We’ve all heard the saying, “you can have it all,” but in 2023, is that even a goalpost we aspire to when so many are just surviving? According to Orbelo, 42% of entrepreneurs report feeling burned out over the past year (2022), and 53% of all those surveyed reported burnout as hurting their businesses.
In today’s society of perfectionism and pressure, it’s not enough to have a successful business. We’re supposed to balance friends, family, children, and health, and for many, balance really means an impossible juggling act.
Are entrepreneurs destined to burn out, or is it time to redefine success and abandon outdated expectations?
Redefining success as entrepreneurs
20% of small businesses fail within the first year, and 50% fail within the first five years, so is burnout inevitable in the cutthroat world of entrepreneurship, or is it time to redefine success and failure?
Rather than striving to have “it all”, we should focus on what’s most valuable to us. Burnout is seen as a failure, but what if we reframed it as an opportunity to find what true success means to us?
All entrepreneurs fail, but it takes courage to learn, recognize our limitations, prioritize what’s most important and let go of the rest. We must listen to our intuition, trust ourselves, challenge our capabilities, and accept that success differs for everyone.
We need to be brave enough to craft a new version of success based on our own passions, goals, and values. We must let go of needing to juggle and balance everything perfectly and learn to enjoy the journey while fully appreciating all of our accomplishments and embracing the bumps along the road.
Success isn’t a performance—it’s about creating a sustainable and enjoyable lifestyle.
What are the signs of burnout?
Burnout is a state of complete emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by constant periods of stress and overworking. It can cause feelings of detachment, cynicism, and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment, making it challenging to maintain a positive outlook and stay motivated.
You might notice changes in your sleep patterns, chronic fatigue, reduced energy levels and increased negative emotions or thoughts. You can experience physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or muscle tension. It can be difficult to concentrate on tasks or make decisions, and you might feel like you’re operating on autopilot most days.
Negative self-talk and punishing yourself for not meeting specific standards or expectations are all signs of burnout. It can feel like no matter how much time and effort you put into something; it’s never good enough.
As an entrepreneur, you’re in high-pressure, high-stress environments, so what’s the solution?
Radical self-care to avoid burnout as an entrepreneur
We’ve been taught to put ourselves last. Whether it’s societal pressure or an internalized narrative of martyrdom and sacrifice, you need to do the inner work if you truly want to avoid or recover from burnout.
- Think self-care is selfish
- Avoid conflict
- Struggle to set boundaries
- Find communication difficult
- Can’t say no
- Can’t ask for help
- Lack of a support system
- Are unable to delegate
- People please
These ingrained behaviors and beliefs make people susceptible to burnout, and radical self-care is the best antidote to this self-sacrificing martyrdom mentality. We must put ourselves on the list and recognize that investing in our best selves allows us to have a greater impact on the world.
Radical self-care is the proactive and unapologetic approach to prioritizing your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being. It’s a declaration that we are important, we honor what we bring to the table, and our time and energy are sacred. We create boundaries that protect us, our values and what matters most.
Strategies to avoid, challenge or recover from burnout
As entrepreneurs, we have a lot of responsibilities, and it can be easy to fall into the trap of trying to do it all and overworking ourselves. Here’s what you can do now to avoid, challenge or recover from burnout:
Finding your support system will be the key to your success, from childcare to cleaning or hiring an assistant. Creating a number of methods that support you, your family, your business and your goals relieves stress and increases productivity and the ease and calm of your daily life.
This could be expanding your team, investing in childcare, hiring domestic help, investing in a therapist, or a regular, scheduled social event. You are the boss of your life; taking steps through delegation and outsourcing will be the best first step for your well-being.
Find your tribe
You may find it isolating as an entrepreneur. The guilt of wanting more, the sacrifices, the burden and the constant push and pull between responsibilities are difficult to navigate. Connection is so important, and finding a tribe of like-minded individuals who understand and support you can make all the difference. These people can provide a sense of community, inspiration, and encouragement to help you navigate the challenges of balancing being a parent and an entrepreneur. Whether it’s through online forums, local meetups, or networking events, actively seeking out and engaging with your tribe can help you feel less alone and more empowered on your journey.
Setting clear boundaries is crucial in avoiding burnout. We must learn to say “no” to things that don’t align with our values or goals. Saying “no” to things that drain our energy makes room for the things we love that light us up. By setting boundaries, we prevent over-committing ourselves, overworking, and avoiding feeling overwhelmed.
Self-care must be a daily practice, especially for those recovering from burnout. We must take some time to exercise, read a book, eat healthy meals, meditate, or simply nap, which is essential in starting the self-care journey. It’s important to find what self-care practices work for you and make them a non-negotiable part of your routine. Our health and well-being must take center stage, giving ourselves the time and space to recharge and refresh, letting the best version of ourselves shine through.
Mindfulness and Gratitude
Mindfulness and gratitude practices can help prevent and recover from burnout. Learning to pause, reflect, and be present helps us feel more connected and return to our center. Practicing gratitude and teaching us to appreciate our lives reduces the insatiable need for ‘more.’ Staying present, being grounded, and enjoying the beauty of life in any given moment, keeps us anchored to our purpose and our unique definition of success.
Breaking the cycle of burnout takes work.
We must challenge years of conditioning and unlearn harmful behaviors and beliefs that make burnout possible.
But burnout is not inevitable
Understanding our personality, preferences, beliefs and values, and the psychosocial, familial and environmental factors that cause burnout helps us to prevent, challenge and recover from it. It takes courage to challenge our programming, but this presents an opportunity to redefine success rooted in our own unique vision for our life.
Start by evaluating the things that matter most. Make a list of what you love, what lights you up and what drains you. These should become the core values and beliefs you make decisions.
Then, create a supported, healthy environment for yourself and for those things to thrive.
What support do you need to give yourself more time in your calendar for those things?
Connect with like-minded people and create a community that understands and relates to your experience. Find a safe space to vent and get advice, inspiration and comfort for those challenging parts of life.
Get comfortable with saying “no.” Set boundaries, recognize your limitations and pause before taking on anything new. Be careful with your time and energy; it’s your most precious resource, so use it wisely.
Prioritize your health! Self-care is not a luxury; your mental health, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being is non-negotiable.
Stay grounded and connected. Creating a practice of meditation and gratitude will keep you anchored to your goals and drown out the external noise. Whether it’s music, journaling, rest or nature – find what works for you and take a moment each day to recenter.
The journey towards preventing, overcoming or recovering from burnout isn’t linear; it requires us to be brave enough to take risks and resilient enough to pick ourselves up when we stumble.
Be kind to yourself as you’re dealing with the process. Approach this journey with empathy, compassion, and self-forgiveness and spend time exploring, healing and learning from those emotions.
You will survive this, and slowly, the inevitable breakdown will become your breakthrough. Embrace burnout as the start of your story, but be bold enough to write a new ending.