I used to think that because I loved working on my business, I was immune to what the Urban Dictionary described as a “state of emotional and physical exhaustion caused by a prolonged period of stress and frustration,” i.e. burnout.
Then, one morning I woke up with the urge to forget about the entrepreneurial dream, cash out my retirement savings, and use the money to travel around the world. My life felt overwhelming. I needed an out—fast.
You might have felt something similar in the past and done nothing about it, but the danger is that unaddressed burnout can lead to long-lasting psychological and even physiological problems.
Burnout is akin to stress on the most potent steroids, and you don’t want that.
Here are 5 signs you might be experiencing burnout and what you can do about it.
You are beyond tired—mentally and physically
You might have so much trouble concentrating that day-to-day tasks seem to take forever. A constant feeling of overwhelm accompanies you. Your dearest goals seem insurmountable.
Your body might also show the signs of burnout: sleeping too little or too much, being always hungry or having no appetite, and feeling achy and out of sorts.
I remember feeling so tired that it seemed impossible to write one more article or meet one more client.
Your zest for life abandons you
When you’re burned out, your attitude shifts—for the worst. Even if you had always been positive, you might feel that nothing excites you anymore and picture worst-case scenarios.
I would chastise myself for having missed on opportunities, for lacking knowledge and focus when I first started my business, and for wasting years of my life trying to fix the unfixable. I felt like a loser.
You start questioning everything in your life—including your own life
A clear sign of burnout is wondering why you do what you do on a daily basis. You might have frequent existential crises in which you ask yourself if “this is it.”
My burnout made me feel disgusted by the prevalent need to conform to society’s rules. I questioned the reason for birthday parties and holidays. Why bother?
Even worse, I concluded there was no point in working hard because no one would have cared if I hadn’t existed, and no one would miss me if I disappeared.
You’ve become cynical
A cynical attitude, a contemptuous form of pessimism, might be one of the clearest—and most damaging—signs that you’re experiencing burnout.
You might dread to spend time in the company of other people, and if you keep this attitude long enough, those around you will want to stay away from you.
I became a cynic when burnout hit the hardest. Because all I could focus on was my negative feelings, my cynicism prevented me from connecting with people who could help me and from finding a solution to my situation.
You want to get “the hell out” of wherever you are
Just as I considered cashing out my retirement savings to travel around the world, so you too might feel the urge to escape your current life.
You might fantasize about starting from scratch in a different town or even moving across the globe. Witness relocation program? “Sounds good,” you think!
This urge to escape is a byproduct of the fight-or-flight response to extreme stress, but it’s also your intuition guiding you to the solution of burnout, which I can summarize in what I’ve called the “3-S Burnout Cure.”
3-S Burnout Cure: Stop-Switch-Strategize
This means to stop doing work-related tasks NOW.
Not possible? Then at least stop energy/productivity-zappers like:
- Constantly checking your never-ending stream of emails
- Posting on social media just because you think you should
- Joining dozens of groups on Facebook or LinkedIn that don’t help you move your business forward
- Going live on FB without a clear strategy
- Writing blog articles that don’t help you grow your business
- Feeling that you have to do it all: podcast, blog, live videos, you name it!
- Saying yes to invitations to “get together for coffee” or “have a chat on Skype” just to be nice
There’s one phrase I always say to myself: “When I say NO to something that doesn’t serve me, I say YES to myself.”
Makes sense, right?
Bottom line: your time is precious! Treat it as such.
You might be thinking, “Well, being more selective I can do. But breaks? I don’t have time for breaks!”
You’re not alone! I thought the same…
Consider whether you’re just rationalizing that there’s no time for breaks.
You might tell yourself you’ll stop when you finish x phase of your project or when you empty your inbox.
But once you’re finally done, you find that there are 10 more things that need to be done ASAP. Yikes!
Ask yourself, “Is this really a MUST right now?” “What is the worst that can happen if it doesn’t get done today?”
It’s likely that the answer will be, “This can wait.”
Also, in your current state of burnout, you won’t be productive if you decide to push through, and the lack of results will make you feel worse.
Gather the courage to stop. Now.
It was challenging for me to ignore the 34 items on my to-do list, but I knew the future of my business—and my sanity—were at stake, so I made myself stop and then followed the next 2 steps within the “3-S Burnout Cure….”
To break free of burnout, you need to change what you’re doing.
Have you ever felt sore after a long workout? If you had tried to exercise your sore muscles at the same intensity the following day, you might have suffered a severe muscle strain.
To recover for muscle soreness, the best approach is to lighten your workout or even better, to exercise different muscles.
Same happens to your mind. A strained mind needs to be worked in different ways.
- If your career is analytical, switch to a creative project or physical activity for at least a day.
- If you deal with clients or customers all day, spend time away on your own.
What matters is that you dramatically change what you’re doing.
For me, a day spent by the ocean and disconnected from electronics was the perfect remedy. With every crashing wave, I felt a surge of hope and energy.
Not only that; my creative juices started flowing, so I was able to figure out what I needed to eliminate from my daily tasks to get back to balance.
That’s how step 3 of the “Stop-Switch-Strategize Burnout Cure” was born!
If you go back to your old ways of doing things, burnout will return.
That’s why it’s critical that you take time to
- Figure out how to modify your workload (eliminate a good portion of the 80% of activities that only create 20% of results)
- Spend most of your time on tasks where your brilliance is needed and outsource or eliminate the rest.
- Get more done in less time (focus on the 20% of activities that create 80% of results)
- Take care of your mental and physical health.
Document the changes you intend to make, and commit to immediately execute your strategy.
Choose to only focus your time and effort on what moves your business forward!
One of the most significant strategic changes I made was to stop slaving over the computer for hours writing articles nobody read, and posting on social media without a clear strategy.
What did I do instead? I used the power of leverage.
Leverage can take many forms, but what has worked for me is to leverage existing audiences to grow my own and attract the right potential clients.
Leverage results from connection with influencers, JV partnerships, and guest contributions to traditional and online media outlets.
This strategy works so well because of the same reason that referrals are so powerful: instant authority building and trust.
I see leveraging existing audiences as the most powerful form of referral.
But I was careful this time to only focus on the options that created the most leverage—if not, I knew I would end up back in burnout mode again!
I explain the leverage strategy in detail in my webclass:
“How to attract the RIGHT clients & build authority without purely relying on ads or slaving over the computer”
Using the strategies I share in the class, I was able to streamline my efforts and grow my business with minimum ad spend. I invite you to check it out! (If you stay till the end, you’ll also get access to a PDF download with specific ways to implement this.)
What other changes can you make to achieve balance?
You might consider booking a day or weekend away once a month, adding a date-night or family outing to your schedule, or reconnecting with old friends.
You might want to spend time on your favorite hobby or treat yourself to more healthful, delicious meals.
Remember, you must commit to take care of yourself regardless of how much work is left to do.
Now, I make sure to reserve time to be in nature, to paint (I’m an artist at heart!) and to remain in touch with those I love, bringing a better sense of balance to my life.
If you follow the “3-S Burnout Cure,” you might not only become more productive, but you’ll get a surge of great ideas to achieve personal and business success.
Your clear, relaxed, positive mind will be your greatest asset when you say goodbye to burnout!
In the comments section, share your own experience with burnout. I know it’s a problem all of us entrepreneurs experience at some point or another…But as you now know, the solution is in your hands…