If you have ever found yourself working way too hard for way too long, you have most likely found yourself in the place of burnout. Which is why this week on The Gutsy Podcast, we are going to talk about common burnout signs, why we do those things, and how to overcome them.
It is so easy to run yourself into the ground. You feel like if you don’t work day and night you’re going to lose control of something, or you’re going to lose an opportunity, or maybe you’re having a hard time delegating and feel like you have to be the one to do all of these things all of the time. The truth is – burnout is self-inflicted. It’s the result of working way too hard for way too long without taking necessary breaks or refilling the tank you have depleted over the last day, month, week, or year.
Now, I’m just as guilty as the next person for burning out. But I’ve also really started to learn that I don’t have to do that to myself in order for my business and my team to be successful. And as with most scenarios, I had to learn the hard way to really put that concept of self-care into place.
Back in 2017, AJ and I were celebrating our 15 year wedding anniversary. And to do that we booked a trip to Jamaica. We were so excited about this trip. It was going to be the first trip that we had taken together in about three years. The original trip was booked for June, but prior to that the beginning of the year started some really kind of downward stressful events in my life. I began working around the clock nonstop, checking email morning, noon, and night, feeling like I had to fulfill 10 different roles and if I didn’t do everything that all the balls were going to drop.
I became so stressed out, and I felt like I could keep control of everything if I just kept myself busy all of the time. And not long before our trip, we went through a rather large restructuring of our team and I reabsorbed a lot of the different roles and responsibilities that previous people had. So take an already kind of stressed and burnt-out person and add 10x more responsibilities on top of that – you equate to a pretty solid case of burnout.
We were able to move our vacation just a month later (which was very accommodating), and we got to go to Jamaica. Which is the great part of the story. Now the funny thing about going on a vacation and relaxing is I feel like once let your body relax after a very high-intensity atmosphere, your body and your adrenaline and your immune system kind of relax as well.
And about three days into our vacation, I ended up with the worst cold that I’ve ever had in my entire life. We’re talking fever, and snot, and coughing, and chills. I ended up sleeping half of the afternoon and missing out on lots of really great activities like steel drums on the beach – which I was really looking forward to. And while my husband is a great sport and took very, very good care of me, I know that we both would have much rather enjoyed one another’s company sitting out on the beach.
Towards the end of the trip, I was able to pick myself up and we did enjoy ourselves and I’m very thankful for that time we had together down there. But when I reflect back on that time, I realized I had driven myself into the ground and I wasn’t able to enjoy my downtime because my body was just like, no girl, you did way too much for way too long, so guess what – we’re going to crash and burn. I’ll also add that flying on an airplane with a sinus infection is one of the most painful things on the planet. That was the last time I did that to myself. And I would be lying if I didn’t say that I’ve gotten close to burning myself like that out again, but I have realized the signs and the symptoms before we get that far.
I think one of the common misconceptions about business owners is, hey, you have your own business. You have a ton of free time, you have a super flexible schedule, and you can just do whatever you want whenever you want to. While we’re able to build in some more flexibility and be a bit more in control of our calendar, you and I both know that the time that goes into not only starting a business but maintaining it is fairly substantial. The irony about this is we create a business to have more personal freedom, but then we feel guilty for taking a break.
Think about this: You worked really hard for really long for someone else, all to afford yourself the opportunity to be able to start your business. To have more freedom and flexibility. And now that you have it, you don’t use it. I wholeheartedly believe that we want to take those breaks, but I think it’s the guilt of taking the time off or having the appearance that someone is going to judge us for not quote-unquote working, that stops us from doing it.
Now think about this: When is the last time you just stayed home simply because you wanted to or when did you leave work early last for a self-care appointment or just because you felt like it? I meet with a group of Rockstar business ladies every single month, and a couple of weeks ago I sent them a selfie of me in the Target parking lot at like 3:30 in the afternoon and I was like, guess who’s rebelling?
I’m out in the world and it felt so good just to be doing something I felt like I shouldn’t be doing it, but I have earned every right to be able to do that. There are a lot of different ways that we burn ourselves out, and I want to identify those with you so that you can see which ones resonate with you. Because they’re not always so super obvious, but ultimately end up in the same feeling.
One way that we burn out is even by taking a break, you fill your free time with other projects. So let’s say you have built in a day off. You’re taking off work for the day, you’re going to really recoup yourself, and then you go home and you find yourself cleaning out the garage or rearranging the living room or doing 17,000 loads of laundry. You end up helping a friend with something or going on some trip that you weren’t expecting. And while some of these things can be fulfilling for sure, if they’re not coming from a meaningful place – you’re just filling one set of tasks with another.
The next time you schedule a day off for yourself, I want you to really guard your time and energy by setting boundaries with what you will and will not do. If your goal is to stay home so that you can clean out the garage, that’s one thing. But if your goal is to take a day off and maybe go see a movie or get a massage or sit outside and have a cocktail, then I want you to stay true to those things specifically. And if you have to – write yourself a list: “These are the things that I will only do today” or “These are the things that I will not do today.” And then hold yourself accountable to that list.
If you don’t set boundaries, it’s very easy to run into the trap of, I feel like I’m not doing something, therefore I don’t feel productive. Then you go back to work the following day, feeling just as stressed out (and probably even more tired) than when you left.
Another way we burn ourselves out is by checking email around the clock. Freaking email. Okay, so my rule is no alerts because I got sucked into that red ring of death concept, and every time it would ding or pop up or show up on my phone I felt like I had to answer it or do something with it – otherwise, I was missing out. Here’s the other secret: By answering your email all the time day and night, you are training your clients and other people that you are always accessible. And I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to be accessible at all hours of the day and night.
So my tip to you is turn off the notifications. Everything is going to be fine. And if there is truly something or reason that people need you, they will call. But when you are constantly in alert mode, it’s like a running tab in the back of your brain saying, I am always working and I’m never taking time off.
Playing whack-a-mole with every scenario that pops up is also a really solid way to burn yourself out. I often picture this as that arcade game where the little moles pop up out of the hole and you have to wack them with your hand. Sometimes this is also known as putting out fires. But by always being in this emergency state, it takes an impeccable amount of energy to constantly work in that frame of mind. And yes, sometimes scenarios happen like that. Sometimes there’s a lot going on or you’re in crunch time with a deadline period and that’s just kind of how it is. But as a whole, that’s not how it should be every single day.
This often stems from not prioritizing things and feeling like everything has an equal level of importance. So I encourage you to take a look at all of these things that you feel like you have to jump on every single day, and ask yourself: How important is this?; When does this actually need to be done by?; And how can I prioritize it in a way that I can still accomplish it in a reasonable amount of time without running around like my hair’s on fire?
If you are doing everything on your own, it’s only a matter of time before you experience burnout as well. By not asking for help, you put a lot of unnecessary pressure on yourself and you’re also setting examples for those around you. You are not any less if you need help. As a matter of fact – you’re a human and humans need help all the time. So creat lists of all the different things that you are currently doing and go through them and see who could help you with something. Who could alleviate a task off of your plate, who could you delegate something to that could perhaps do it more efficiently or more simplistically than you? Otherwise, you start burning your candle at both ends and that leads into your mind and your body starting to suffer.
Taking care of yourself has to be one of the top priorities on your list. And I know all of you because I know me, too. It often ends up at the bottom of the list. Why? Because it’s one of the most simplistic things to let go of. We feel like if there’s anything that we have to let go of, it’s self-care because ultimately it’s not affecting anybody else.
Right? Wrong. By not taking care of ourselves, we are affecting everything and everyone around us. You’ve heard the flight attendant speech on the plane. You have to put your own mask on before you put someone else’s on because if you are not well, it’s going to be nearly impossible for you to take care of anyone or anything around you.
There is this unspoken guilt around people taking care of themselves – as though if you go get your hair done or you go dig in your garden for four hours or maybe you’re lounging by the pool or you take a day trip somewhere – it’s like we think that if we do those things people are gonna think negatively of us. As if like, who is she? Who does he think he is for taking a day off?
What in the actual hell? I mean seriously, when did self-care become this blacklisted thing?
I have to tell you that my mother-in-law and I have gotten a massage every single month for the last four years. And I can honestly say that without that I can think of a lot of times I would have snapped because my body would have been so tired and so overdrawn, that the fatigue alone can emotionally destroy. I want you to start viewing self-care as a necessity, not a luxury. Just like going to the gym or getting routine hair maintenance, your mind and your spirit and your body need those things, too.
If you really want to buy back some of your energy, you can stop saying yes to everything. Saying yes to every question, request, role, or responsibility is one of the quickest ways to burn yourself out because not only now are you having to fulfill the things that you’ve already promised, now you’re fulfilling a whole new set of things for someone else. And the worst things to say yes to are the things that don’t align with who you are and what you’re doing.
We often feel like if we don’t say yes to someone that we are letting them down. But in reality, by saying yes to someone and then not giving it 110% is way worse. It’s okay to say no to things that you either don’t have time for or don’t have a passion for so that you have the room and energy to be able to say yes to the things that really align with you this week. I challenge you to say no to something. Something that in your mind you feel like, ah, I should do this, but in your gut you’re just like, I can’t imagine taking on one more thing without losing it all. Saying no is actually quite empowering. It’s one of my favorite things to do because not only am I protecting my time, but I’m also able to give the time that I do have to the things that mean the most with the best effort.
Also, if you are not having fun (and I’m not necessarily talking about work fun, I’m talking about just like good old fashion, fun, fun – like doing things that you really enjoy, that make you smile and bring you a lot of joy) but you are working yourself to the ground, you are going to burn out pretty quickly. It’s okay and very necessary to work really hard, but it’s also okay and very necessary to let your hair down and go do something that makes you really happy. Releasing endorphins is one of the most magical things that you can do for yourself. And the cool thing is, it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to do that. It just takes the act of doing something that you enjoy.
When is the last time that you really, truly, honestly did something where you laughed so hard you cried?
If you can’t remember the last time that you had a good old fashioned fun day, I want you to get out your calendar and schedule something. Because you’ve worked really, really hard and you are allowed to have fun.
And one of the last ways we tend to burn ourselves out is by overthinking and not planning. Overthinking is probably one of my biggest downfalls. And I know that it takes you to a space that throws ideas and thoughts and feelings at you a thousand miles an hour as if you’re on some kind of spaceship in the sky. And that feeling alone is enough to make you want to pull your hair out. And to accompany that by not planning things, not having a schedule or time or delegation list, it’s really easy to allow things to unintentionally pile up. And then you end up back in that whack-a-mole scenario again.
So think of all of the different tasks that you are working on right now and think about which one of those have a clear plan to the destination. And by a clear plan, I mean a timeline and goals, clear markers so you know what you working towards and when. When these things aren’t clearly identified, it’s easy to feel like everything is on fire, everything needs to be done right now and that’s when you feel overwhelmed and completely underwater.
Another thing that I really want you to consider it as not just the things that you’re doing that are causing overwhelming feelings, but why you feel the need to allow yourself to get to that space in the first place. There’s a handful of really common ones and of course, these are unique to everyone. But just to get your brain thinking, a lot of times we burn out because of the fear of failing.
If you let go of something, it’s the fear of if I’m not doing it, then it’s not going to be done the way that I want it done, which means it’s not going to work properly. If you’re going to grow a successful business, you have got to learn the art of letting go. Lock arms with the right people, in the right time, in the right space, that have a skill exceeding in something you do. And most importantly, allow them to help you. You would be amazed at how many people seriously and authentically want to be part of your success plan. Just like you’re able to help other people with your skills and talents, allow other people to use their skills and talents to alleviate some of the pressure off of your plate so that you can get your head above the water and smile a little bit more often.
We also feel like if we’re gone that everything may or may not fall apart, that you might miss an opportunity, or if you don’t do this now you’re not going to be ahead tomorrow. I’m really fortunate to know that if I’m gone for an hour a day or a week, when I come back the team has carried the torch in my absence and everything is running just as smoothly as when I left. But this doesn’t happen by accident. This comes with training and communication and giving them the confidence to know that they can make decisions and I trust them.
The day that I went to target at three o’clock in the afternoon, I think it was like a Wednesday or a Thursday, I packed up my stuff and I went out into the main area and I said, you know what guys? I need a mental health afternoon so there’s no mountain that I’m going to move this afternoon. There’s no deal that I’m going to close. There’s nothing magical that’s going to happen in the next couple of hours that can’t wait until tomorrow. They smiled and they said, you go do that. And it was a wonderful few hours by myself just out in the world doing my thing. And the best part about that was I met my husband and my son for the matinee showing of Captain Marvel and I got to spend some undivided time with them and it was just beautiful.
And guess what – the business didn’t fall apart. I didn’t lose out on any opportunities and I was a way better person the next day because of it. So I want you to be really mindful of the concept of burnout and being mindful of the signs and symptoms of that. If you find yourself tired all the time and can’t get out of bed – I’m talking not a lot of energy, just really feeling slow and sluggish, have a heightened sense of emotions, whether it’s sadness or anger – if you feel like you could snap in a flip of a switch or cry at the drop of a hat, it’s really time to take a break.
Sometimes it trickles down into physical traits like bags under your eyes or your complexion is off. Sometimes it even goes into things like your hair falling out. Yeah, I have really struggled with that and unfortunately, one of my symptoms of being too stressed out for too long is when my hair gets really, really thin. If you find that you have a lack of motivation or drive – things that once excited you and now you just feel completely overwhelmed by, or you start retracting from the things that you love to do, or worst of all, if you just completely stopped doing them altogether – I want you to reignite your fire by first accepting that it is okay to take a break. And it is necessary to take a break to be able to handle the types of things that you have to on a regular basis. It requires a very solid foundation of mental and physical strength to not only be able to do them well but to be able to do them long-term.
So this week I challenge you to be a bad ass with yourself and schedule a day off work for no reason whatsoever. No agenda, no plans, no housework. I want you to literally schedule a day for you to do whatever fulfills your soul. I want to encourage you to go through your list of things and figure out what tasks you can delegate. What can you give someone that is going to help you? I want you to turn off your cell phone notifications. Those things are like Squirrel Syndrome waiting to happen. It’s amazing to feel the freedom of not constantly being dinged and banged by your phone. I want you to set parameters for yourself by not checking email after a certain time and not saying yes to things that don’t fulfill your soul.
And most importantly, I want you to do something for your body each day, whether that’s making a smoothie or getting in some exercise or just 5 or 10 minutes of quiet time. I want you to fill your tank because as you continue to pour it out, there’s only so much to give before you need to refill it.
I don’t want to give too much away because on next week’s #powerback we’re talking all about the concept of no Bra Sunday. But no bra Sunday, to me in a nutshell, is the one day a week where I stay home. I hold that time very, very sacredly and I don’t get dressed. I don’t put on make-up. I don’t do anything. I don’t pack my Sundays full of anything. If I leave the house on a Sunday, it’s because I really, really want to. And while I used to feel bad about it, I don’t anymore. Because that’s my day to fill my tank.
Remember that just because you got yourself into a place where you feel burnout, doesn’t mean that you can’t get yourself out. You’re in complete control of your time, your schedule, and your energy.
On this week’s #powerback, we’re talking about inspiration and when you feel like you need to be inspired and motivated to do something, but it’s just not there. How do you have inspiration when motivation is not present?
Until then, follow The Gutsy Podcast on Facebook and Instagram or for more business insights, follow me on Instagram @thatlauraaura. See ya next time!
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