Startup entrepreneurs get to live independently, set their own hours, and work to achieve their own goals. But that freedom also comes with an overwhelming amount of responsibility. Experiencing burnout as an entrepreneur has become relatively common, and if you’re not careful, it could affect the way you do business — and how you live your life.
What are the biggest signs of burnout to notice? And how can you manage your burnout symptoms before it’s too late?
The Importance of Being Proactive
First, we need to recognize the importance of being proactive. Too often, entrepreneurs blow off warning signs of burnout and continue pushing through with even longer hours and more hard work. They believe that taking time off or taking breaks would simply make matters worse, causing work to pile up unnecessarily.
But realistically, proactive management strategies are neither expensive nor intensive, but they can keep you from experiencing the worst effects of burnout, especially in the long run. Attending online therapy sessions, reducing your hours, and delegating more tasks could be all that’s needed to take you from the precipice of burnout to a much healthier, more sustainable place.
We’ll explore these and other proactive burnout management strategies for entrepreneurs later in this article.
Early Signs of Burnout
Stress is a part of almost every job, but there’s a point where that stress begins to take over your life. If you notice any of the following signs, you can consider yourself in the early phases of burnout:
Demotivation to Work
There are always some days when you don’t feel like working. But if you consistently find yourself demotivated, it’s a sign that something’s wrong. This is especially true as an entrepreneur, since you built this business yourself and are truly passionate about the project. If you wake up each day dreading the trip to the office, it’s time to take action.
How do you act around other people? And how do your feelings manifest as actions? All of us feel annoyed or irritated periodically throughout any given day, but when you venture into burnout territory, you become much more irritable and less tolerant of annoyances. Have you found yourself snapping at coworkers lately?
Chronic Feelings of Anxiety
Anxiety is normal, but chronic feelings of anxiety or unexplained feelings of anxiety are not. If you find your heart rate spiking and your thoughts racing at strange times throughout the day, or for unexplained reasons, it could be directly tied to how you’re working.
Do you ever find it difficult to concentrate on your work? Normal, everyday distractions can complicate your ability to concentrate. But when you start finding it hard to concentrate consistently, especially for tasks where concentration is usually easy, consider it a warning sign.
Feeling Less Satisfaction From Work
How do you feel at the end of the day? When you go home from work, are you satisfied with a job well done? Or are you simply preoccupied with whatever comes next? If you feel less satisfied from work on a daily basis, you might be on the verge of burnout.
To maximize the health benefits, you should be getting between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. As an entrepreneur with a busy schedule, this is likely difficult for you even under normal circumstances. But pay close attention to any changes in your sleep patterns, such as disruptions throughout the night or shorter sessions.
Other Lifestyle Habit Changes
Are there other lifestyle habit changes you’ve noticed? For example, have you eaten more junk food lately, or have you started leaning more heavily on substances like alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs? Pay attention to how severe these lifestyle changes have been, when they began, and how your life at work could be influencing them.
Danger Signs of Burnout
If you don’t take action after noticing the early signs of burnout, you may eventually notice your stress manifest as the following:
Your personal relationships are probably an even higher priority for you than success in business. Once your work life begins to affect your relationships in a negative way, you need to take some time to reassess your priorities and how you’ve been spending your time. If you’re getting into more fights with loved ones, or if you’ve become alienated from your friends, you may be entering deeper stages of burnout — and if things get worse, you’ll have less support to help you through.
Significant Performance Issues
How are you performing at work? In the earlier stages of burnout you might have trouble concentrating or you might be more irritable than usual, but in the later stages of burnout, you might be practically incapable of achieving productivity at work. When you’re working long hours and you’re not even getting much done, what’s the point?
Headaches, Digestive Issues, and Other Health Problems
Stress isn’t just a mental problem; it can also be a physical problem. Once your stress, anxiety, and tendency to overwork begin to influence your physical health, it’s time to treat this as an emergency. Headaches, stomach aches, digestive discomfort, and other health problems are common side effects of severe burnout.
Substance Abuse Disorders
Having an extra drink now and then isn’t a big problem, but when burnout takes over your life, you could end up with a genuine substance abuse disorder.
Burnout Management Strategies
Fortunately, even if your stress levels are exceptionally high, there are plenty of strategies that can help you manage that stress effectively.
Talk to a therapist.
One of the best things you can do is talk to a therapist. Thanks to modern technology, it’s quick and easy to find an online therapist, and because you can meet digitally, you can schedule appointments whenever and wherever is convenient for you. Talking about your issues is a form of catharsis, and your therapist can recommend effective strategies for better managing your stress and anxiety. They can also give you a sanity check to help you recognize whether your levels of stress are reasonable or unreasonable.
Reduce your hours.
To avoid burnout as an entrepreneur, try to reduce your hours. It’s true that–as an entrepreneur– you’re passionate about your work and your income depends on your success. But that doesn’t mean that working longer hours is always necessary. Focus on only your most important tasks and consider delegating the rest. Hire additional staff members or freelancers, if necessary.
Get more exercise.
No matter how busy you are, it’s a good idea to find time for physical exercise. Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress, and it helps you stay healthy in a variety of ways. Even if you can only find 20 minutes a day to be active, a daily exercise routine can make your stress more manageable. While you’re at it, consider cleaning up your diet and eating a healthy balance of different nutritious foods rather than whatever junk happens to be convenient.
Take a vacation.
Better yet, take a full vacation. This is especially important if you start noticing any burnout signs in the danger zone. Taking several days, or even a few weeks, away from work can give you a new perspective on life and put your work in a healthier context. Don’t worry; the rest of your team can handle things while you’re away.
Mindfulness meditation is another excellent tool for managing stress and anxiety. It helps you remain in the present moment, reducing negative thoughts about the past or the future and the process.
Entrepreneurial stress is unavoidable, but it is manageable. And while burnout may seem like an inevitability with a job as important and demanding is yours, it truly isn’t. As long as you’re willing to proactively recognize the signs of burnout and work against them as an entrepreneur, you can make your position healthier and more sustainable.
Featured Image Credit: by Ketut Subiyanto; Pexels; Thanks!