Think of a matchstick. You use up your energy which is fun while at it, exhilarating most times, but you forget your energy is finite, and without a recharge, you unknowingly approach epic burnout.
It has been a while I took a much needed hiatus to recharge and i am glad i did. My experience inspired this post, and i thought to share with all you wonderful people how sneaky burnout can be.
Yes, you love your job, and because you love your job you are addicted to it, the sense of fulfillment it gives you, and its easy to burnout. For others, its not so simple, you KNOW you need a break, badly. But you keep procrastinating a holiday.
But the more you use up your energy without taking time to recharge, the closer you get to burnout.
I’ve been very lucky in my career to find fulfillment in my job. I derive joy from what i do, primarily because directly or indirectly i am impacting lives, and also, i get a kick from doing things and doing them excellently well. It’s always exciting for me exceed expectations and do things well.
I think this is actually worse for entrepreneurs, people who are so invested in their businesses, and translate its overall success to their individual success, and failure likewise. Does this sound like you? I’ve come to realize that for those people who love their jobs (p.s. loving your job doesn’t mean you don’t hate it sometimes), or folks who are engaged/switched on at work/a project or whatever. So long you are super invested, the symptoms of burnout can be elusive.
I mean, you feel it, you're exhausted everyday, but it's buried deep within your desire to excel, the chaos of urgency, the need to get things done and you ignore it and over time you build a monster. If this is you, this post is for you. Few things i'm learning to do:
Slow Your Rolls:
Your energy is finite, and sometimes it’s okay to stop even when you’re not exhausted. It’s a form of self care. Being efficient and someone people can rely on is great, but it is important to know that you aren’t doing this at the expense of your physical or mental health.
Here are a few things i’ve begun to apply in my life. When i see that point of inflection (i call it the "hook", where you get sucked in and it's just work and work and work to exhaustion), i deliberately check myself in that moment and slow my rolls. I ask myself honest questions, how much of this can you realistically do? Do you need a break? Have you had a meal today? I check in with myself to make so i don’t wreck myself (see what i did there? haha)
Listen To Your Body
Took me a while to realize this but my body signals to me to take a break with migraines, and my mind with mental exhaustion, that borders on really low moods. What’s yours? Do you overeat? Does your body ache? Do you push yourself even harder when you are exhausted? Do you get tension headaches, or you forget stuff? Listening to your body sounds simple but most times we just ignore the signs, till it is too late.
Don’t Downplay Mind Care:
One thing i struggled with while burning out was justification. My work is largely mental, and sometimes its hard for you to believe you can burnout from excessive mental work, and little physical work. It’s like “it’s not as though it is that stressful”.
Try not to downplay the importance of getting some rest for your mind! It is just as important as your body. Having your mind constantly engaged without breaks leads to burnout quicker than you can imagine. I have learnt to take care of my mind through prayer, music and watching TV shows that require little mental work.
If you’re not religious or into prayer, meditation works. Also, taking cold turkey breaks from work intermittently (no emails, no work calls, no thinking about work), and doing something totally unrelated that doesn’t require mental gymnastics truly helps. You feel quite refreshed after.
Respond to what it tells you:
When your body tells you that you need a break, do not ignore it, or sweep it under the rug, or use a short term hack, like jugging down cups of coffee or alcohol, or a motivational podcast. Respond to the root cause. If you need a break, take a few days off. Disconnect from work. You will be the better for it, more productive and generally happier. When you want to feel indispensable from work and use the excuse of “if i don’t do it, it won’t get done” as an excuse, remember, if for some reason you are incapacitated, the job if it is important enough will get done by someone other than you. No one is that indispensable, really. Also, like my people say, "work never ends"
Take the Workload Off Yourself:
The thing about people who derive joy in doing things excellently well is that they have a hard time delegating until they are 101% sure whomever they delegate it to will do it to the quality they would do it themselves (at the very least). Because of this, they take on much more than their energy can handle, refuse to delegate and approach epic burnout faster than most. 4 words that changed my approach to delegation is “Done is Better Than Perfect”. (okay, that was 5 words but who is counting?)
Finally, your energy is finite, you can only do so much yourself. Empower people around you to do what you can do. Be okay with them not doing it as perfectly as you would, and remember done is better than perfect.
Your life is precious, and as you desire to give your best to things you also need rest to do so. Take care of yourself, and take time off to recharge and recalibrate and you, your business, your employer and your loved ones will be better for it.
So tell me, when was your last holiday?
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