I’ve been feeling a bit burned out lately. I have been pushing myself hard since I left my job to set up my own business. It’s been an intense five months, and in reality, I just got started. Building a business takes time and tons of energy!
It’s not just the hours that I was working, but the moments when I was thinking about my business when I was not actively working. Like during my workouts, weekends with family, and even during my sleep… It felt like there was no mental break, even when I deliberately stepped away from work.
Meditation definitely helped, but it wasn’t until this last weekend that I found my equilibrium again.
Towards the end of the year, we feel a massive sense of urgency and squeeze in so many to-dos. This can leave us feeling burned out.
In this blog post, I want to share my thoughts on what you can do when you feel burnt out.
Recognizing early signs
It’s not always entirely obvious when you are actually on your way to burning out. So it is vital to learn to recognize the early signs. For me, they are a sense of overwhelm, dissatisfaction with my work, and lack of concentration and motivation.
Here are my two super effective, but not-so-obvious strategies that have helped me with feeling burnt out.
1. Checking in on and adjusting your expectations
I feel a sense of restlessness in my mind when I feel burnt out. I know there are so many things I should be doing. And I can’t help but focus on the gap between my expectations and what I am actually producing. Clearly, focusing on this gap leads to unhappiness.
Have you ever seen this equation? I find it quite revealing.
Happiness = Reality – Expectations
Let’s break it down really quick…
Happiness – your feeling of contentment…
is equal to…
your reality (cannot be changed)
your expectations (can be changed)
So that means if your expectations are sky-high, but your reality is much less so, you will have a happiness deficit.
So, for example, if I expect:
-to post compelling content on social media every day
-start a YouTube channel
– build my email list
– drive sales
– create an online course
– go to Crossfit twice a week
– go to networking events
– and deliver fantastic coaching
…I will feel pretty overwhelmed. Would you as well?
In my head, this felt reasonable. But when I wrote down what I am actually expecting of myself, I started to see that my expectations are way over the top. Which leads to… unhappiness.
Your expectations are like the speed you set on your treadmill. The higher your expectations, the faster the treadmill runs. When your speed is much quicker than what you can handle, you start to stumble with exhaustion because you can’t keep up with the pace. This is the surest way to burnout.
So the key learning is to become more aware of the expectations we have and take a step back to see if they are actually achievable. Sometimes it helps to check with an “outsider” if your expectations are sensible.
Once you understand what pace is right for you, you can adjust the speed dial on the treadmill.
Going at the right pace will help you feel more in control and happier because the gap between your expectations and reality narrowed.
2. Keeping your inner fire burning
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I over-identify with my work or business. Basically, I feel that my sense of worth is heavily dependent on my achievements.
I have learned the hard way that this is a bad idea, but sometimes I still fall into the trap of thinking that I need to achieve things and bring value to the world to feel good about myself.
This past weekend I made a deliberate effort to disconnect myself from that notion. I re-focused on everything else that I have in my life that makes my life meaningful. This includes caring for and loving people around me and finding joy in just being (rather than doing), spending time outside. And when I was doing these things, I did not allow my mind to drift off into “work mode.” I wanted to be truly there.
I cannot tell you what a difference this made for me.
Maybe you have focused primarily on work and de-prioritized other areas in your life lately. Spending some time on things you have neglected will help you keep your inner fire burning.
We often view our time as a zero-sum game, but in reality, spending time away from work to recharge will pay huge dividends – not only to your mental wellbeing but especially to your productivity. You will end up GETTING BACK time, instead of losing it.
The happier you are, the easier it will be to get stuff done faster.
So don’t deprive yourself of the things that give your life meaning in times of busyness. We often forget the importance of this when we are caught up in endless to-do lists.
I took this past weekend off to recharge, and my inner fire is burning again. I have the energy to come up with new ideas and concepts, and I am a better coach for my clients.
P.S. I just wanted to be clear that here I am not talking about the dangerous “can’t get out of bed anymore” type of burnout. I know what the pathological exhaustion involves, and by no means do I mean to diminish its seriousness here.