Burnout starts slow, but if the symptoms go unnoticed, they can take a toll on your well-being and productivity. Learn what burnout looks like, spot it on time, and take steps to prevent it from taking over.
A while ago, a Facebook friend of mine posted something about his relentless work ethic. He claimed he was working all day long and well into the night to complete an important project. While others wasted their time having a social life, he was building his path to success.
Someone else replied to him. This person said something like this:
“Burnout ‘doesn’t exist. It’s just people unaccustomed to working hard. It’s about endurance. Get used to working harder and longer.”
Well, science disagrees.
Researchers are taking an interest in burnout and documenting its differences with other mental health conditions, such as depression.
Entrepreneurs and freelancers are prone to burnout. Managing a business while trying to have a life, caring for family and running a home is pretty stressful.
No matter what your industry is. Owning a business is stressful. And we’re living in a culture that still places value on being busy, in working long hours, in sacrificing personal life and well-being for work.
What is burnout?
This study defines it like so:
“Burnout syndrome is an important work-related disorder of psycho-social origin, caused when stressful working conditions are endured. … [it] may be observed as a progressively developed condition resulting from the use of ineffective coping strategies with which professionals try to protect themselves from work-related stress situations.“
In other words, burnout is what happens when a person ‘can’t cope with overwhelming, work-related stress for long periods. It might look like depression, but it acts differently in your memory, sleep, and mood.
‘There’s more–the study proposes three types of burnout, depending on how each person reacts to stress.
- Frenetic. People with this type of burnout work harder under pressure, which is counterproductive. They work themselves to exhaustion, are overly-ambitious, and end up feeling overloaded with their workloads and responsibilities.
- Under-challenged. People with this type of burnout are stuck in a tedious, unsatisfying job with little opportunities for personal or professional development, which leads to frustration and indifference.
- Worn-out. Under stress, the worn-out type gives up and neglects work.
Now you know what burnout is. But what are the symptoms? Because this condition is progressive, it might be hard to notice them at first.
Keep an eye open for any of these:
- You feel tired all the time and dread going to work
- You start feeling negative and even cynical about your work
- Your relationships with coworkers deteriorate
- Your productivity drops
- You stop enjoying things outside of work, like hobbies or socializing
- You have trouble sleeping, feel aches and pains, and lose your appetite
These symptoms don’t seem pleasant at all.
Most of us have been there.
Burnout sucks the joy out of your life. The job you once enjoyed becomes a terrible, overwhelming chore. You distance yourself from coworkers, and sometimes even from family and friends. And what’s worse, you start losing confidence in yourself and your ability to do good work.
How can you prevent burnout?
Knowing what burnout looks like is just half the battle. The other half? Knowing what to do to make yourself less susceptible to it. For example:
- Pay attention to our physical and mental state. Being aware of any changes in your mood or health will help you make changes before the burnout is severe.
- Become familiar with your work style. Do you prefer to work late nights alone? Or are you more energized working with lost of people early in the morning? If you’re a freelancer or entrepreneur, create a work schedule and environment that works best for you. That’s the beauty of being your boss. If you’re an employee, negotiate alternative working conditions for yourself. Try to convince your employer to let you work from home or with a more flexible schedule.
- Create business hours and stick with it that schedule. Yes, sometimes you’ll have to put out extra hours. But working late every day and weekends for weeks or even months is not sustainable.
- Improve your workflow. Are there any tasks you can delegate or automate? Find out ways to decrease the number of pending activities, clutter, and complications.
- Go back to your roots. Take 10 minutes to ask yourself–Why are you doing what you’re doing? What is it about your business that made you create it in the first place? Is there anything you’d like to improve? What could help you get your motivation back?
- Get support. Hire people to do tasks you’re not comfortable doing. Don’t like admin tasks? Hire a VA! No idea how to write content for your business? Hire a content writer! Or ask friends and relatives for help. You’d be surprised to see how many people are willing to give you a hand.
- Go outside. Really. Sunshine and walks help. It’s scientifically proven.
- Don’t feel guilty for taking a break. You need it. Athletes work hard but can’t train too much or they get injured. It works the same for you and everyone else.
And finally, burnout is not your fault.
You can take measures to prevent it, but many other things out of your control can contribute to burnout. The important thing is to take care of yourself to reduce the symptoms, make the changes you need to do, and get help.
What do you do to fight burnout as a freelancer or entrepreneur? Have you been burned out? How did you overcome it? Let me know in the comments below!