There are things about running a business that no-one tells you before you jump in. Instagram is full of glamorous small business owners tapping away at their laptops in their gorgeous offices, or travelling the world and laughing in the face of conformity. And there’s certainly some truth to that, at its best the entrepreneurial life can definitely be as glamorous as it is exciting. But people don’t often talk about the other side of running your own business, the long days and sleepless nights, the stress of trying to find the right clients, or the manic pressure of staying on top serving the clients you do have. The constant need to always keep pushing forward, develop your skills, add to your knowledge, keep up with technology. The relentlessness of it all.
Most of the time those of us who are drawn towards an entrepreneurial life thrive on that pressure, it can be as exhilarating as is it overwhelming. But it’s important to stay on top of just how overwhelmed you are feeling. If you start having trouble coping with simple tasks, lose interest or motivation, or even find yourself becoming cynical or resentful about the work you do, it could be a sign that things are not ok. If you start regularly feeling like you’d rather hide under the duvet than face another day, you might be suffering from burnout.
Signs to look out for
Burnout affects all aspects of your life, from your productivity to your energy levels and feelings of happiness, so it’s really important to learn to listen to yourself and recognise the signs early. Here are some of the things to look out for:
• Feeling permanently exhausted
• Suffering from colds and flus more often than usual
• Having regular headaches or muscle aches
• Having trouble sleeping
• Feeling hopeless
• Developing a negative outlook on life or constantly feeling like a failure
• Feeling alone or detached from your ‘real life’
• Lacking motivation
• Not caring about things, or feeling trapped
• Never feeling satisfied
Taking care of yourself
When you’re heading towards a burnout you’ll start to isolate yourself from other people. You might also notice that it takes a lot longer to get anything done, and you find it hard to cope with any stressors, turning to comfort eating or alcohol/drugs easier than you normally would. When you feel life starting to spiral out of control like this, it’s important that you take action instantly and tackle your stress levels. Here are some of the ways to prevent burnout from stealing joy from your life:
• Be kind to yourself.
• Eat good, nutrition-dense food and try to get in some exercise daily.
• Give yourself a gentler wakeup. Don’t jump straight to your desk when you get up, but rather allow yourself to wake up gradually and develop an enjoyable morning routine which will set you up for the day.
• Set boundaries for your business. The quickest way towards a burnout is to be available at all times. Set your office hours, and learn to say no.
• Reassess the projects you take on. Do they feed your creativity and keep you excited? If you find yourself dreading a job you need to do, it might be time to see how you could diversify the type of work that you do.
• Don’t be afraid to put your health and happiness above all else.
• Take regular breaks during the day. Hug a kitten. Get some fresh air.
• Try to find better ways for dealing with stress.
• Learn to switch off at the end of the day. Take a break from technology if need be.
• Do something just for fun, whether it’s painting, dancing or reading… the less related it is to your business the better.
If you feel like you’re already tipping the scales towards a full-scale burnout, the first thing to do is to take some time out. Take that holiday, block a week off from all projects, and just let your mind and body rest. Avoid making any big decisions until you are feeling more like yourself again. But once you can see a bit more clearly, take a good look at what you’re doing and whether it is time to make some more permanent changes. The great thing about being an entrepreneur is being able to change course whenever you feel it’s needed, you are not stuck to a job you hate, so why act like it. Make the most of your freedom and recreate your life as often as you feel like it!