The one where we accept that we're burned out
(And what we can do about it)
To say the past year and a half have been a challenge would be woefully under-explaining how we all truly feel. I know we’re all tired of talking about the pandemic, but I can’t talk about burnout without bringing in current events, because they are absolutely connected.
Running a business is already stressful when we’re not in a pandemic. Is work coming in? Do I have enough to cover payroll? Am I doing the right thing trying to run a company on my own? Should I get another job? These are often evergreen questions for any entrepreneur. Hell, I’ve spent the past month out of the office and am still stressing over my company’s financial health. (The summertime lull never gets easier.)
Whether you started your business during the pandemic or you’ve been at it for longer, the pandemic has created additional weight on us, especially if we’ve been at home for so long. And with the spread of the Delta variant, some places are reintroducing various levels of lockdown (or at least mask mandates), giving us all whiplash after a brief stint of being able to (somewhat) comfortably go back into the world and get back to business as sort-of-usual.
I say all of this because if you’re feeling extra stressed, irritable, tired of everything… you’re not alone. This pandemic edition of burnout is especially difficult.
Burnout manifests itself in a variety of forms, both physically and mentally, including but not limited to having difficulty concentrating, lack of satisfaction over your achievements, disinterest in doing anything, especially work-related, and any of the aforementioned feelings. Physical symptoms tend to appear as headaches, stomach aches, and fatigue.
To legitimize this further, the World Health Organization actually recognizes burnout as a medical condition in the ICD-11 (it’s not yet recognized here in the United States based on the DSM-5). (Total side note: it’s nice to be able to use my social work degree for once.)
Let me make this crystal clear: you are not alone feeling this way. Especially right now. But it’s important to (1) identify and accept the way you feel, and (2) do something about it. Here’s my not-so-professional opinion (I’m a trained therapist, but not a practicing one):
Give yourself permission to take some time off. I understand that this is a luxury, but if you’re able to take at least some time off, your mind and body will thank you. You wouldn’t expect your team to do their best work when they’re at 20% capacity. Set the same expectations for yourself.
Find a therapist. I can’t express how much a therapist has helped me through the pandemic. It took me a long time to find the right fit. (You interview therapists like you interview someone for a job; they have to be the right fit for what you need.) Entrepreneurs are unique in their challenges, and I needed to find a therapist who would understand my specific situation. If you’re based in the United States, check with your health insurance to get a list of in-network (and out-of-network) therapists if you have health insurance, or look on Psychology Today. You could also try services such as Better Help and Talkspace for virtual appointments. Take your time with this; the right person is key here to having a successful experience with therapy.
Take care of your body. Whether it’s food, exercise, or sleep, your body needs what it needs, and it tends to tell you what it needs if you listen. This doesn’t mean to not ever indulge, and you’ll never hear me talk about “cheat days” – just listen to what your body needs and respond accordingly.
Confide in a friend or family member about how you’re feeling. Please understand that you’re not alone if you’re feeling burned out, and you don’t need to be strong for everyone else. Even the strongest among us need support. If you don’t know who to talk to, I’ll be your friend. I mean, that’s why we’re here, right?
Thanks for sticking through this heavy but important topic. I’m rooting for you.