Whether you are a small business owner, entrepreneur or still working that corporate gig, avoiding burnout is a major concern. Reaching that level where you are left uninspired, wasting half your day worrying about what you actually need to be doing and feeling completely overwhelmed is just no place to be. Unfortunately I have been there, and my guess is at one point or another you have too.
“Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest or motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place. (source)”
You may be on the quick lane to burnout if:
- Everyday is worse than the last
- You hate working, getting up for work or being at work.
- You’re constantly exhausted, no matter how much sleep you had the night before
- You’re either completely overwhelmed or find everything you do boring
- You feel under appreciated and overworked
- “Nothing” you do makes a difference
This my friend is the fast track to being miserable at work, taking all that stress and un-comfortableness home and might very well land you in a therapist office. (Yes I can say that because I have been there, done that to all 3!)
The Difference Between Stress and Burnout
This is no joking matter; burnout is recognized as a psychological condition. I may not be a therapist, but getting to this point is not a place you want to land. By and large stress is all about having too much demand on you, whether that be physically or psychologically. The biggest differentiator is stressed people can still imagine, some even function better with minor constant stress. That last minute procrastinator begs for it.
Burnout, however, is about feeling empty. If you reach the point where nothing will motivate you and you no longer care. Often your emotions are blunt and you feel hopeless or helpless.
Road to Recovery
The first step to solving any problem is recognizing when there is a problem. Sometimes when trying to avoid or prevent burnout you are actually already past your breaking point. If that is the case take it seriously. “Pushing through” can lead to more damage than good. Here are my 5 steps to prevent burnout or put recovery in motion:
Strategy #1: Slow Down
Generally when you are approaching (or already have) burnout you are used to running a million miles an hour through life. You probably have too many commitments. Or the ones you do have are draining you. Take a break, cut back. Tell someone no for a change. You don’t have to run a marathon, coach your daughters softball league, volunteer 15 hours a week, be on the PTA, work full time and usher every Sunday. It really is ok to commit to less. This is hard pressed for me to say, you really should see the laundry list of things I was up to when I hit this wall myself. And when you do take a breather, don’t blame yourself. Just because you cut down or cut back doesn’t make you any less of a person. Give yourself time to rest, relax, reflect and heal!
Strategy #2: Get Support
Naturally you are tempted to pull back, curl in a ball and just “be alone." But if you are feeling overworked and exhausted you need support. Reach out to your friends and family. Let them know what is going on. You don’t have to give them some sob story, just ask for backup. “
Hey mom, can you pick up the kids on Saturday?” “Hey hun, can you be in charge of laundry this week?” “Boss man, can we evaluate top priorities so I know where to spend my time and energy?” “Pretty lady, I need to adjust my volunteer schedule this month, can I help find a replacement so you aren’t left in the dark?”
You may get some eye rolls and potentially even a few shrugs, however, if you are real with people they are generally receptive. Your spouse and your kids might need an extra nudge or two and if they are around you often they know you could use the support. Sometimes a reminder is just helpful.
Strategy #3: Reevaluate Priorities
Whether life or work has you down in a funk you probably aren’t doing a very good job at either right now. Spend some time focusing on what you actually want to do. Who you want to work with. What lifestyle you want to lead. Chances are, you are putting all your energy into something that is probably not in your best interest in the long run. Spend some time evaluating how you want to shift these priorities around.
If mine don’t fit into Faith, Family, Friends or helping others, I probably am going to dread every minute of it. Shaping your life and your work around your priorities is going to make a lasting difference.
After you have those core priorities in place, create 3-5 goals that align with each priority. If you have no idea where to start, try this simple exercise to begin creating balance where there is chaos. But generally speaking, Work/Life Balance is Crap!
Strategy #4: Get Re-Inspired
After you had that moment to breathe and you see your priorities more clearly you might start to feel the fog fading. Take this opportunity to find ways to get re-inspired. For everyone it is different, but some of my favorites are:
- Reading a Self-Help Book (Because we all need help!)
- Browsing Pinterest
- Participating in Facebook Groups
- Watching Shark Tank (My secret, not so secret obsession)
- Going to a Farmers Market (Probably just a secret ploy to get me some fresh flowers)
- Walking the Neighborhood with my Husband & favorite Dog, Tilly
- Visiting an Art Museum or Exhibit
- Getting Crafty (i.e. Painting something, making something with my hands)
- Sifting through Instagram Hashtags
(And the reasons there are so many links in that list, is because I WAS BURNT OUT, and I had to re-inspire myself! And you were lucky enough to be a part of that process whether you realized it or not.)
Strategy #5: Reach Your New Goals
By now you are probably ready to get started again. You have rearranged your life enough, starting over doesn’t seem as scary as it did a few weeks (or months ago). Now is the time to take those priorities you set and goals you created and put the plan in place to start achieving them. My goals were a bit overwhelming, but I got all the right people on board and slowly but surely I am marking them complete. My timelines have to be reanalyzed often, but I am not as hard on myself when things don’t pan out exactly how I expected. Over the next couple weeks stay tuned for some exciting announcements, when these goals start to unfold before you!
What are your goals? How to you plan on getting re-inspired? What is your strategy for avoiding burnout?