If you’re an ambitious, motivated, self-directed, type-A personality… you’re wired to be curious, bold, and in constant active mode.
And that’s a good thing.
In fact, it can be great.
What makes it not so great is that you’re also prone to burn out.
Classic burn out symptoms can include lack of focus, mental, emotional, and physical fatigue, and a dramatic decrease in stamina, vitality, creativity, and the forward moving growth that you’re accustomed to.
And employee burn out accounts for 50% of staff turnover and is a growing workplace epidemic according to this piece in Fast Company.
The impact on your health, resiliency, family, and relationships is even greater.
Your instinct is to push through. Push harder. Harness whatever energy is left and overcome through sheer willpower.
And because you also have a hearty ego and a history of overcoming, this might have worked for you in the past.
But there will come a time when you hit the wall.
Where you can’t push through anymore.
And the emotions that come with the physical fatigue of burnout will add daily hits to your confidence, self worth, and optimism.
But there are effective ways to prevent burnout… and treat burn out… without losing your edge, so that you can move towards your goals at an accelerated, healthy pace.
Reject the idea of work/life balance (and do more).
Everything you’ll read will tell you to seek balance in your life. And give a list of ways to do that.
While it’s true that we all need work/life balance… most of the advice will clang in your brain if you’re an entrepreneur or business owner… or just love your work.
It’s an overused word that when actually implemented feels like a dilution to your passion and energy.
Not everyone can or wants to meditate. Not everyone can or wants to take Sundays off to read a book or practice mindfulness.
Balance offers a panacea for health that is often unrealistic and certainly not personalized.
What you need to replace the platitudes with is a custom schedule or personalized program that maximizes your unique talents, your own circadian rhythm and energy patterns, and your preferred way of reaching states of health.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach.
For example…. If someone else tells me I need more work-life balance, that I work too much, that I need to “get out” more, that I need more rest… or worse… a vacation…
I’m going to throat punch them.
The reality of my life is that for the past 12 years I’ve been a self-employed, solo mom, living in a low-growth economic centre of the country, with limited professional options outside of what I have created operating multiple international businesses – in and out of psychotherapy – to take care of my family as the sole caregiver, breadwinner, and everything else-er.
So taking a vacation, taking time off work, not working as much, having a nap, or other “balance” recommendations simply don’t work for the economic needs of my family.
Sure I feel I was born to hustle… but necessity of this society, culture, and economy, requires me to hustle.
Instead… what works for me….
“What? I already do too much!!!”
What I mean is… doing less can feel boring. And being bored is as activating to the nervous system as being overwhelmed.
It’s about what you do.
Start doing doing more instead of doing less.
But… what that means is doing more of what I love and less of what I don’t.
Every activity is gauged and selected with an overall rank of value based purely on how it will make me feel, and how much it will give back to me.
So for me, that means making time for more exercise.
Instead of coffee or lunch breaks, I feel better when I exchange those for jumping on a rebounder in my office, taking the dogs for a walk, tossing in a quick workout.
And in that I don’t adhere to rigidity… I choose new workout programs every 60 days (because I get bored at about 34 but want the results by 60).
This still keeps me focused on achievement, which I need, but out of my head… which I also need.
It breaks up the energy lulls of my day (because I simply can’t drink anymore coffee).
It always makes me feel better, clearer, and gives value back to me in that I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing myself for anyone else… like I often do in other areas of my life and energy.
For you it might be doing more… gardening, napping, spending time with family and friends, meditating.
Whatever it is you love – use it to build in more of what you love into each day. Because when you do… that feels like work/life balance that’s going to be increase your job, decrease your stress, and really bring you into “balance” (whatever that is for each of you).
Know what you need… and get it.
Not only to we ignore what we often need… sometimes we don’t even know what we need at all.
When you’re busy hustling, it’s easy to neglect your needs and over time be totally disconnected from them.
The best place to start is in your own body.
Ask yourself, once an hour…
“What do I feel like I need in this moment… emotionally, mentally, physically, or spiritually.”
I do this practice daily – multiple times a day.
And then replace what I ‘should’ be doing or what’s scheduled to be done, with what I really want to or need.
This might be a total break from everything and everyone… it might be a quick pre-recorded meditation or audible book chapter… it often is a music break, a dog cuddle, a change of scenery.
I’ll reach out to one of my people for a friendship call. I’ll ditch the office and go run an errand. I’ll splurge on an over sugared overpriced cup of coffee.
It’s unstructured and totally based on serving my own needs in that moment… as many moments of the day.
This also means, pushing back deadlines, rescheduling clients, turning off all my notifications and unplugging.
This has meant… sitting by a backyard fire in the middle of the day without an electronic device in site just staring at flames and noticing how much easier it is to breathe.
It almost always means going to bed a little earlier… allowing myself to wake up a little later.
It also include communicating my needs to others in my life… “This is what’s going on for me right now and this is what I need from you…” (which might include silence or companionship, coffee or wine chats, grocery store or leftover dinner request, or “hey do you have any spare Tylenol/coffee/tea/essential oils/baking”.
Really – nothing is off limits.
Here’s where your resistance will come in.
And often I hear things like “I’m too busy taking care of other people’s needs” or “I feel guilty when I do that”.
Seriously… if you ever want to be healthy, you’ll stop this dialogue of bullshit right now.
Guilt is a useless emotion when it comes to self care.
And if you buy into it, you send the message to yourself and everyone in your world that you don’t matter, that you’re weak, that you’re undisciplined.
Give me a break and get out of the martyr zone because no one has time to hear it and it’s the most annoying place you can live.
Do you want to be confident, successful, and healthy?
I don’t care if you “feel” guilty… do it anyway.
Who’s in control… your emotions? Or your full mind.
Get a grip here, stab your ego in the face, and get on with your life ways that are going to serve you long term.
There’s zero room for weakened statements or believing temporary or archaic emotions – when you can choose to be stronger, self disciplined, better.
When I ditch the sabotaging emotions and take this practice serious, I get more done, am a better person to be around, a better parent, and know that there is more honor in serving myself and my needs every hour than there is in living my entire fucking life for someone else.
Get fierce about you for a change.
Stop the glorification of busy (and focus on personal peak levels instead).
And on that note… we’re all busy. Too busy. Sick busy. I get it.
I fall into this trap all the time.
Sure, it’s the truth… but I need to find another way to answer the question “how are you?” and treat the word busy like a curse (or at least a phrase that makes me boring and average… two things I loathe enough to motivate me to find a more original alternative)
I am learning to take more pride in having more control over my day (one of the key indicators in employee burnout is the absence of that).
Instead of being busy and multitasking (which leads to decreased productivity and low retention of information), I focus on my personal peak levels.
When do I have the most energy in the day.
I start tracking this for general patterns, but I also go hour by hour and day by day because as a fluctuating human impacted by context… these will change.
I schedule meetings and clients when I’m at certain peaks.
I schedule exercise at others.
I schedule down time and self honour practices at low peak times.
In doing this very strategically, I maximize my energy when I have it – using productivity and focus methods that I borrow from all the gurus to get the most of out of my peak performance zones.
And when I don’t have it, I ignore what everyone else is saying and tune in to what I need in the moment.
Here’s where more excuses come up…
And I get it.
I’m too busy… I can’t afford to do that… I can’t build that into my schedule… etc.
It’s total bullshit.
And why excuses never fly with me.
Because if I can do it while running 2 businesses, and single handedly raising teenagers, 2 dogs and managing a household on my own… you can do it.
Better than balance is flexibility and creativity.
If I block off an hour to recharge, refocus, move my body, or otherwise fuel my mind and no one can get a hold of me, I feel more in control and am able to come back to task better, faster, and sharper.
Part of this is realizing 2 things.
- I’m not that important. I’m not indispensable. Shit will go on without me.
- Nothing is the end of the world… except the end of the world – especially people’s disappointment in me or unmet expectations.
As much as I rely on clients and contracts for my income… I alone am accountable to myself only. Responsible for myself only.
I get to, with savage entitlement, construct my schedule, force flexibility to fit my life, and adapt, change my mind, and pivot as much as I want to create a healthy life that gives me career satisfaction and fulfillment and overall health and well being first and foremost.
No longer will I feel beholden to anyone else’s expectations, reasonable or otherwise, that don’t fit into what I need to be well.
Or sacrifice my health or my parenting or relationships to cater to anyone else’s agenda.
Setting boundaries – unafuckingpologetically – around my time and personal limits has never gotten me fired, or negatively impacted my life beyond someone’s pouty but temporary disappointment in me… which is all about them, and none about me.
I’m the only one that can save my life – over and over again – so once I started taking that seriously – and treating it like life and death… I started behaving from a place of strength where other people’s unmet needs and unrealistic expectations became unimportant in the grand design of my life.
The alternative? Caregiver burnout and serving other people which becomes a lifelong addiction to sacrifice and an excuse and regret for not living your life for yourself and on your own terms.
That… doesn’t give you a trophy or a medal. That gives you burn out that leads to health issues and disease, a shortening of your lifespan, and a diminishing of your life enjoyment.
And that should become such a disgusting abhorrent reality that you do all uncomfortable things to avoid it and reconstruct your life differently.
Trust me… everyone else will get over it.
Use your imagination.
So much research about the power of daydreaming and imagination not just for creativity and productivity but for self regulating and building internal resource and resilience.
When you do your hourly check ins, and the answer to what you really need is 6 weeks on a beach in the sun somewhere – rather than allowing the reality that that can’t happen throw you out of the game… take 5 minutes and imagine in detail where you’d like to be… what it would feel like on your skin, in your mind… in your body… what it would smell like, what you might hear… what you would see – every colour, scent, sound, and sensory detail.
It’s the ultimate brain hacking 101 exercise.
You see… your brain and nervous system don’t care if it’s real or not. In fact, the more you can daydream such things the better. Because as you imagine something in detail your brain lights up as if you’re actually experiencing it in this moment. Releasing all of the same chemicals and neurotransmitters as it would if you were actually there. And if you pay attention, giving you the same physiological response of relaxation and re-set as if you were on that vacation.
Sure it’s not the same… but you can direct your thoughts to memories or daydreams that are a representation of your optimal experience and have an immediate physiological experience of a mental, emotional, and physical reset.
And you can do it at any time.
This is why thoughts are so potent… and why it’s essential to practice taking your thoughts hostage when they are negative, anxiety-provoking, or unproductive.
Let your mind run wild in positive directions, to things that seem impossible but you’d really love to do.
Write down 5 bold things that you would do right now that you REALLY want to do if you weren’t held back by money, obligation, geography,… and fear.
Now pick one and daydream to the fullest extent what it would be like to live that life.
Notice what happens in your body when you do that… it’s exhilarating and powerful.
What would your energy be like if you started every day with those daydreams?
What would your steady state be like if you imagined the most relaxing vacation, spa, or experience every time you felt overwhelmed instead?
You can change your state with your mind, any time you want.
If you want to.
You’d be amazed how many people are addicted to negative states and linger in the murk and mire of those… by choice!
You know those people… and maybe you are one of those… worse case scenario, “I choose to be anxious and in drama and hopeless all the time” people.
Maybe you’re a magnet for those kinds of people.
Tip 3.A in this list… know and admit this boldly to yourself if you are – because you know it. Say it to yourself. You don’t have to share it with the world. Be quiet.
Resolve to change. Resolve to give up weakness for strength.
And with that… audit your damn circle. People dropped in by chance not choice that are infecting you with negative energy, victim mindsets, or needy energy vampire behavior.
Move away from them. Without being dramatic… just do it.
Moods are infectious. Guard your energy.
Protect from outside, take charge from inside.
Let’s not overthink this.
There’s a lot in here. Burnout is a layered approach. HAs taken time to hit you, and will take a whole-life approach to hit back.
Self honour practices are imperative. Diligent emotional/mental and physical health checks and consultation with experts are advised. Use the arsenal of experts at your disposal including high quality supplements and adaptogens to support your nervous system as advised by a naturopath or functional medical doctor, neurobiological therapy support from an experienced, and masters level or above psychotherapist trained in SRT or other psychophysiological modality, nervous system resets via acupuncture.
But remember that these are all supplementary.
Nothing is as important as your mind and your chosen mindset. You are in control. Whether you feel like it or not. Your feelings are fickle, temporary, and changeable. Stop giving them so much power. Take charge and build a burnout prevention and treatment plan that works with your temperament, that doesn’t tolerate excuses and self sabotage, that builds in what you truly need on an hourly and daily basis. That is focused on the overarching principle that you are the most important person in your life to take care of and be healthy. If you don’t, you’ll never be as generous, loving, giving, productive, healthy,, and successful as you want. You’ll always feel like you’re failing somewhere, and your health will suffer long term.
You do you. Everyone else will adapt and accommodate. Stop globalizing and catastrophizing. Nothing is the end of the world. You’re the only one that can create a healthy, strong, best version of you. So get serious about this. Get fired up about your life. Do more of what you life and what makes you feel good. Let the rest fall into place. Don’t be so afraid of letting go of what doesn’t serve you.
Have questions, need more? Let’s chat: firstname.lastname@example.org