what you do, you’re more susceptible to burnout than anyone working a traditional job. The long hours, social isolation, career uncertainty, and lack of safety nets make for a perfect cocktail of stress and anxiety.
Staving off the burnout that goes hand-in-hand with all of the above starts with recognizing the early warning signs. The sooner you realize what’s coming, the better-equipped you’ll be to deal with it.
You’re working more — and you can’t stop
In the earliest stages of burnout, an entrepreneur might have the dim notion that something’s wrong, though they can’t quite put their finger on what. All they know is that it seems to be taking them longer to do just about everything they used to do. As a result, they throw themselves into their job with abandon.
Maybe you’ve gotten obsessed with proving your worth to clients. Maybe you’re taking on more work than you can handle in an effort to recapture your old spark. Or, maybe you’re just overdoing it to distract yourself from personal problems.
Regardless, it’s a sure sign that you’re on the verge of burnout if you’re working abnormal hours, having trouble relaxing during your downtime, and neglecting your physical and emotional needs for your job.
You’re tired all the time
It’s no secret that most North American adults are addicted to caffeine. There can be little doubt that if an employer did away with the office coffee machine, there’d be a widespread revolt. After all, most of us can’t function without a daily cup.
That’s a problem, but it’s not one we’re here to discuss today.
Where you start to veer into burnout territory is when you feel lethargic even after downing a few cups. When you’re fatigued no matter how much sleep you get every night. When you’re low-energy in spite of every effort to the contrary.
Perpetual fatigue is a sure sign something needs to change before everything crashes and burns.
There always seems to be something wrong with you
Does it seem like you’re always sick? Do you feel like you’re bouncing from one illness or ailment to the next? Does your body feel more like a run-down old junker than the well-oiled machine it should be?
It’s probably because you’re stressed — enough that you’re on the verge of burning out.
Your body and mind share a closer link with one another than you might expect. When you’re in a state of constant stress, it will eventually wear you down. Not only does it weaken your immune system, it can also lead to a range of physical systems including, but not limited to:
- Chest pain
- Sore muscles
- Stomach problems
- Higher blood pressure
- Weight gain
Basically, if you’ve felt physically unwell lately and can’t discern the cause, it might well be that you’re overworked.
You’re bored and irritable
When you first started your business, it was a passion project. When you woke up in the morning, you couldn’t wait to lose yourself in your work. It emboldened and invigorated you like nothing else in your life.
These days, the honeymoon is over. Where once your career excited you, now you look at it with a combination of trepidation and boredom. Sure, you still feel the occasional spark and you still ascend into a flow state every now and then.
But such experiences become fewer and fewer.
It’s frustrating, and that frustration starts to bleed over into other areas of your life. You find yourself getting irritated at things that wouldn’t ordinarily bother you. Your mood begins to veer wildly out of control, and you start to feel as though you exist as part of some warped emotional roller coaster.
You’re forgetful and unmotivated
It’s easy to look at procrastination as a sign of laziness rather than as a symptom of something deeper. If you find yourself starting to neglect deadlines you’d ordinarily remember and putting off work you know needs to be done, something is seriously wrong. You aren’t just in the early stages of burnout anymore at this point.
You’re on the cliff’s edge. Eventually, your procrastination will give way to anxiety. That anxiety will cause greater stress, and that stress will eventually increase to the point that it’s no longer manageable.
How to veer away from burnout
Right. Now that you know what to look for, let’s wrap things up by discussing how you can turn down the dial on stress, and regain your passion, energy, and productivity. It’s easier than you might expect and involves a combination of mindfulness and proper self-care.
- Limit your screen-time before bed.
- Find a routine that suits your work habits, and allows you to get a solid eight to ten hours of sleep a night.
- Establish an exercise regimen. Find a physical activity you enjoy doing, and spend at least half an hour a day on it.
- Actively make time for friends and loved ones, and schedule work-life balance into your overall career. Set healthy boundaries and unplug when you aren’t at work.
- Eat well, and regularly. Don’t skip breakfast.
- Consider meditating to help refocus your mind.
- Keep a weather eye open for potential stressors, and regularly take a step back to evaluate how you might more effectively relax.
- Limit caffeine.
Of course, everyone is different, which means many other things can help you find balance in your life. So, keep an open conversation about it with family and friends. Often, they’ve been through (or are currently going through) similar situations, and have some valuable advice to share.
If you’ve identified with any of these 5 subtle warnings, it’s best not to brush it off, and start looking into how you can improve. Mental health is often overlooked, and that’s a problem. As an entrepreneur, your days are filled with various tasks and responsibilities, but there will be times when you’ll need to take a step back and shift your focus to yourself. Trust us, your business will have a much bigger chance of thriving in the long run.
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