5 questions to ask yourself when you’re experiencing burnout

Burnout can be really common – especially among startups and entrepreneurs, where the line between work and play, professional and private can be increasingly blurred.

Psychology Today says the key symptoms of burnout can include “signs of physical and emotional exhaustion” like chronic fatigue, insomnia, or increased illness; “signs of cynicism and detachment” like loss of enjoyment or pessimism; and “signs of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment” such as increased irritability or feelings of apathy and hopelessness.

All of the above can be terrifying for an entrepreneur, whose livelihood depends on their own ability to switch on and work hard at any time.

So how can you stop burnout in its tracks? If you’re feeling any of these symptoms, here’s some important questions to ask yourself.

Is any of this work unnecessary?

When you’re feeling overworked, prioritisation is key. Take stock of your to-do list, and consider whether there are thing you’re feeling obligated or pressured to do that don’t need to be right at the top. You might also be creating more work by using inefficient processes or systems, which adds more to your agenda. Put these things on hold or remove them altogether, so you can be sure you’re taking tasks on for the right reasons.

Have I moved my body today?

There are countless studies into the links between physical activity, physical wellbeing and productivity. Could you be feeling sluggish because you haven’t exercised recently? Exercise can take many forms, so find the one for you – whether it’s the gym, running, team sports, yoga or simply putting on some music and having a mini dance party in your living room.

Am I still doing the things I’m passionate about?

This can also be referred to as ‘finding an outlet.’ Most entrepreneurs have a true, passionate drive for the work they’re doing – so the distinction between work and play can be less obvious. Consider whether there’s a ‘passion project’ outside your work that you’ve been neglecting. A change of pace can be reenergising and a good reminder of what it feels like to be motivated and engaged.

When was the last time I just did nothing?

Switching off is a challenge for many entrepreneurs and founders. When your business comprises just you, it can feel counter-intuitive to let it essentially halt in order to take time off. Even on holidays, many can’t resist checking their emails by poolside. But your body and your mind both need rest, so get comfortable with doing nothing, even just for very short periods at a time. Scheduling free time as a part of your calendar is one way to do this, especially if you’re uncomfortable switching off. By putting it in your diary, it tells you it’s as important as the other tasks you need to achieve today – and you can time it and keep it under control.

Is there someone I can ask for help?

Autonomy and independence are vital for anyone starting their own business. But equally important is the insight to know when you need help. This could be in your business or your personal life – when the to-do list is getting on top of you, consider whether someone else can help ease the burden, for a short time or permanently. Can you look at the division of chores in your household and put someone else in charge of grocery shopping? Can you outsource or get assistance in some of your administrative work so you can focus on the core of your business? Do you simply need to sit with a friend over coffee and vent? Remember you’re not in this alone.

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