How to deal with burnout when you're running a business
As much as I love what I do, every now and then I start to feel tired, overwhelmed and uninspired.
In the past, this scared me; it made me wonder if I was wasting my time in the wrong line of work.
But I’m realizing that these feelings are part of the cycle of doing what you love. Life happens, your energy dips or you go through a dry spell of some kind and it leaves you feeling a bit burned out. It’s bound to happen, but it’s also bound to pass.
So if you find yourself in a season of burnout or exhaustion, here are a few ways to refill your bucket, reclaim your inspiration and get back to doing the work you love.
Consider the source
Often, my feelings are like a shadow cast on a wall. Once I identify the tiny thing that’s casting the shadow and making me feel the way I do, it becomes so much less intimidating.
Maybe you’re feeling worn down because you’re still recovering from a recent sickness. Maybe a client conversation or a difficult family situation has thrown you for a loop. Maybe you’ve fallen off your diet or exercise routine lately. You don’t necessarily need to solve the problem, but simply identifying the root of your feelings can make you feel lighter.
That being said, sometimes you’ll just feel blue, and that’s okay too. When I can acknowledge that I’m feeling down, it helps me recognize that the rest of my life is still full of blessings — I’m just going through a funk.
Check your list
At any given moment, I have dozens of tasks I “should” be doing. I should be responding to emails, reaching out to people in my industry, writing blog posts and website copy, tidying up the house, paying the bill that just came in the mail and finishing that scrapbook I started four years ago.
I love checking things off my list — it gives me energy. But when I start feeling overwhelmed, my never-ending list becomes a source of stress.
If you’re feeling drained, take an honest look at your to-do list. What absolutely needs to be done today? What can be pushed back to tomorrow, or even further out?
I’m not suggesting procrastination is always the answer, but I know most of us don’t do our best work when we’re tired and overwhelmed. If you can release yourself from a few of your obligations today, you’ll likely be able to tackle them with more energy and joy tomorrow.
Quiet your mind
I love reading blog posts and articles to grow my skills, listening to podcasts to learn about the world, scrolling through Instagram to see what my friends are up to and watching shows to unwind at the end of the day.
But when I'm feeling overwhelmed and uninspired, technology doesn't pull me back to reality — it just adds to the noise. It's all too easy to get caught up in what I "should" be doing, whether it's growing my business or going on a gorgeous tropical vacation.
Try giving yourself a break from the influx of information for a few hours, or better yet, a day or two. Go for a walk, play with your dog or lay on the couch and do nothing at all.
You might be surprised by how much a little quiet can do for your brain.
Fuel your body
As much as I hate to admit it, whenever I find myself getting really worked up over something, it’s usually because I’m either tired or hungry.
That’s not to say there aren’t other internal or external factors involved, but everything’s easier to handle when you’re well rested and well fed. A nap, good night’s sleep or meditation session can go a long way in boosting your mood and your energy levels, as can a nutritious meal.
If you’ve already rested and refueled, consider channeling any stress or frustration you’re feeling into a run, yoga session or other workout. Moving your body will give you a surge of happiness-inducing endorphins and release some of the tension you may not have known you were holding onto.
Fill your soul
When I was growing up, my mom would often put on her gardening gloves, grab a bucket and tell my sister and me, “I’m going to play in the yard.”
At the time, I thought she was just being funny, but now I get it. For her, the yard wasn’t a place to work. She wasn’t worrying about her to-do list or trying to meet anyone else’s expectations. The yard was a source of energy. It was where her soul could play.
How can you make room for your soul to play? Maybe you can tend your garden, read a book or go for a walk. Maybe you can call a friend or find a way to give back to your community. Maybe you can light a candle and pray or sit in silence.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by work, make time to be decidedly unproductive. Give yourself permission to do something simply for the sake of enjoyment, and you’ll soon return to your work with your bucket full.
Remember why you started
Running your own business is a lot of work — but there’s a reason why you wanted to do it. There’s a reason why you got into this line of work, why you put in all the time to learn your skills and why you go the extra mile to serve your clients. You have a purpose — a “why” that makes it all worth it.
It’s easy to lose sight of that purpose when you’re caught up in the daily grind or dealing with a tough situation at work. But sometimes coming back to the reason why you started can give you the inspiration you need to return to your work with fresh energy.
Think about why you wanted to serve your clients. Remember all the blessings that have come out of this work, both professionally and personally. Remind yourself how you used to dream about being exactly where you are today.
Getting past burnout
Even if you love what you do 99% of the time, you’ll still have days — and even seasons — when you find yourself in a funk. That’s okay. It's normal. And it will pass.
We’re not designed to work all the time. We need space in our lives to rest, to play, to take care of ourselves and to feel the way we feel. And when you can give yourself the space to be a whole person, you’ll eventually be able to bring your whole self to your work again, too.