Returning from the Brink – How to Avoid Burnout

According to Merriam-Webster, burnout is exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation, usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration. This accurately describes many in the workplace today and can be especially true for entrepreneurs. A 2015 survey of 242 entrepreneurs found that 49% were dealing with one or more mental health concerns. Specifically, 27% were having anxiety issues and 30% were experiencing depression, with some having both. Unfortunately, most view burnout as an acceptable risk in pursuit of your dreams. 

But is it really necessary to walk the edge of burning out in order to reach your goals, and still be successful?

How can you recover from burn out? Better yet, how can you avoid it?

Re-prioritize and balance. Take stock of what is important to you. Most likely the top of your list will be the very things that pay the highest price from burnout: your relationships, health, happiness, and peace. Once you reset your priorities, those tough choices are easier to make.

For instance, let’s say you have placed your spouse and children at the top of your list. The decision between spending quality time with your family or regularly working extended hours becomes simpler. You choose the thing that’s more important. That choice will have consequences; less overtime worked will mean less income, and that project might take longer, but your time spent with what you value most will give you more drive and focus when you are working.

As you make these tough choices, do not be surprised when those around you do not understand. Sticking to your priorities will let you live a more balanced life, and in turn, you will not only be happier and healthier, but more productive and effective.

Back to basics. Our lives are unwittingly layered in complexity. You are constantly told you need to buy this, sign up for that, upgrade this, and follow that. Step back from the crowd and actively choose to simplify. This is especially important to do now that you have re-prioritized and re-balanced your time. Most likely, you will need to cut back on work time or change your work schedule to be more flexible. Look for ways to save money and reduce your expenses. Pay off any debts you have. Involve everyone in your household and work together to simplify tasks. At first, it may seem daunting and even impossible, however, once you start down this road, you will have more time and energy for what you really want to do, when you want to do it.

Rest and recreation. From a purely technical standpoint, your mind and body are a finely tuned, amazing computer and machine. For peak performance and efficiency, they require a certain amount of rest. There simply is no substitute for it. Each person needs a different amount of sleep but ideally it’s between 7 and 9 hours each night.

You need some alone time too. Time set aside to be with yourself and to let your mind relax. Some like to listen to music and take a walk. For others, it’s exercise or reading a book. Find what works for you, but be sure it takes your mind away from work and any other stresses you are dealing with.

You also need some recreation. Ideally this will be spent with those most important to you. Family and friends that allow you to be yourself, relax, and let loose. It is a special thing how a night of laughter can affect your outlook and attitude.

A line in the sand. Be aware that putting what is important to you first is going to require you to make decision that will not please others. You are going to have to say “no” sometimes. Try to offer alternative solutions and confident reassurance of what you can do. Look ahead, and plan out how to complete your work, projects, and responsibilities within your ideal schedule. Try to be flexible, but stick to what is good for you. You will never regret putting first what is most important in life.

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