What does burnout feel like when managing a business and how do I recover from it?

Burnout is real, and can it sneak up on you very seductively at first until it grabs you in a suffocating chokehold of despair and anxiety. It can be resisted, held back and even overcome.

 

My experience of burnout managing a business has come a few times, and when it was at its worst knocked me off my feet, sapped me off all my energy that I could barely open my eyes. Bed rest was unavoidable, yet I still managed my emails, phone calls and WhatsApp constantly, even as the pain was searing through me. Looking back now, I can see I’m addicted to ‘keeping on top of things and ‘making sure the ‘business is ok’ as it surely cannot be without me checking my emails!

2 weeks of bed rest turn to 4 weeks of feeling like crap. Chest pain, shortness of breath, and so tired it hurt to put my clothes on. All because I couldn’t slow down, couldn’t relax and couldn’t put myself before the business needs.

 

What are the symptoms?

 
 

The beginning of burnout is pretty similar to tiredness and slight irritability. ‘Maybe I didn’t sleep right?’ or ‘just a lot going right now?’ are the usual thoughts.

I can tell when burnout is coming now after living through the worst of it. It is still quite sneaky and seductive at first, whispering in my ear that I need to finish this last project before I rest, one more email, one more employee performance management task before calling it a day. But I can tell now when the blurry eyes start to happen.

The irritability starts as noise is coming at me in all directions seeming like 100 different conversations happening at once and wanting me to fix a problem! Stress and anxiety are very much related to burnout and can be very scary, painful and feel like there is no coming back. Without the support of friends and family, it is a struggle.

 

What steps I can I take to recover?

 
 

So this latest time, I just stopped. Well, stop as much as I could. I slowed right down. I gave my phone to my wife and asked her not to let me near for a few days. I stopped all my projects, forgot about the profit drives and performance issues of employees. I spent time with my young children, looked at their baby faces, and toothless grin of my youngest and held their hands and feet in my own. I connected with life with human beings, innocent of any work-related stresses. And I became calm and peaceful for a few days.

Then something colourful exploded in my mind, an idea. An idea for a project that would move me forward for the next 12 months encompassing every new skill I’ve been learning recently.

I don’t think I would have had the spark in such vividness had I not chosen to slow down this time. The richness of the thought and the creativeness of the journey ahead, I can already tell, will be my most outstanding professional achievement.

Some methods I use to maintain my stress levels ongoing are using a meditation app called Calm. It’s similar to Headspace but, in my opinion, has better content to help with relaxation.
I also work out 5 days a week following Joe Wicks HIIT@ exercises for releasing stress hormones and burning off excess energy.

Sleep is probably the best antidote to managing stress, anxiety and overall burnout. If none of these tips can help, the 1 thing I have now learned above all else is to slow right down and do as little as possible but be present and connect with other human beings that matter most.

 

 

 

The takeaway

 
 

 

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