When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re defined by your passion for your work. You have to be in order to maintain the drive needed to chase after your goals. However, this is also why work/life balance can be so difficult when you own your own business. Entrepreneurs are notorious for taking work home with them, and this puts them at risk of burnout.
While stress is an unavoidable part of life, it’s essential that we manage it with healthy coping mechanisms. Stress left unchecked can lead to many negative health outcomes, including depression, anxiety, heart conditions, hormonal disorders, and more. Over time, chronic stress devastates the endocrine system, making it difficult for the body to regulate the “fight or flight” response, and this is when burnout happens. Burnout at its worst impacts your mental, physical, and emotional health.
Burnout doesn’t just happen; it comes on gradually. At first, you may simply feel so driven to achieve that you work extra hard all the time. Over time, you might start neglecting your basic needs, not getting enough sleep, eating unhealthily, and neglecting your important relationships. You may begin to compromise on your values, withdraw from your social circles, and even lose some sense of yourself. From there, it is common to become depressed, and soon, you have burnout and are in need of medical attention.
Entrepreneurs in particular must be intentional about preventing burnout, both because they are at higher risk and they have more to lose. If you can’t function optimally, not only does your health suffer, but your business suffers as well. Therefore it is essential that entrepreneurs actively avoid burnout.
Business owners often find it difficult to take time off, but it is really one of the most impactful ways to prevent burnout. You can schedule your free time whatever way works for you. That might mean taking weekends off, taking a half day every few weeks, or planning a few days every quarter when you step away from work. Just make sure to put it on the calendar and stick to it. Keep in mind that you can either choose when to take time off, or wait for the stress to catch up to you and force you to take time off. Choose wisely.
Neglecting your health is a slippery slope. It might start with a few sleepless nights, or skipping your checkup this year because you’re too busy, but pretty soon, you could be facing total burnout. Take your health as seriously as you take your business, and you will be in a much better position to succeed. Make sure you are eating a balanced diet, exercising on most days, and scheduling regular visits with your doctor.
Even if your work is your main passion, there is so much more to life, and engaging with it will help you avoid burnout. Be intentional about spending time with your family, your friends, and your partner. Find hobbies that have absolutely nothing to do with your work. Something that keeps you active, connects you with others, and/or gives you a creative outlet is ideal. For example, you could join a running club or form a band. Think about what you used to love doing and find a way to do it in a way that works with your current lifestyle.
Again, burnout doesn’t happen overnight; it is the result of a series of choices. Like any condition, the earlier you can intervene, the better. A good way to assess if you’re on the slippery slope to burnout is checking in periodically to see if you’re acting in a healthy way that’s in line with your values. Are you neglecting your needs? Are you compromising who you are? If the answer is yes, it’s time to take a step back and take care of yourself.
Being an entrepreneur means facing failure; after all, you have to fail to succeed. This dynamic can cause you to become overly self-critical if you’re not careful, and this can contribute to burnout. Remember that setbacks and negative feedback are all part of the process, and don’t let them get to you. Let go of the need to control everything and accept that it won’t always go your way. The more you can accept this, the easier it is to move on and be successful in the future.
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