How to Escape Entrepreneurial Burnout When You Can’t Quit


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I have experienced burnout before as an entrepreneur. Yes, burnout is an extremely common topic. A quick search mostly shows tips on how to avoid it, which is great until you find yourself in the middle of it. In fact, I found that when I actually experienced it for myself, few resources gave me an answer that would work with my life.

The number one answer I found online? If you’re experiencing burnout, quit your job. For someone who owns a business, that’s not so easy. Now, it’s not impossible to get rid of your business and change career paths. If you want to do that, you certainly can.

However, being an entrepreneur certainly follows the idiom: in for a penny, in for a pound. Most business owners I know are all in. There is no other career for them. Finances, schedules and other people’s lives are all tied to a business. Stepping away is not always an option.

So, what do you do when you’re experiencing burnout as an entrepreneur and you feel like your entire career is on life support as you barely make it through each day?

Related: 3 Insights From the First Large-Scale Study on Burnout and Entrepreneurs

Address the root issue

Take a moment to determine what is causing you the most stress. Pinpoint a few key stress-inducing areas. Perhaps it is a single client. Run through the numbers — can you part ways with that client? Are they worth the hassle? And if they are a larger client, you can come up with a plan to find someone else to replace that revenue stream. Businesses are always changing. You are not required to have the same clients for 10 years, 20 years or even a single year. Some companies and some clients do not work well with each other, and that is okay.

Perhaps you just feel as though you’ve lost passion for the job. Do you feel bogged down with menial tasks? Maybe you’re a more creative person, but as your business has grown, you’ve found yourself stuck with things like scheduling meetings and following up on emails. You should hire a virtual assistant. They can share the load and get smaller items off your plate so you can focus on what you love to do.

Maybe you’ve just lost sight of your “why” along the way: You don’t remember why you started your business or what made you passionate about it. Try going down memory lane — look through old photos or social media posts, talk to people who knew you before you started your business, and maybe even see if you can find some notes from when you first started. This can help you get a little perspective back on the company so that you can make a plan to get back to your original mission.

While I would love to say take a week off from work to really sit with yourself and review what’s going on, I understand that’s not always possible. Pick a holiday or your slowest time of the year. Block off some time as though you are in a meeting and figure out what the root cause of your burnout is, and then make a plan on how to change things so you do not experience it again.

Protect your health

Above all else, protect your health. According to the Mayo Clinic, burnout is a serious health concern. You don’t just feel tired and sluggish — your entire body is suffering and will show signs such as exhaustion, loss of sleep, mood changes and more. Burnout can quite literally turn you into a different person if you are not careful.

And, if you continue to try and push through it, you will find that your body will stop you by making you get sicker more often, or even causing you to develop a serious issue such as heart disease. Burnout should not be taken lightly.

I want to provide a bit of a warning: If you’ve realized that you do need to step away from your business to stay healthy, then you should do so. That is not an easy decision, but at the end of the day, you need to protect your health. As entrepreneurs, we are driven by our businesses and often feel obligated to clients, so it might help to reframe it like this: Losing you to a serious disease will cause more problems for friends, family, employees and clients versus you deciding you need to step away to stay healthy and ultimately happy.

Related: How Entrepreneurs Can Protect Their Mental Health While Being Their Own Boss

On the other hand, if you want to keep your company and find ways around burnout, try these solutions:

  • Consider seeking therapy. Sometimes pushing yourself to burnout can be a symptom of larger issues that a medical professional can help with.
  • Set boundaries. You are your own worst enemy, and you will work too hard, pushing yourself to impossible deadlines that maybe not even your clients have asked for. Set times to work and set times to step away from work. Good clients who recognize the value your business brings will honor those times.
  • Take a break. You might not be able to work a full vacation into your schedule, but you can set 10 to 15-minute breaks throughout the day to just breathe.
  • Work out your stress. Although you may feel exhausted and sluggish, burnout is actually just another type of stress, which means it can be relieved through physical activities such as walks or high-intensity workouts.

If you find yourself suffering from burnout, don’t give up hope. Instead, give your career some CPR and get it off life support by reaching out to others for help so that you can protect your health and your business.

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