Burnout is a well known condition in the world of business because it can affect anyone and unfortunately, it’s quite common. The word “burnout” is used to describe a state of emotional and physical exhaustion so severe that it can prevent you from working and relaxing in equal measures.
Usually burnout is linked to long periods of stressful work, often combined with personal struggles, that force your mind into a corner. The easy way to understand this is to think of your mind as a muscle – it can get stronger the more you exercise it, but like any muscle, it will fatigue eventually, no matter how strong.
Unfortunately, the business world trains us to focus on maximum productivity at all times and think of any setbacks as our own fault. Even if you’re your own boss, you’re not immune to this issue.
In fact, in many ways, you’re even more susceptible due to a heavy workload, pressure to succeed, and basically no time to relax. After all, you feel like relaxing is taking time away from working towards your goal, and so you fall on the same trap.
Today, I’m outlining a few ways you can identify and avoid burnout, especially when working from home as your own boss.
The symptoms of burnout
The signs of burnout are very similar to the signs of depression – and it’s no coincidence that burnout can often lead to depressive episodes, even if the person has no history of depression.
You should watch out for:
- Trouble sleeping
- Waking up at weird hours
- Low energy to perform any activities
- Irritable and annoyed at minor things
- Dreading the idea of working even when you’re free
- No motivation to work or relax
- Feeling that work is meaningless and unrewarding
- Physical pain due to stress (bad pain, headaches, grinding teeth)
If you identify with a few of these signs, you might be suffering from burnout. Take a deep breath and keep reading to learn what you can do to feel better.
The causes of burnout
Many exterior factors can contribute to burnout, but I’ll focus on the ones related to work. These can be, but are certainly not limited to:
- Excessive workload, both in number of tasks and for over 8 hours a day
- No vacation, free weekends or breaks for long periods of time
- Long periods of high-stress, tension and pressure
- Unrewarding work (salary is low, no chance of promotion, no compliments, etc.)
- No control (your plans are constantly disrupted due to circumstances or variables you cannot control)
- No time for yourself (you work even when you should be relaxing, either due to pressure from others or yourself)
- Toxic work environment (colleagues or community are toxic towards you and each other)
Find things that help you relax
The first step you can take is to find something that helps you relax and get some perspective.
Meditation is an obvious choice, but it’s not for everyone. With guided meditation you can train yourself to let go of stress and find a more peaceful moment in your day, which will help you get through tough times.
If meditation isn’t right for you, consider other hobbies. And I do mean “hobbies” – not just another thing to monetize and worry about. Singing, drawing, painting, learning an instrument, fishing, studying a new language, anything that makes you happy.
Naturally, there’s a problem with seeking a hobby when you’re already burnt out: you won’t have energy or motivation to pursue it. That’s another common sign of burnout and depression – feeling like you can’t even focus on the things that once made you happy because your energy is so low.
If it gets this bad, it will be difficult to get out of it without help.
Get professional help
This is by far the best way to get yourself on the right track.
Because of the pandemic, many therapists are offering consultations via video call, which is even more convenient for you. Consider looking up a local health professional and scheduling an appointment – it’s easily the best way to talk about your problems with someone fresh, get a better perspective on your life, and figure out a way back into the game.
Many people feel like going to a therapist is in some way a form of admitting defeat, but this is far from the case. You’re actually pursuing a way to keep moving forward.
No one makes it alone. Everyone needs help and there’s absolutely no shame in that, especially when you’re already beaten down, physically and mentally exhausted. You deserve help.
Care for your team
On a final note, most of this article was focused on taking care of yourself, but if you’re in a position where you’re assisting others, you should always look out for your team.
Everyone out there is struggling with something, and in many cases, burnout is possible due to personal problems affecting work. Now that you know the signs of burnout, keep an eye on your team and make sure they’re living a healthy work-life balance. And if not, make sure they can get the help they need to feel better.
Take care of yourself, and take care of your colleagues!
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