If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re used to stress. It’s great being your own boss, but with that comes a lot of headaches. It’s not easy juggling everything you need to do for your business while also managing your home and social life. But at what point does stress turn into something else? At what point do we burn out? Here I’ll explain what burnout is, what the signs and effects of burnout are, and what you can do to prevent and recover from burnout.
What Is Burnout?
Burnout is defined as the “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.” In Lisa Gerry’s Forbes article, psychologist David Ballard claims that burnout occurs when “the demands being placed on you exceed the resources you have available to deal with the stressors.” Basically, burnout is when you’ve hit your limit. You have been pushed so far past your stress threshold that you have mentally or physically exhausted yourself.
But how exactly is burnout different from stress? Helpguide’s “Preventing Burnout” article says that stress is about too much while burnout is about not enough. People who are stressed are experiencing too many physical and psychological pressures which causes them to become over-engaged and energetically drained. Even though stress is unpleasant, people with stress see it as only temporary and remain hopeful about the future. People with burnout, on the other hand, usually have a sense of hopelessness and don’t see any sign of positive change in their future. They lack motivation, are emotionally disengaged, and are “beyond caring.”
Are some people more susceptible to burnout than other people? Actually, yes. Helpguide says that certain personality traits contribute to burnout. Those who have perfectionist tendencies, a pessimistic outlook, the need to be in control, or a high-achieving Type-A personality are more likely to experience burnout. Believe it or not, many entrepreneurs are high-achieving individuals with lofty expectations; as an entrepreneur, you may be more likely to feel burned-out than many other professionals.
What Does Burnout Look Like?
Now that you have a better sense of what burnout is, how are you supposed to know if you have it? And if you do, how might it be affecting your life?
Below is a list of the signs of burnout gathered from Forbes and Business Insider. These are only some signs that might indicate you are experiencing burnout. If you only notice a few of these symptoms, you are probably just experiencing stress. But if you notice you fit a majority of these signs, you might want to evaluate how long you have been experiencing these symptoms and whether you may be burned-out.
- Exhaustion- you lack emotional, physical, or mental energy. You often feel “spent.”
- Lack of motivation- you have no enthusiasm for anything, even what you may have previously enjoyed. You have a hard time “getting going” and you may even call in sick a lot.
- Cynical or pessimistic feelings- you have unusual mood swings and feelings of frustration. You feel dissatisfied and “stuck” at work and home.
- Problems concentrating- you have a hard time paying attention, solving problems, or making decisions. You are often forgetful.
- Unhealthy habits- you have developed unhealthy coping strategies to deal with burnout such as: drinking, smoking, eating (either too much or too little), self-medicating, or sleeping (again, either too much or too little).
- Preoccupation with work- you don’t allow yourself a life outside of work. Even when you’re not at work, you are still thinking about your tasks which expends your mental energy. You might even be having feelings of guilt for not being able to complete all of your work on time.
- Health problems- serious chronic stress can “create real health problems like digestive issues, heart disease, depression and obesity.” You may notice that you are more susceptible to getting common colds.
- Interpersonal problems- at home or at work you are either having more conflicts with your family or coworkers, or withdrawing from your relationships by talking less and tuning out.
- Slipping job performance- there is a noticeable decline in your work performance over a long period of time (not just a temporary slump).
As you can see, burnout has far reaching effects- from your health and emotional satisfaction all the way to your social life and job performance. Wondering how you can prevent and recover from burnout? Check out “Burnout–Part 2″ next week!