Would you recognise the signs of burnout if you were experiencing them?
And if so, what would you do about it?
Hey there, fellow solopreneurs! Today, let's chat about something we all face at some point - the looming threat of burnout. It's a real challenge, especially for business owners and even more so when you're the captain of your ship, navigating the entrepreneurial seas solo.
While partnerships have their dynamics, we solo warriors bear the full weight of our success on our lone shoulders. The struggle is real, my friends. But there are ways to prevent it and see it coming before it hits full strength.
This topic is something that's very close to my heart as it's something I have experienced first hand. And it wasn't fun! If you ignore it for too long, it's also not so easy to overcome as I thought it might be.
Here's Why You Can Only Ignore The Signs Of Burnout For So Long:
In my case, I had been ignoring the signs of burnout for some time. Actually, that's not entirely correct. I wasn't ignoring them. But I did think I was too busy to do anything. "I'll just get through this day/week/month/project, then I'll take a break." Or, "I'll go for a long walk tomorrow. That will fix it and help me come back refreshed afterwards."
Then one night, it was around10.30pm and I was 'just finishing up some client' work before going to bed. I had an incredibly busy day the next day, including taking my son to Brisbane (just over an hour drive each way) for a hospital appointment that couldn't be rescheduled. I had to be back in time for a 2pm online meeting, again, that couldn't be rescheduled. Then I had a 4pm appointment that, you guessed it... couldn't be rescheduled. AND I had a heap of client work that HAD to be completed that next day.
So, there I am, typing away on the keyboard. In the middle of typing an email I suddenly felt this overwhelming sense of gut-churning (literally) dread. I remember clutching my stomach as I bent forward and thinking, "Wow! Where did that come from?" I decided to finish that one last email, then head to bed for the night.
The next thing I knew I woke up on the floor, face down, with the most excruciating pain in my head and knee and my face in a pool of blood. I awoke dazed and confused to sounds of my son comforting me, saying the ambulance was on its way.
It turns out I had fallen unconscious and hit my face and head on the table top and floor as I fell to the ground. Worst of all, this was the first of many similar occurrences, and after countless tests and specialists, each time the cause was the same. Stress and exhaustion. I was burnt out.
Oh, and all those 'can't be rescheduled' appointments I had the next day? Guess what?
Yeah, they were all rescheduled.
The next two years were a rollercoaster as I struggled to manage my body's interpretation of prolonged stress and overwhelm. Even now, I MUST make self-care a priority otherwise the signs of burnout reappear quickly.
So to help you prevent going through something similar, let's dive into the signs and signals that may indicate you're on the verge of business burnout and, more importantly, how to steer clear of it.
1. Insomnia: The Sleepless Entrepreneur
Are you counting more sheep than business wins at night? Insomnia can creep in when your brain refuses to shut down, drowning in work-related thoughts.
Disrupted sleep patterns, leaving you groggy, energy-deprived, and potentially unable to make sound business decisions. Remember, a well-rested entrepreneur is a sharp entrepreneur.
Personally, I realised I wasn't getting enough sleep so made an effort to go to bed earlier and get up later. However, even though I was sleeping more I wasn't getting enough REM or deep sleep.
So if this sounds like you, perhaps look into ways improve the quality of your sleep. This may include cutting back on caffeine and alcohol, exercising daily, eating well and relaxing daily with an activity such as meditation.
2. Procrastination: The Silent Productivity Killer
Once upon a time, your to-do list was your playground.
Now? It's more like a haunted forest you'd rather avoid. Procrastination isn't just a delay tactic; it's a missed opportunity for your business to shine. But it's also a sign that things are out of alignment. Perhaps you're no longer excited by your business. If not, why not?
Maybe you're starting to resent your business because it's not the freedom-giver you expected it to be when you first started this venture. Quite possibly it's sucking too much time and energy from you, keeping you away from creating happy memories with loved ones.
Or perhaps you're just too exhausted to be interested anymore.
There could also be other issues here such as depression, so it's worth speaking with your GP or other health professional, just to be sure there's nothing else going on.
So if you're finding yourself procrastinating regularly, look closely to find the reason WHY. Once you know why you're putting off doing what needs doing, you can start focusing on solutions.
Let's turn that frown upside down and rediscover the joy in tackling your tasks. 🙂
3. Fatigue: Burning the Candle at Both Ends
You've heard it before, but it's worth repeating - burning the candle at both ends only leads to one outcome: burnout. Your body and brain need recovery time. Neglecting this can result in extreme fatigue, and trust me, that's not a VIP pass you want to hold for the burnout party.
Sometimes the constant fatigue continues, even when you're not necessarily burning the candle at both ends. This is worth investigating further. It may be related to another health issue, or it may be a sign of burnout.
Personally, I was always tired, even though I thought I was getting enough sleep, eating healthily and exercising daily, but without over-exerting myself. My blood results showed that everything looked okay - I wasn't low in any nutrients that might be causing the constant tiredness. I was even taking time out from work each day. More and more time, in fact.
But I was always tired.
The thing is even when I wasn't working I was still doing other stuff (housework, planning, organising, home and car maintenance, taking my son to medical appointments, etc, etc.) My brain was always working... and thinking... and planning... and re-thinking. I was never really 'resting'.
Here's what worked for me:
For me, there were two key things that made a HUGE difference:
1. Daily sanity sessions - this is what I called my daily walks along my local beach. I made the effort to walk for an hour each day, with no technology and focusing on my surroundings - the ocean, the dolphins, shells and marine life on the water's edge, birds overhead and in the nearby bush, the smell of the ocean, the taste of the sea salt on my lips, the feelings of the sun or breeze on my skin. I also use this time to think about things I'm truly grateful for.
2. Daily meditation - at least twice a day. I've been practising meditation for years but hadn't really felt any benefit for a long time. It wasn't until after I'd burnt out and was in desperate need to find solutions to calm my mind and body that I began experimenting with different types of meditations. And when I found one that seemed to work better than other forms, I began practising this technique for 20 minutes EVERY day.
Now, I love my meditation and am a definite believer of its power. I can go to meltdown to bliss in a matter of minutes now, which is absolutely fabulous! So even if you've tried this before without success, I urge you to try again... but try different types of meditation and go for consistency.
4. Changes in Appetite: Stress Eating or Fasting?
Stress plays tricks on our appetites. Some might find solace in a bag of chips, while others suddenly become best friends with the salad bowl. Whatever your stress-induced food dance, it's time to hit pause. Opt for lunch breaks away from the desk, savouring natural, healthy choices. Your body will thank you.
Like many of the factors mentioned here, changes in appetite can be caused by so many things. So speak with your GP or get a checkup to rule out other issues, but also keep in mind that your over-eating or under-eating may be one of the early warning signs of burnout.
5. Anxiety: Stress's Unwanted Companion
Stress and anxiety often go hand in hand, but there's a crucial distinction. Healthy discomfort when stepping out of your comfort zone is one thing, but persistent, stress-induced anxiety is a whole different ball game. It's a signal to take a step back, breathe, and reassess.
A key point here is that when you're experiencing anxiety and stress as signs of burnout, you can't necessarily fix it simply by having a weekend away with friends.
Sure, it may help. But when the symptoms are showing up after a long period of stress - perhaps even years - that's not usually something that can be fixed in a weekend. You'll usually find it takes on-going self care to gradually recover and find your joie de vivre and energy again.
Don't Ignore Signs Of Burnout:
Many women in business, like myself, may think we can manage even when burnt out. We think we're tough, disciplined and determined enough to keep pushing on and kicking goals.
But here's the thing: you can ignore the signs as much as you like, but eventually, your body will take control and force you to rest, no matter what you try telling yourself.
Avoiding the Burnout Blues: Self-Care Strategies
Now, here's the fun part - dodging burnout like the superhero entrepreneur you are!
You may be a superhero, but even Super Woman knows self-care is important.
Remember, your business relies on YOU. If you're not physically able to steer the ship, what happens to it? So, let's sprinkle some self-care magic into our lives:
Quiet Time for Relaxation: Schedule moments of tranquility amidst the chaos. A few deep breaths can do wonders for your sanity, but make sure you schedule more than just a few moments here and there. Make fun an essential part of every day.
Nature Breaks: Step outside, feel the fresh air on your face, and let nature be your therapist. It's like a mini-vacation for your mind. When doing this, engage as many of your senses as possible and focus on each sensation - the touch, taste, smell, and sound.
Digital Detox Weekends: Unplug, switch off, and live in the moment. Spend quality time with family, rediscover hobbies, or reconnect with old friends. Trust me, your business will thank you for the mental recharge.
Delegate: If you're constantly overwhelmed with all you have to do in your business, and in life in general, it may be time to seek help.
Where can you delegate?
Could family members do more to help around the house?
Can you invest in a meal delivery service or cleaning service?
Or is it time to consider hiring a VA (Virtual Assistant) or outsourcing some of your business tasks?
Diet: As ordinary as it may sound, your diet really does play an important role in how well you function. Eating the right foods not only help you feel better, but they can help your brain to manage better too.
As well as overall healthy eating, I've found that including some of the following brain-superfoods in my diet each day really helps, especially in reducing brain fog:
- spinach or kale
- fish oil
- olive oil
- dark chocolate
Exercise: Daily exercise really does make a difference. It's not just important for weight management, but for the overall health benefits and the effect it can have on our mind and well-being. When our body and brain functions better, WE function better overall.
You don't have to break a sweat if you don't want to. Focus on something that you enjoy and can look forward to each day that gets you moving.
Meditation: We discussed this earlier so there's no need to go into too much detail here. Do try to find a form of meditation that works for you, to help give your mind that daily 'down-time' it so desperately needs when you're on the verge of burnout.
In my case, this was a huge eye-opener. Finally, I was starting to understand the importance of taking care of myself and making my health and well-being a priority. And on the plus side, I was able to redesign my business to better suit my needs. Not only am I able to thrive now, but my clients can too because of the lessons I can share.
Remember, solopreneur superheroes, you're in control. Let's steer clear of burnout, embrace self-care, and keep rocking the entrepreneurial journey! 🚀