When you’re a small business owner, burnout is something that you hope you never have to deal with. It’s a word that evokes fear since it implies you can no longer handle your business operations. That’s why it’s necessary that you take the proper steps on how to avoid burnout in the first place. Here’s how!
What Is Burnout?
When long-term, unresolved stress causes mental, emotional or physical exhaustion and the loss of meaning in your day-to-day work, you’re likely suffering from burnout. Entrepreneurs, freelancers and business owners are typical professionals who suffer from burnout, although the condition can affect anyone.
Symptoms of burnout are wide and varied and include decreased energy levels, a pessimistic outlook on work or life, detachment in personal relationships and lower productivity levels.
The Five Stages of Burnout
Sure, you may be familiar with what burnout is, but did you know that the condition has multiple stages?
The first stage, known as the “honeymoon phase,” is characterized by high levels of job satisfaction, commitment, energy and creativity. Often experienced at the start of a new business venture, the honeymoon phase entails boundless optimism and high productivity levels. If effective coping strategies are developed in this stage, it can continue indefinitely.
The “onset of stress,” or stage two of burnout, is when common stress symptoms create mental, physical and/or emotional effects. Although some days are worse than others, stage two commonly entails anxiety, teeth grinding at night, high blood pressure, irritability, lack of social interaction and lower productivity levels.
“Chronic stress” is known as stage three, when stress is experienced on a more frequent basis. A decreased sexual desire, chronic exhaustion, apathy, resentfulness, feelings of panic and missed work deadlines may be experienced.
The next stage, “burnout,” is when symptoms become serious and continuing as normal is no longer possible. Symptoms include behavioural changes, chronic headaches, a desire to move away from work or friends/family, self-doubt and social isolation.
When the symptoms of stage four become so severe that they create a physical or emotional problem, the final stage of burnout, “habitual burnout” occurs. Stage five sufferers experience chronic mental and physical fatigue, chronic sadness and depression.
How to Avoid Burnout
After reviewing the stages of burnout as outlined above, where do you see yourself?
Regardless of the stage you’re currently in, the best thing you can do to counteract burnout is to build up mental resilience and practice self-care.
Stress is inevitable in life – but how we deal with stress is entirely up to us. Practice deep breathing, meditation and other relaxation techniques to help better manage your stress level. Learn effective ways of shifting your way of thinking to a more positive frame of mind and limit your contact with negative people. Talking face-to-face to someone who is a good listener can help calm your nervous system and relieve stress. Make time for family and friends and reach out to those closest to you for support.
Exercising regularly can help increase energy and productivity levels and also help you get a more restful sleep. Consider starting a new hobby or fun project that nourishes your creativity and counteracts burnout.
Learn how to set appropriate boundaries, including taking a daily break from technology when you can completely disconnect and outsourcing work when necessary.
Remind yourself what you love about your business to help regain a sense of purpose and direction. Reframe the way you look at your work. If able, try to take a complete break away from work and use that time to recharge your batteries.
The Bottom Line
Avoiding burnout is crucial to setting yourself up for a long, successful career as a business person – and there are many ways you can accomplish this.
At the end of the day, what’s most important is that you know the positive steps that you need to take so that you never have to experience burnout yourself.