Burnout is often mistaken for being overworked, burning the candle at both ends, all work no play, you get the idea. And while yes, all those can and will lead to burnout, it's also important to know there are other factors such as hating your job, your situation, or not getting the support or appreciation you need from others. The thing is burnout can be prevented if you know what to watch for and what to avoid.
First, understand that burnout is essentially a state of chronic bad stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, detachment and cynicism, feelings that you aren’t accomplishing anything, and that everything you do is ineffective and doesn’t matter. While, at the same time, feeling irreplaceable and unable to say no to anything. It’s like being stuck in a revolving door. Many new entrepreneurs experience this in the form of imposter syndrome, meaning they lack confidence in their skills and work twice as hard to prove they are "worthy". This can start a downward negative spiral about what they're doing, and soon, all the joy and anticipation felt when they first embarked disappears as they work harder and harder but never get anywhere. You’re tired, overworked, and not accomplishing your goals. In all the chaos, you may not even have goals to check. So what can you do? The best way to protect yourself against burnout is to understand the signs to watch out for.
One or more of the following signs can signal either outright burnout or the potential to experience burnout if mitigation methods aren’t imposed.
Chronic Fatigue and Insomnia
It’s often one of the first signs. If you are always tired, or you can’t sleep, or both, primarily due to circular thoughts about the work you’re doing, it can be due to burnout or approaching burnout. Get checked out by your doctor to ensure you don't have any physical reason that keeps you up at night. Then try meditating, or deep breathing exercises, twice a day. 5 minutes in the morning, and 5-10 minutes at night before bedtime. Also, make sure you're getting some physical exertion during the day - a 30-minute walk will do wonders to help your brain turn off the daytime drama.
Forgetfulness, Lack of Productivity and Poor Performance
Directly related to fatigue and insomnia. When you can’t sleep well or concentrate, it is natural that you may forget things, not work fast as you did before, and do things poorly. If this continues unchecked, you will end up in that revolving door. Practice self-care now.
Inattentiveness and Detachment
It’s hard to focus and pay attention when you’re suffering from burnout, and it can look like detachment and even inattentiveness. If you have been accused of this by someone else, pay attention.
Isolation, Apathy, and Hopelessness
When burnout gets really bad, you might want to pull away from others due to not caring about anything. If you feel like your actions don’t matter, it can lead to hopelessness. If you find yourself self-isolating or feeling like it will never get better, talk to someone. A trusted friend, clergyman, family member. Oftentimes just reaching out will help turn things around.
Illness and Physical Symptoms
The thing about mental and emotional distress, they can lead to physical illness. You can become more susceptible to colds and infections because your defenses are down. If you're suddenly getting sick for no reason - ok the toddler's birthday party last week might have played a role - It could be a sign to look at your self-care routine. .
Lack of Appetite or Poor Diet
All the feelings you’re experiencing can cause you to either not eat at all or eat very poorly. It might not seem apparent immediately but eating a diet high in nutrition is one of the ways to avoid burnout and adverse health outcomes such as diabetes.
Anxiety and Depression
Mental illness can also rear it’s head as you are experiencing burnout. Sometimes it’s due to nutritional imbalances, or chemical imbalances, but sometimes it’s situational. Depression is not to be ignored.
Anger, Pessimism, and Loss of Enjoyment
When you are experiencing the brunt of burnout, you may act out with hostility due to being disillusioned about business and life. You may micromanage your employees, or show annoyance towards a client. If you aren’t enjoying it and feel like you never will, you will in all likeliness experience burnout.
If you aren’t enjoying your business or your life as you once did, and the feelings of discontentment are intruding on your ability to move forward, you may be experiencing burnout. If you think you are, it’s a good idea to start right now, today, creating a plan that will work better for you as an entrepreneur. After all, you deserve all the good things in life, including security, satisfaction, and joy.
If you feel depressed, or find yourself idealizing death, please seek professional medical care. You can call the US National Suicide hotline to get help at 1-800-273-8255.