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What Does Burnout Feel Like? Preventing Burnout in Entrepreneurs

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

Person in a free fall from the sky and they are on fire.
Are you burning out?

Burnout is a word we throw around a lot. Like most mental health terms, we may misuse it in our daily conversations. However, burnout is real, and it is widespread in our society. Burnout is particularly high with purpose-driven leaders who may not even realize they have burnout. Nonprofit and mission-driven leaders feel a deep passion for what they do. There is never enough time, money, or people to accomplish their mission, and that leads to burnout.

What is it?

In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized burnout as chronic workplace stress, which shows up in three areas:

  • energy depletion/exhaustion

  • becoming mentally distant/cynical about your work

  • not feeling that you have control over your work

How do I know if I have burnout?

Just by reading the WHO description, you may identify with it already, but if you still aren't sure, ask yourself the following. Are you....

📴struggling to turn 'off' work?

🛌having trouble sleeping?

🤨becoming cynical/critical/disillusioned at work?

🤒having mysterious physical ailments (headaches, stomach issues, chest pains)?

🍷using food, drugs, or alcohol to feel better or not feel?

🎯having trouble concentrating?

🏆not feeling satisfaction from your achievements?

If you answer yes to several of these, you could be suffering from burnout. Download my free "Signs of Burnout" checklist for a more comprehensive list and a series of action steps.

Why does it matter if I (or my employees) have burnout?

Burnout or compassion fatigue is causing people to abort the missions they love. It is costly to replace people, and we lose the energy of their passion for impacting our missions more significantly.

If you are the one who is suffering, consider the physical effects of chronic stress from Mayo:

  • Digestive problems

  • Headaches

  • Muscle tension and pain

  • Heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke

  • Sleep problems

  • Weight gain

  • Memory and concentration impairment

Preventing Burnout in Entrepreneurs and Organizational Leaders

People experiencing burnout often choose to leave their job, and since work environments are a primary cause of burnout, it highlights the importance of leaders making changes.

Confirm that your physical symptoms aren't a sign of something else

I was pretty sure my chest pains were work-induced stress, but I still had to go to a cardiologist and get a stress test to rule that out. Then I could focus on controlling my anxiety and stress reduction.

Develop an Identity Outside of Work

Developing an identity outside of work serves as an essential shield against burnout. When your sole focus revolves around your work, burnout becomes an imminent threat. By engaging in hobbies, interests, and relationships that are independent of your work, you create a buffer zone that safeguards your mental and emotional well-being. This separation helps prevent burnout by giving you moments of respite, rejuvenation, and self-discovery.

Find Ways to Have More Agency at Work

Figure out what you can control at work. One issue I faced at my former job was an impossible list. I decided what areas I could impact most, and I focused on those. I also learned to let some things slide.😬 If you are an entrepreneur, this is one advantage you will have since you have control over your work. However, as a solopreneur, you may be wearing too many hats, and it may be time to outsource some of the work you don't want to do.

Get Control of How You Spend Your Time

This strategy is related to both of the previous ideas, as it involves limiting the time you spend at work and making priorities for activities outside work. Time management skills help you set priorities and ensure you are spending time on what matters. Simply taking control of your time also helps you develop a sense of agency. We feel more stressed and less happy when we feel we don't have control over how we spend our time. Check out my video series on how to take control of your time.

Action Steps

Set a plan to limit your work time and make time to develop yourself outside of work.

Want help beating burnout?

Download my free checklist 'Signs of Burnout.' In the PDF guide, you'll find direct links to insightful blog posts that delve deeper into each action step. These articles will guide you through the process of implementing changes that support your well-being and overall success as a female small business owner.


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