How do I save myself from burnout?

Education, Encouragement, Experiences

…while also creating a successful business?

The short answer – You can’t. Stay with me here. I don’t mean that you aren’t capable of doing hard things. Of course you are! And I don’t mean that you can’t get up and get sh*t done, while also struggling in your personal life. But I DO MEAN this – You will not be able to build a business that serves, you, your clients, or the world while you’re emotionally drowning inside.

It would be like you’re Jack and Rose from the Titanic. You’re nearly drowning in frigid, freezing cold waters, holding on for dear life, while clients, friends and family shout from the safety of a lifeboat:

  • “Can you meet for coffee so I can pick your brain?”
  • “Can we add these new elements to our contract?”
  • “Can you come in a couple hours early for a meeting?”
  • “Don’t forget exercise, date-night, a sex life, your friend’s birthday, feeding your kids, dog, frog and fish! Oh, and please look good doing it. Thanks!”

The thing that can make saving yourself from burnout so vulnerable and challenging is –

You’re drowning on the inside & no one else can see it.

Unlike the dramatic example above, the people in your life most likely have no idea that you’re struggling, or the degree to which you need help. Additionally, in my experience working with clients who are experiencing burnout they have the following qualities:

  • High drive to succeed
  • Low tolerance for disappointing others
  • High ability to function under stress
  • High desire to be of service to others

These qualities under the right circumstances, and with healthy boundaries can become superpowers.

But, without having clearly defined needs, manageable expectations of ourselves, and the willingness to make our needs a top priority – it can lead to severe mental, physical, and emotional consequences.

Let’s talk about honoring our essential needs, and how to help make them a priority.

What are our essential needs? Essential needs, in some cases, are based on survival, and non-negotiable. In other cases, they’re emotional and unique to you, your life, your values, and your personality. Below I’ve listed examples of both, and what you can do to honor them.

Physical needs: oxygen, hydration, nutrition, & sleep. The most highly trained Navy SEALS can hold their breath underwater approximately 2-3 minutes. Without water for 3-4 days, we won’t survive. A person can last 30-40 days without food, assuming they have access to water. And sleep deprivation is used as a means of torture, attacking biological and mental health function.

I know these examples sound extreme, but that’s because they ARE. And when clients are pushing themselves to the max, fueled by caffeine and adrenaline – holding their breath, forgetting to drink water, working through meals, and working into the wee hours of the night – these are some of the first behaviors that present themselves.

Below is a list of some of my favorite things to do to try and help myself avoid these burnout traps:

  • Keep a refillable water bottle with you at all times. I find that by having water in my hand, on my desk or right in front of me I’m more likely to remember to drink it.
  • Schedule breath breaks. I don’t do this all the time, but when I know I’m approaching something new or a project that puts me outside my comfort-zone, I schedule a pleasant sounding alarm to go off on my phone every 2hrs. No matter what I’m doing or where I am, I stop for 1-2mins and breathe deeply. If I’m relaxed, it’s a nice opportunity to stop and smell the roses. If I’m tense, my body usually feels tingly after the first few breaths. Either way, it’s good for me, and I love it! Also, if I’m feeling so bound up that I can’t allow for 60 seconds to breathe, then there’s likely a bigger issue going on, and all the more reason to take a break.
  • Yummy snacks, and sit down meals. When I’m crunched for a deadline, or feeling really overwhelmed, mealtime moves from a part of my day that brings me joy to grabbing whatever I can eat quickly to stop the hunger pains. Or worse still, adrenaline fueled afternoons and caffeine filled mornings keep me from feeling my hunger at all. Keeping dried fruit, healthy snack bars, and granola are handy are helpful for moments when I’m really in a pinch. But if I’m honest about what really serves me (and what my mind, body, and heart really need), it’s sitting down to enjoy a proper meal. Preferably with someone I love. When we sit down and make time to eat, we chew more thoroughly, let ourselves digest, and give our precious minds a break.
  • Sleep, sleep, sleep. If you’re reading this and already thinking to yourself, “I’m so behind, and all I want to do is pass out.” Please, please honor that call. Whether it’s mental fatigue, or physical exhaustion, you’re tired for a reason. While getting 7-9hrs at night is ideal, if this isn’t the stage of life you’re in or what your schedule allows that’s okay. Take it where you can get it – a nap, a tiger-snooze, resting your eyes for 30 minutes between appointments. There’s actually been some interesting emerging research about “catching up” on sleep, the benefits of taking naps, and letting your mind wind down. Start where you are, and honor what you need my friend. Because the truth of the matter is this -> if you don’t find a way to give it to yourself, your body is going to find a way for you, ie. getting sick, a headache, or falling asleep on the job.

Emotional needs: Our emotional needs are a combination of our values, access to resources, the stage of life we’re in, family history, training, likes and dislikes. There isn’t one clear cut way to meet them, but in my experience it’s a combination of –

  • awareness – knowing what they are and how to identify them
  • acknowledgment – being able to address them out loud to the people in our lives. This is often when conversations come up around boundaries.
  • action – knowing the necessary steps to take to fulfill your needs and honor your values.

The process of putting these three steps to work is by and large what I’ve dedicated my life to pursuing. It takes time, intention, grace, and guidance. Maybe there’s a trusted friend in your life, a coach you could call, or a therapist that could help you explore this process further. One of my absolute favorites is journaling.

Journaling is an intimate dialogue between you and you. There’s no one to perform for, no one to disappoint, and can be a daily commitment to yourself. If you’re already a journaling fan – amazing! I can’t recommend it enough, and I encourage all of my clients to do the same.

If you’ve thought about journaling and don’t know where to begin. Or maybe you love buying journals, but they’re blank and currently collecting dust on a bookshelf, I’d recommend you try my 7 part guided journal Treasured: a journal for unearthing you. There’s just enough prompts to help you get your wheels turning and plenty of blank space for some good processing.

Want to stay connected? Here are some ways below!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

LET’S STICK TOGETHER

Weekly Doses of Encouragement