As a professional and entrepreneur, I previously thought I could work on more projects simultaneously than is humanly possible, maintain a happy home life, and thought I could do it all and still maintain my sanity and health.
I was wrong.
I’ve learned that burnout is very real, very scary and very likely for most high-achieving professionals at some point in their career. However, you don’t have to suffer from burnout; there are easy ways to avoid it and I am going to show you how.
Before I get into how to avoid burnout, let’s take a deeper look at what is burnout exactly (and why you should care).
According to Wikipedia, burnout refers to long-term mental, physical and emotional exhaustion and diminished interest in work. It is most often assumed to be caused by an excessive workload and other life stressors working in tandem that eventually bring a person to their breaking point.
When you are experiencing burnout you may feel disillusioned, helpless and completely worn out. When you’re burned out, problems seem insurmountable, everything looks bleak, and it’s difficult to muster up the energy to care—let alone do something about your situation. The unhappiness and detachment burnout causes can threaten your job, your relationships, and your health.
Psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North have been studying the burnout process and have divided it into 12 phases, which are not necessarily followed sequentially.
- The compulsion to prove oneself
- Working harder
- Neglecting your own needs
- Displacement of conflicts
- Revision of values
- Denial of emerging problems
- Obvious behavioral changes
- Inner emptiness
- Burnout Syndrome
Perhaps you have experienced one or more of the above phases. I know I have. In fact, I have experienced all them at some point including full-blown Burnout Syndrome (which needs medical attention) and I KNOW that I never want to experience that again. I hope you never have to.
Perhaps you think that working harder and ignoring your own needs makes you more productive.
It may in the very short term, but in the long term it actually makes you LESS productive and you risk not just your health and happiness, but also your business if you continue to burn the candle at both ends as the saying goes.
The negative effects of burnout will spill over into every area of your life—including your home, your business and your social life. Burnout can also cause long-term changes to your body that make you vulnerable to illnesses like colds and flu.
Like any other health issue, coping with the symptoms of burnout once they exist is much harder than prevention. If you can take steps to get your life back into harmony, you can prevent burnout from becoming a full-blown breakdown.
I would like to share with you my top tips for avoiding burnout so that you can live a happy and fulfilled life WHILE having the career and business you desire.
- Watch for the warning signs of burnout.
Burnout is a gradual process that occurs over an extended period of time. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it can creep up on you if you’re not paying attention (and it gets worse and worse as time goes on).
Signs could include things like: feeling tired and worn out most of the time, frequent headaches, feeling a sense of failure and self-doubt, isolating yourself from others, using food, drugs or alcohol to cope, taking out your stress and frustration on others, loss of motivation, etc. If you pay attention to these early warning signs, you can prevent a major breakdown. If you ignore them, you’ll eventually burn out.
- Take a break and time off whether you think you need one or not.
Daily, weekly and monthly downtime is essential to your health and well-being and ultimately the success of your business. Set a time each day when you completely disconnect. Put away your laptop, turn off your phone, and stop checking email. Have a nap (I nap for 20 minutes almost every afternoon). Schedule your vacations first when you are doing your yearly planning. Be sure to have at least one long weekend every six weeks and a couple of weeks off each year.
Having time off and being away from your desk not only refreshes you both physically and mentally, but you will actually be much more productive in the long run. It allows your creative juices to flow without the hindrance of a daily task list.
- Set boundaries.
Learn how to say No. As a high-achiever and professional, you probably like to take on multiple projects and have your hands in many pots. But saying “no” actually allows you to say “yes” to the things that truly matter. If it doesn’t get you closer to your goals or light you up with excitement, just say no.
- Nourish your creative side and passions.
Creativity and play are powerful antidotes to burnout. Try something new or resume a favorite hobby. Tap into the passions you once had but were too busy for. Get outside and play. Laugh. Be sure to choose activities that have nothing to do with work.
- Adopt healthy eating, exercising and sleeping habits (aka Self-Care).
When you eat right, engage in regular physical activity, and get plenty of rest, you have the energy and resilience to deal with life’s hassles and demands. I can’t stress enough how important self-care is for your well-being and your business. You are the only one who can truly take care of yourself. If you don’t, you won’t be able to take care of others or serve as you desire within your business. Self-care is an investment in yourself and your business.
- Ask for help.
A huge reason for burnout is taking on too many things at once. If you can’t say no to a task, learn to delegate and ask for help. This is not a weakness or failure on your part but rather a strategic decision for your business, health and happiness. I have learned that if I don’t excel or enjoy a task, I give it to someone else. This frees up my time to do the things I like best and keeps my day manageable.
Burnout is very real. Don’t think that you are Super Man or Woman that can continue at a crazy pace indefinitely and not suffer the consequences. Recognizing the symptoms of burnout within yourself is the first step.
Having been there, I urge you to take some easy actions now to prevent a breakdown in the future.
About the Author, Heather E. Wilson
Need help? Would you like to learn more ways to avoid burnout, add more fun, more success, and more joy into your life and business? Heather E. Wilson, is a certified transformational coach, author and international speaker who loves to share her passion for helping you take charge of your life and business so that you can have the success and fun you've always dreamed about.
Go to HeatherwilsonInternational.com to view more of her free training and to receive a copy of her FREE ebook: The Burnout Principle.