Entrepreneur burnout is the embodiment of acute and seemingly unresolveable work related stress. According to the Harvard Business Review, about 50% of people suffer from burn out. Entrepreneur burnout syndrome is real and in severe cases, can be life-threatening.
In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises burnout as an official medical diagnosis in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
What does Entrepreneur burnout look like?
According to Philippa Gold, Chief Clinical Officer of Physis Recovery, there are three common characteristics of work-related burnout:
- Feelings of low energy and exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from one’s job; or feelings of negativity
- Reduced professional capacity
People at risk of suffering from burnout tend to isolate in ultra high uncertainty, with limited safety nets in place nor adequate support networks.
Entrepreneur burnout manifests affects a person’s mental and physical well-being ranges from minor illnesses and mild depression to mental breakdowns, heart disease and sometimes death. It’s a condition that needs to be taken seriously as it can have a devastating impact on a person’s life.
Risk of Entrepreneur Burnout
Entrepreneurs are at a higher risk of burnout than almost any other group and worse news is they don’t have the luxury of taking a ‘burnout break’. The switch is always on, the foot is always on the pedal… and as your business grows, the stakes and stress get higher.
The good news is there are steps you can take to alleviate or eliminate entrepreneur burnout.
Symptoms of Entrepreneur Burnout?
- are you exhausted all the time?
- do you feel more anxious about your business than you used to?
- do you feel overwhelmed and indecisive?
- are you struggling to focus?
- are you eating badly and getting little or no exercise?
- do you suffer from restless sleep or insomnia?
- are you quick to anger and lash out at people?
If you answered YES to most of those questions, there’s a good chance you are experiencing typical symptoms of physical burnout.
Now for the less obvious:
- is your passion for your business obsessive and misdirected?
- are your expectations of success unrealistic and unattainable?
- are you determined to ‘power through’ because you don’t want to fail
- are you bored and uninspired with your business?
- do you have trouble delegating or asking for help?
- are you terrified of failure
- do you feel frustrated, stuck or uninspired while at work?
- have you lost interest in your business… is the passion gone?
- do you feel frustrated and stuck with the business you created
- do you regret starting up your entrepreneur venture?
If you answered YES to most of those questions, there’s a good chance you are experiencing typical symptoms of emotional burnout.
How to survive entrepreneur burnout
The most important thing is to recognize you’re suffering from entrepreneur burnout and acknowledge that you need help and support to deal with it. You need to commit to making a change and then actually make the changes needed to get you back into a better physical and emotional place.
Focus on what you can control and call for help and support for things that are out of your control. This is where networking is so important; connect with other entrepreneurs or old work friends that can give you sound advice and direction and maybe even some practical help.
Lastly, re-ignite your passion for your business. Remember why you started your own business and re-visit the goals you set yourself. You may need to adjust them or even scrap them if you realize a few years down the line that they were unrealistic.
Richard Branson’s tips for dealing with burnout
Even the great Sir Richard Branson admits to having suffering from burnout syndrome. He may be flying high now but he obviously had to power through many dark and daunting days to get there.
1. Ditch the guilt
If being an entrepreneur was so easy, everybody would be one. It’s tough and the stress is relentless so do yourself a favour and take time off to relax and catch your breath.
Branson says, “Ditch the guilt you might feel about being away from work or not available”. Personally, I find it’s not a good idea to dive straight into work when you wake up, so I dedicate my mornings to exercise and family time. It helps me clear my mind and energises me for the day ahead.
2. Have fun
Why did you start your own business in the first place? So you wouldn’t be shackled to your desk and on 24/7 watch by a boss! So why then are you too busy to take a break and have some fun?
Branson says, “Having fun is often underrated but you are far more likely to succeed if you are enjoying yourself. If an opportunity doesn’t excite me and it’s not something through which I can make a difference in the world while having a lot of creative fun with it; then I’d rather pass on it and move along to something else that does interest me.”