Operating a business is far from easy, and it can take a huge toll on your mental and physical health. Especially with the disruptions brought on by the pandemic, business owners are facing more challenges than they ever have before.
These factors may be causing you increased levels of exhaustion and stress. Without even realizing it, you could be starting to suffer from work-related burnout. Not only can burnout take a physical and mental toll on the person dealing with it, but burnout can also affect the business itself.
It’s important to recognize the signs of burnout and implement ways to not only deal with it if you notice it’s affecting your life but to also prevent it from happening to begin with when you can.
Here are some signs that you may be struggling with burnout:
1. You feel constantly overwhelmed
It’s normal to go through varying periods of your work life where things may feel more overwhelming than usual. However, if you notice that you’re constantly feeling swamped with no relief, then you may have a problem that needs to be addressed.
You shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by everyday tasks and operations. Your daily to-do list shouldn’t feel like a daunting, impossible burden. If you notice that everything at work is starting to feel like a chore, then it may be necessary to take a step back and evaluate why you’re feeling so weighed down by work.
2. You’re always tired
Even with a full night's rest, you still feel exhausted. Basic tasks and routines tire you out, and you’re not able to get through the day without yawning excessively and thinking about collapsing onto your bed when you get home.
Being tired sometimes is natural, but consistently feeling like you didn’t get any sleep is not.
3. You can’t sleep
Alternatively, you may not be able to get much, if any, proper sleep at all. Going to bed just results in restless tossing and turning, and you can’t shut your brain off when you try to settle down for some sleep. If you’re relying on medication to fall asleep, then that’s a red flag that may indicate you’re starting to get burnt out.
4. You have consistent brain fog
You’re starting to forget basic things–names, dates, contact information. Sometimes, you may forget a point mid-sentence or what you’re about to do just before you’re going to begin a task. Brain fog can be the result of residual and consistent lack of sleep and tiredness and can be a sure-fire way to indicate that you’re burning out.
5. You’re always working, even when you’re not supposed to be
Even when other people have packed up and gone home for the day, you’re still at the office. When you leave, you’re still doing work at home. You put off basic needs and your own personal enjoyments for the sake of work.
While there may be times when you need to get caught up on work outside of typical operating hours, it’s not healthy to always be “on” when you’re not supposed to be doing business tasks.
6. You take your frustrations out on your staff or colleagues
Regular irritability that transfers over to your staff members is indicative of a larger issue. It creates a tension filled work environment which results in poor work product, and high turnover due to terrible morale.
You can’t expect your team to come up with creative solutions if they are too afraid to speak up when you are around. If you’re feeling consistently annoyed and you’re lashing out at your team as a result, then burnout may be the culprit.
7. You’re not socializing as much as you used to
Pulling away from your typical friend group, cancelling social plans, and choosing instead to work or go home and prepare for more work, is not something that should be taken lightly if you’re used to socializing regularly.
8. You’ve developed health issues
Increased stress, lack of sleep, and ignoring your physical and mental wellbeing can result in health issues. Burnout can exacerbate these problems and cause random and otherwise avoidable health concerns. If you’ve started developing issues that are cause for concern, it might be time to look at your recent work habits.
9. You’re cynical
No one is optimistic 100 percent of the time, but it isn’t healthy to feel cynical more often than not. Being pessimistic can have a negative effect on your employees, and may cloud your ability to recognize the good work that’s being done.
Focusing on the negative can be productive in addressing issues that need to be fixed, but it should not be the only thing you’re able to dedicate your attention to.
10. Your performance is slipping
If you’re regularly tired, dealing with brain fog, and overwhelmed, it would be a natural conclusion to say your work performance is probably slipping. You won’t be able to perform to the same standard if you’re constantly pushing yourself past your personal limits.
Although it may seem like you’re working hard for the sake of your business, you’re doing your company no favours if you’re sacrificing your wellbeing in the process.
If you feel like you’re dealing with burnout or just want to know how you can effectively avoid it as much as possible, read these tips below.
1. Prioritize self-care
Self-care will look different for every person, but it’s an essential concept to practice, especially for business owners who are more prone to stress and exhaustion. Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated or filled with dozens of things you need to do. Start with a simple, manageable routine that helps you take care of your basic needs while also showing yourself some much needed–and required–kindness.
For example, before going to bed, read a book you enjoy for half an hour. Unwind with a relaxing bath once a week (or more, depending on the kind of week you’re having). Instead of squeezing as much work as possible into an evening, set it aside to tackle the next day and go to sleep a bit earlier. If you get more rest, wake up with enough time to sit and enjoy your coffee without having to rush to get to work.
Self-care should be about prioritizing yourself and what your mind and body need, even if it’s just a few blocks of time that you set aside throughout the day to take it easy.
2. Disconnect when you can
As difficult as this can be in a very digitally-focused world where people are glued to their phones 24/7, you should do your best to limit your screen time outside of work. Set your phone aside and focus on your personal routines when you’re home at the end of a workday.
Don’t mindlessly scroll or check on emails before bed. Take time to step away from the constant messages and online tasks that can wait until work hours. Your sleep schedule will be much better off if you’re not stuck to your phone until the second before you go to bed.
3. Surround yourself with a strong network
A strong support system can be incredibly beneficial to your mental health. Try to keep the people who are best for your wellbeing in your inner circle, and don’t engage with those who don’t help you when you need it and drag you down when you’re already tired.
4. Make your sleep count
It can be difficult for busy business owners to take their sleep seriously, but it’s one of the most essential aspects of our overall health that should never be ignored. Make a personal rule to set aside work a few hours before you go to sleep, and do not bring your work into bed with you. Your bed should be for sleeping and not associated with last-minute emails.
Aim for 8 hours of sleep as much as you can and do your best to prioritize your sleep routine as consistently as possible.
5. Get active
Physical activity has been proven to have a list of positive benefits on your health and well-being. Even something as simple as going out for a short walk before or after you’re done work (or even on your lunch break) can do wonders for your health and mindset.
6. Set aside time to do the things you enjoy
It’s easy to get lost in work–to the point where you no longer allow yourself to have the time to do the things you enjoy. People need hobbies and pastimes to look forward to, so it’s necessary to remember to allow yourself to do what makes you happy when you’re finished work for the day. Make a point of setting aside time in your schedule to do the activities you like.
7. Set professional boundaries
Do your employees often message you questions and concerns after work hours? Do you reach out to them about things that could likely wait until the next day? If you answered yes, then it may be time to set some professional boundaries for your team and yourself.
Your phone shouldn’t be filled with messages and alerts when you’re home at the end of the day. If it’s not an emergency, it can wait. You need to give yourself time to step away from your phone so you don’t become irritable and overwhelmed with constant messages from your employees. Everyone needs breaks, especially business owners who already have a lot to deal with.
8. Explore mindfulness
Deep breathing, meditation, and yoga are all positive examples of mindfulness exercises that you can try. Being mindful means being present in the moment. You’re not thinking about tomorrow, you’re not worrying about something in the past, you just are.
9. Take a step back from unnecessary job stressors
If you find yourself tackling unnecessary tasks that could otherwise be delegated to another employee and you’re becoming stressed because of it, then you may need to reevaluate your work strategy. There’s no harm in redistributing daily to-do’s that give you stress if you don’t need to be the one to do them. You have a team for a reason, make sure you’re leaning on them (within reason) if you’re starting to become overwhelmed.
10. Ask for help when you need it
Much like the point above, there’s no shame in asking for help when you need it. Whether that’s seeking therapy if you think your stress is becoming too much for you to handle or asking your coworkers to lend a hand when you have a lot on your plate. Don’t be afraid to seek out help to make your work life more manageable.
Off-loading your hosting, business website, and digital marketing to a third party like REM can take a huge amount of stress off of your daily to-do list.
Burnout is incredibly common for business owners, so it’s important to recognize the signs and address them head-on before it gets worse if you notice you’re starting to experience it. Use these tips to help you the next time you start to feel overwhelmed and remember you’re not alone.