Burnout – especially right now when we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, is real. According to Calmer, 60% of entrepreneurs in the UK will experience burnout – aka a severe, and potentially debilitating form of stress.
And with 1 in 7 workers self-employed (and this number is rapidly on the rise) it’s becoming an epidemic of it’s own, even more so in the light of Covid-19.
Why? Because we need 3 different business personalities (the entrepreneur, the manager and the technician) alongside more traditional conditioning (equating money with success, for example).
And if you’re a typical high-achiever, it can be harder to recognise the symptoms, although you are 30% more vulnerable as a high achiever according to recent research.
And I’ve been there. Believe me. As a busy mum with a “successful” marketing agency with a team to feed, a terminally ill mum and a breast cancer diagnosis, my limits were pushed as I ran through the gauntlet that was 2014-2016. Sitting in the chemotherapy ward, waiting for the 8th nurse to try – and fail – to cannulate me whilst I was on a conference call to a client in Singapore, my husband Tony made me realise I was on the verge of a breakdown.
According to Forbes, 72% of business owners report mental health concerns, with founders being 30% more likely to experience depression than other people.
And it was hard for me to take – as a high-achieving creative with ADHD, being workaholic came easily to me. But he knew I was in danger of collapsing and was definitely going through an emotional breakdown.
Like I didn’t know myself anymore
Anxious (most of the time)
That I had no choice but to keep doing what I was doing because I had mouths to feed
Deep resentment for the work I was doing even though I was working for some amazing brands
Like I was standing on the edge of a cliff picturing all the worst case scenarios
That I was going through the motions on the daily
That something was wrong but I couldn’t figure out what
And it doesn’t take a major life event like cancer you know to reach burnout. When you’re working too hard on the wrong thing, when it feels like a struggle because you’ve taken too much on.
It can lead to breakdown in relationships, illness, anxiety and depression. And I don’t want that for you. I’ve spent the last five years, invested £££s or more in figuring it out and learning how to find real internal chemistry again. And boy does it feel good on the other side.
Is this you? DO you feel the same? These are the hallmark signs of burnout:
1. People pleasing (aka too many YES’s)
The barometer for people pleasing is how good you are at saying NO! And this manifests itself in all kinds of ways. Taking on wrong-fit clients (massively stressful as it’s almost impossible to do your best work for people who aren’t your people. Working with clients when you don’t know, like and understand each other is a big promoter of the symptoms of burnout.
And what breaks my heart is that by pleasing other people you’re not pleasing yourself. And that doesn’t feel nice, but you do it anyway because you don’t want to let people down.
But you know, there’s an art to saying no with compassion, it’s a good muscle to flex and builds resilience and confidence.
2. Your business is running you, not the other way round
Do you feel lost in a whirl of deadlines, clients, projects and people? Working too many hours, hustling and hustling.
I always say this, but busy isn’t cool. Busy either means you’re not productive or you’re taking on the wrong work or saying YES to the wrong things. Sorry but it’s true. Working all the hours, leaving little time to move, to work on your personal growth, to learn and to connect is a VIP lane to physical or mental illness.
3. You’re running on empty
This is probably the most classic symptom there is. It’s hard to feel motivated when your mental space is taken up by doing work that – if you’re honest with yourself – might have been right for a previous iteration of you but isn’t right for the person you are now or in the future. Although you might find it hard to see that right now, because you’re tied to the business as it was. Enlightenment feels a million miles away (I’m here to show you it isn’t).
4. Financial stress
This was a big one for me. It’s a fine line running a lean agency, winning the big brand work and being able to pay people even when I couldn’t always pay myself. The drain of cash flow is real.
If only I had read Paul Jarvis’s Company Of One back then I might have made some different decisions. But I didn’t really know there was any other way of staying small and still achieve what I wanted. Oh man, if only.
It really took it’s toll.
So if you’re like me, find stress in building your business, keeping the books running smoothly or maybe running a start up with investors, this level of pitching can take a huge toll on you.
5. You’ve experienced a traumatic event but kept going anyway
Life happens. And we are not the same people we were in the last six months, 12 months, 3 years, 5 years. We are humans and we evolve. The paths that our life takes us on is never linear. And if you are a high-achiever in your work and life, you’re probably thinking you need to just push through and all will be OK. I experience this every single day with the people I help to figure out what’s next.
Big mistake, huge. You can change your life. A big motto I believe in is “change your brain, change your life.”
And the cure? I’ve spent 5 years healing myself from this, and the pill I prescribed myself is CHEMISTRY. It’s true. When you take a step back, reconnect with who you really are, and give yourself the space to release toxicity, the future is extra-ordinarily bright.