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In the middle of 2019, I decided to take a few months off from my blog and professional social media. As an entrepreneur, I had hustled for over four years to build my business. And that was exhausting. While I made money from my blog and social media, it got to the point where I didn’t want to do them anymore. I was even contemplating deleting them altogether.
I was suffering from burnout, and I’m not alone. In fact, 45% of entrepreneurs report being stressed, and entrepreneurs are 30% more likely to get depression and anxiety. This is why it’s so important for entrepreneurs to learn the signs of burnout but also deal with burnout if they are already going through it. Here’s how to deal with burnout, and how I did it.
The Signs Of Burnout
While every entrepreneur is different and no one will have all of the symptoms and signs of burnout, there are quite a few that I want to mention.
Here are the most common signs of burnout:
- A reduction in performance or productivity
- Headaches or migraines
- Aches and pains
- A lack of creativity
- And even constant suicidal thoughts when the depression becomes overwhelming
As someone with diagnosed anxiety and depression, I knew suffering from burnout wasn’t good for my mental health, my family, or myself. And yet, I kept thinking that I had to be perfect and present all of the time to be considered a “great entrepreneur”. Making enough money wasn’t enough. Having a small team wasn’t enough. Working with amazing clients wasn’t enough.
It wasn’t until I started having suicidal thoughts (after two years of not having them) when I realize that something was truly wrong with what I was doing. And while I wish I would’ve noticed the signs sooner, I made the choice to deal with burnout as an entrepreneur and never get to that point again.
The first step I took was putting everything except the essentials on pause. I had been going to school, trying to become a foster/adoptive parent with my husband, and homeschooling my child. Not to mention all of the other duties I have as a business owner, partner to my husband, and as a mom.
And because I couldn’t just throw everything away, I paused what wasn’t necessary. That meant my blog, my professional social media, my outings with friends, and more. If it wasn’t important to my survival or my family’s survival, it didn’t matter anymore. I had to regroup and figure things out, and I couldn’t do that if I was busy 24/7.
By pausing the non-essentials, I could then start working through the other steps of dealing with burnout. This was the hardest step for me as a Type-A perfectionist, but it was the best first step I could’ve taken to help me deal with burnout as an entrepreneur.
Stop Trying To Be Perfect
I also had to realize that perfection would never be obtained, and that was okay. As someone who dealt with childhood trauma, as well as my depression and anxiety, I always felt this pressing need to prove people wrong and be so perfect that no one could ever question my place or role on this earth. After dealing with burnout, I had to let the idea of perfection go.
And let me tell you, it was hard. And even now, after four months of working through it, I still have days where I want to get everything done on my list, be the perfect wife and mom, and prove my worth. I still have times where the little voices inside my head tell me I won’t be good enough if I don’t do X, Y, and Z. And yet, I know that none of those things are true.
A completed to-do list doesn’t make me more worthy or productive. I’m worthy just because I’m on this earth, and everything that I create and do, whether great or basic, is worthy too. I’m a good person that wants the best for everyone and I want to be happy, and that is the best part about me. Not what I accomplish, not how I raise my child, and not my awards, money, or to-do list.
If you’re suffering from burnout, and you’re a perfectionist, it’s time to let go of the idea that you aren’t good enough if you’re not perfect. You’re no less worthy if you take a break, or make a mistake. Progress and trying your best is much more important than perfection. As long as you’re growing or trying to grow, that is good enough. Hell, if you’re just trying to survive until you can get better, that’s good enough.
The easiest way that I’ve found to stop trying to be perfect? Whenever I find myself questioning my work or trying to “make it better” even though it’s good enough, I stop, breathe, tell myself this is the best work I could do, and move on. Yes, there have been times where I put something out with a typo, or my daughter eats ice cream before dinner. But you know what? I have more time to do things that make my family and me happy. And I’m no longer hung up on constantly making things “perfect”.
Make Time For Yourself
After giving up the idea of being perfect, I focused on what I needed to deal with burnout and make myself better. And one of the things that I decided to do was take more time for myself. As a mom, wife, and entrepreneur, someone is always needing something from me.
This is not to say I don’t love my family or what I do. However, the saying “You can’t fill from an empty cup” is true. I’ve had to realize time and time again that if I don’t take time out for myself, I will eventually reach burn out and that could lead to not being able to manage my depression and anxiety properly.
Now I take at least an hour to myself every day, and Saturdays are my day to relax, rest my mind and soul, and even do some “fun” things like give myself a pedicure or do my hair. When I look good and refreshed, I feel good and refreshed. Call it vain, but it works for me.
I’m not saying that you have to go get a massage and facial every week. But to deal with burnout as an entrepreneur, you have to practice self-care. For example, if you enjoy reading, spend some time reading a good book. If you like taking long hikes, do it. Taking time for yourself is so important, so don’t learn it the hard way as I have.
Work On Something Else
Even though I took a break from my blog and social media, I was still working behind the scenes for clients and customers. However, I started taking more time to work on creative projects too, like learning how to sew and coloring in adult coloring books.
This was great at making me feel better and also making me feel like I was still being productive. Before taking a break, I hadn’t really done anything creative in a long time. It was nice to finish a coloring book and be able to (horribly) sew an outfit for my daughter.
You don’t have to be working all of the time to be productive. Productivity is a measure of production. So even if you aren’t producing a bunch of work or money, you could be producing items from your hobbies or happiness by working on something else. Don’t let people fool you, you don’t have to work 100 hours a week every week to be productive.
Get Help If Needed
When I realized that my burnout wasn’t going away, and it was starting to cause some extreme thoughts (including thoughts of suicide), I became vigilant about my thoughts and feelings. I started going to therapy more and even discussed medication options with my therapist at one point.
As someone who has had suicidal thoughts before (especially after giving birth and suffering from postpartum depression) I knew how easily I could go from “feeling great!” to “this isn’t worth it”. But the feelings I had weren’t really mine. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to leave my daughter behind. And those thoughts don’t define me. I’m lucky enough to be able to afford proper mental health care and I have a great support system.
But I also know that some people may not have access to services and support to help. If you’re suffering from suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. And if you’re experiencing burnout or depression and need a friend to talk to, please contact me. I’ll be there for you because everyone deserves someone in their corner.
Set Up Boundaries For The Future
Now that I’ve had to deal with burnout as an entrepreneur and I’m in a better place, the next step was to create proper boundaries so I never have to deal with it again. And not just professional boundaries, but personal boundaries too.
I no longer go out at the last minute just to appease a friend. If they want to hang out with me, they have to let me know at least a week in advance. This is to make sure that I’m not overloading my schedule. I also only check emails once a day, don’t hang out on my phone during work, and don’t think about work while with my kid.
These may seem like extreme boundaries to some, but they are in place to keep me from burnout and help me in my work/life balance. If you find yourself always doing things that stress you out and cause burnout, it’s time to set boundaries in your life too.
How To Deal With Burnout As An Entrepreneur
So there you have it, the steps I took to deal with burnout as an entrepreneur. If you’re currently going through this, I promise it gets better. But you have to take the necessary steps and be willing to let go and take care of yourself. Good luck.