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How Business Owners Can Avoid Burnout


How Business Owners Can Avoid Burnout

Becoming an entrepreneur is exhilarating, rewarding and inspiring. There’s a reason why running their own business is so many people’s ultimate goal – it can contribute to the development of a gratifying and lucrative life. Yet there’s no denying that aiming for success in business is often challenging, with its own unique worries and strains. As a business owner, you have ultimate responsibility, and this can be very stressful.

It is completely natural to want your business to be the best it can be, but there’s no sense in sacrificing your health in order to make that happen. Burnout and chronic stress are a real danger for those carrying a large workload, and they can endanger both our health, and future success. Hard work may be inevitable for most entrepreneurs, but with some care, this needn’t spill over into something serious.

What is burnout?

First coined in the 1970s, burnout referred initially to the emotional and physical exhaustion experienced by those in “giving” professions – such as nursing – where extreme commitment to a high-pressure role resulted in people neglecting their own needs. Since then, the term has broadened to apply to all professions, and relates to any situation where a long period of overwork has affected someone’s health, wellbeing and ability to perform.

When people have no work/life balance – starting early, leaving late, working weekends, constantly tracking performance and never switching off “work mode” – they leave themselves vulnerable to completely burning out, and finding themselves unable to work at all. Burnout is the likely result of long-term, unsolvable job stress, and there are some warning signs that you can look out for.

Signs of burnout

  • Exhaustion, lack of motivation and apathy

Feeling constantly tired, being unable to see the point of all your hard work, and feeling increasingly apathetic in both your work and personal life are clear signs that overwork is affecting your wellbeing.

  • Slipping performance and a lack of concentration

As well as finding it difficult to motivate yourself, you may also find that focusing on tasks and performing to your usual standard is far more difficult than usual.

  • Irritability, negativity and feeling unsatisfied

You may be having to push down your temper during the day, walking around in a constant state of agitation. Your viewpoint might be becoming needlessly negative, with the idea that nothing is going to go right, and even your successes aren’t making you feel better.

  • Withdrawing from others and avoidance behaviour

Even if you are usually an extremely conscientious person, you may have found that a lack of motivation, anxiety and negativity has left you dreading work, and avoiding certain tasks that loom bigger and bigger in your mind the longer you neglect them – adding extra feelings of guilt. Furthermore, you may also be avoiding other people, using the excuse of work to lock yourself away and skip out of social interactions.

  • Poor habits and not looking after yourself

People who are stressed out often rely on coping mechanisms – such as smoking or drinking alcohol. If you are feeling extremely strained, you may have found yourself more reliant on habits which aren’t ideal, simply to get you through the day.

  • Frequent illnesses

Stress impacts our immune system in a profound way, which is why people get “run down” – experiencing issues such as colds, mouth ulcers and tummy upsets – at difficult moments in life.

How to avoid burnout in business

So how do you make sure, as a hardworking business owner, that you don’t push yourself into ill health?

  • Give yourself time off

There will be times, as you lead your business to success, that you work every hour in a day to pull something amazing together. However, these times have to be brief and occasional if you aren’t going to buckle under the pressure – especially in the intense early days of forming your business.

Try to guarantee yourself one of two days off a week, where you don’t engage in any work-related activities at all. Have a clear finish time, and turn off the work notifications on your phone once you’ve left work, so you can wind down.

Try to get away, even it’s just a weekend somewhere close to home, because a change of scene can be really refreshing. If you are in the position of being able to work remotely in your business, you could even take out a holiday apartment (with WiFi, of course) somewhere nice and work form there – appreciating the location in your time off.

  • Eat, drink and sleep well

While having a glass of wine or three, the odd cigarette and junk food can feel like it’s fueling you through, over the long term these habits are only going to make you feel a kit worse. Putting a little thought into how you are looking after yourself when work is in full-force can make a huge difference. Eat healthily, don’t drink too much and go to bed at a reasonable time each evening – all nighters should be a uncommon feature in your working life, if they appear at all.

You should also do your best to retain your interests outside of work. It may feel like you have to sacrifice all your free time for the good of your business, but having a wider view will actually make you a better businessperson. When you live and breathe your brand it can be hard to see the bigger picture. Whether it’s yoga, going to cinema with friends, painting or going for long walks, make time for the things you enjoy.

  • Delegate in and out of work.

Know that you are going to have a hugely busy month at work? Make sure that your social calendar is as low-stress as possible, (no driving half-way across the country one weekend, for example) stock up on nourishing, easy-to-cook food, and even consider hiring someone to tidy your house on a short-term basis. Entrepreneurs can benefit from delegating in their personal life, as well as at work, because their time is limited.

Within work, it’s important to let yourself trust others to do a job as well as you can. Once you’ve moved beyond the startup stage, if everything has been set up well, your business should be able to tick over perfectly well for a few days without you. It’s really important to try to limit your workload where you can – there’s only so long one person can do the work of three.


Holly Ashby is a writer and social media manager who currently works with Will Williams Meditation, a centre that teaches Vedic meditation in London and offers corporate wellbeing courses to companies looking to decrease stress and absenteeism while increasing productivity.

I am the founder of Startup Today. I am the main writer and have put in many hours of work into creating this blog. If you want to find out more about me then lets get in contact.

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