Burnout. This condition affects so many business owners that it almost goes without saying that you’ll experience it or be in danger of experiencing it when you run a business. Unfortunately, burnout is misunderstood by most people, whether you’re an entrepreneur or not, and it’s usually not taken very seriously.
In this series, we will provide you with the real facts about burnout, as we dispel the myths that can be just as harmful as the condition, itself. At the same time, the content in this series will hopefully give you a great respect for it because if you’re not careful, this is something that has the potential to put you right out of commission before you even know what hit you.
Today, we’re starting with some good advice for recognizing the symptoms of burnout, so that you’ll be able to address it before it starts to overwhelm you. Not to worry; there are effective measures that you can take if you already feel totally burned out, but it’s much better if you can avoid it, which is exactly what this article will help you to do.
Burnout is Not to Be Taken Lightly
The first mistake most people make with burnout is that they underestimate or even entirely discount it. Think about the way you hear other people talk about burnout, if they even call it that. We typically don’t even consider it a big deal at all and kind of write it off as a completely normal thing that everybody just has to deal with from time to time.
Now, there is an important distinction to make between burnout and regular, everyday stress—but it is a fine line and easy to misconstrue. We’re going to go over the real symptoms below, so that it’s clear to see when you’re actually becoming burned out. The problem is that we tend to have an inappropriately casual attitude towards burnout.
Many people consider it to be a necessary, acceptable side effect of advancing their careers, and that’s close to the heart of the problem. Most of us don’t take it seriously until it’s too late; so, be sure to take it seriously.
Business Owners Are Particularly Susceptible
Running a business is one of the most stressful occupations someone can have. The first thing that predisposes business owners to being a candidate for burnout is just their genes.
Someone who ends up being an entrepreneur has a certain constitution which compels them to push harder, take on tougher challenges, and aim higher than the average person. They tend to be the type of person who will aggressively pursue their goals, no matter what the cost may be, even to the point of sacrificing their own health and well-being, if necessary.
If that sounds like you, then please, don’t sacrifice your health. You have to be especially careful to avoid burnout because you’re probably the kind of person who will try and force yourself through it. That might work for a short time, but eventually, it takes its toll.
Symptoms of Burnout to Look Out For
When you know what to watch out for, the warning signs are unmistakable. But that’s just the key; you have to know it when you see it. You probably already suspect that you may be burning out if you’re reading this article, so chances are, you’re going to see quite a few symptoms on this list that ring true.
That’s okay because it’s a step in a good direction when you recognize that you have to take steps to address it. The majority of these symptoms listed are provided by the Mayo Clinic website.
Do any of these sound familiar? If so, there’s no need to start panicking. It’s actually a very good thing if these symptoms match what you’re experiencing because now you can take positive steps to turn it around.
Understanding the Progressive Nature of Burnout
One of the most important keys to understanding burnout is to realize that it doesn’t usually happen all at once. In fact, that pretty much never happens. When full-blown burnout manifests, it’s the result of extreme stress that has been building gradually over time.
Have you ever heard the anecdote about the frog in boiling water? I think we all have, but just to illustrate it for our purposes, the frog is placed in a container with cold water. The water is gradually heated until it boils, but the frog never jumps out and eventually dies because it didn’t realize it was being boiled, due to the gradual heating over time.
This isn’t to say that you will die from burnout; the point is just that you need to recognize burnout while it’s happening because the symptoms will get progressively worse over time, until it finally comes to a head. That’s exactly why we’ve created this post, to help you stop the pattern before it causes you real harm. When it hits, it hits pretty hard.
What to Do if You Get Burned Out
First of all, if you do find yourself in a position where you’ve completely burned out, then you’re basically going to be utterly exhausted. You’ll simply feel unable to work at all and most likely will want to just sleep more than anything, which is concurrently symptomatic of depression. There’s a reason it’s called burnout.
So, the first thing you need to do is to take a day, or longer if possible, because rest is imperative at that advanced phase. Then, as soon as you’re able, go in and talk to your doctor. This is about the time when you’re going to be thinking, “I’m just worn out, and I need some rest,” and most likely will not even think about seeing a doctor.
But visiting the doctor and explaining what you’ve been going through will be a huge help to you in recovering and getting in the swing again. After you go through this kind of experience, you obviously can’t continue in the same way as you did before, or else it will just happen again. So, with the help of your doctor, it’s going to be time to reevaluate your lifestyle and work habits. It will take a good amount of time and effort to change your habits to avoid burning out again, but absolutely well worth it.
In the upcoming articles in this series, we’re going to discuss all kinds of advice for you to use to understand, avoid, and deal with burnout. You should have a healthy respect for burnout as a business owner, but you don’t have to be afraid of it.
Check out all of the articles in the series, Understanding & Dealing with Burnout:
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1. “Job Burnout: How To Spot It And Take Action,” Mayo Clinic, November 21, 2018, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/burnout/art-20046642