Ok, so the best course of action would be to follow all my great advice on how to avoid burnout like my post on Work at Home Doldrums but humans are a fickle bunch! We agree with words of wisdom and think that somehow it applies to everyone else but them.
And what’s crazier? We go along thinking that we are fine, just fine, thank you very much. Completely in denial, we don’t recognize the tell-tale signs. People around us do and ask us about it but we are fine, just fine. Until we are not.
Until we crash into the wall. Until something stops us short and makes us realize that we’re not doing so fine after all!
I am not suffering from burnout. I have not been on my blog lately because I bought a new computer, wrote an eBook and then my computer ate my eBook (or something like that.) I’ve been in some sort of computer-file-disappearing-corruption-formatting hell! It may cause burnout eventually but for now it has just caused vast expanses of wasted time and much anger!
I decided to bring up burnout because over the past month, I’ve received four very poignant and revealing emails from online business folks whom I admire, who ran themselves into the proverbial wall. One, I understand. Two is a coincidence. Three is a pattern! And at four, well you’ve got to say “what the hell is going on here?!”
Often we tend to think of burnout as a problem with working too long and hard in an environment where little appreciation is shown. Or very high stress, dramatic jobs like ER personnel where every minute they are dealing with life and death. Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t. They have to deal with horrible situations over and over. I don’t know how anyone could do that kind of work and certainly don’t know how they could do it for years? But thankfully, some folks can work with the adrenaline rush and figure the good days are worth the bad ones.
But working at home or having your own business should not be that stressful, right? I mean, you are in your own home, your happy place. You are your own boss and are in control of your hours. So what’s going on?
Starting a new business can be hard. It can be exciting but time-consuming. Nothing ever works as quickly as you plan. You know, ol’ Murphy’s Law? He loves new entrepreneurs. Murphy thinks you decided to work from home so you could be there when the plumbing bursts and the roof leaks and the computer goes up in smoke and not that you stayed home to work!
And it is easy to give way to the temptation to work longer hours. I mean, if you are at home and don’t have the commute, you can add a couple more hours to the day, right?
And then you can get up earlier and get started, right? And you can stay up later, right? You can even pull an all-nighter here and there, right? You do what you’ve got to do. You forget to keep regular business hours. You forget to keep a clear boundary between your home and your office so that you start to feel that you live at work.
You forget to take breaks. You forget to take the weekend off. Your business takes off and you have even more to do. The pace gets faster.
Then one day, you sit down, bone tired and realize that you have nothing. Nothing left. Nothing to say. There’s no kind of muse or inspiration to substitute for self-care.
Self-care is not self-indulgent. It is absolutely necessary for your health and welfare and for your ability to work well, be productive and creative and successful. It is necessary for you to have a life worth living!
So what do you do when you have broken all the rules, and run into that wall?
Well, you will have to embrace the damn wall. You will have to face it and realize that you’ve gotten yourself to this point and there’s no easy way out. You will have to do the self-care now and lots of it to heal and repair. You might have the little voice saying that your business will suffer. Maybe it’s right.
Maybe your business will suffer. But in reality, it was probably suffering already because you probably were not as effective as you thought you were — no one goes from productive to burnout in a minute.
When our bodies get out of balance, things go wrong. If we get too acidic, we get cancer. Too much inflammation, we get heart disease. Too much typing, we get carpal tunnel syndrome. Too much tennis, we get tendinitis. Too much driving in traffic, we get ‘gas pedal knee.’
Your momma told you that too much of anything is a bad thing.
Too much work is like a repetitive stress injury. It builds up over time. You have a stiff neck/shoulder from working too long in front of the computer (in a bad chair). Day after day. For years. Suddenly one day, you can’t move your arm! Repetitive stress injuries are disorders made worse by the repetitive actions of daily living!
For your shoulder or elbow or wrist, you are going to have to stop what you were doing to cause the problem! Then you will need to sit still with some ice on the area. You might have to take something for the pain and inflammation. You need to get some physical therapy to get it moving again correctly and to learn what you can do, how you can compensate and use your muscles differently so as not to land yourself in the same situation again.
But the first and foremost is stop and ice.
Repetitive Stress to Your Soul
It’s no different with burnout! If you’ve been all work and no play, that is like repetitive stress to your soul! So first, stop.
Chances are if you’ve been pushing yourself this hard, something probably hurts, so what the hell? Put some ice on something! If it will get you to sit down and think about taking care of yourself, by all means, get out the ice pack!
Get out a notebook and a pen (not a computer) and start a journal. Right then and there … you can begin … dear diary … and before you finish that sentence, remember how you got to this point.
Remember what I said earlier that we tend to think of burnout as a thing people get from working too long and hard with no appreciation? So who didn’t appreciate you here, entrepreneur? You.
You didn’t appreciate yourself and yes, you do need to recognize that and take responsibility but it’s easy then to get into the blame game. Dear diary, I’m such as ass and worked so hard that I have nothing left to give bla bla bla.
Don’t go there. Don’t ever give into the temptation to belittle yourself. We are talking about self CARE here! Be nice!
Take a couple days off.
Oh yes, you CAN. What if you really got sick? The world would go on without out you. Take a couple days off.
Do something that feeds your soul.
Did you used to have a hobby way back before you became a workaholic? Buy yourself a coloring book. Spend hours just coloring. Pull out the guitar and dust it off. Just play for yourself and rock those old rock-star dreams.
Go to a zoo or a museum by yourself and just walk around and look and wonder. Sit on a bench and just watch the world go by. It’s better to go by yourself so that you are not engaging, you are just being you.
Take a drive on an old highway, not the interstate and just enjoy. Stop at the world’s biggest ball of yarn or the National Museum of Thimbles or whatever wacky landmark you find and just enjoy it!
What?! Cleaning is truly cathartic. Now don’t go all hell bent for leather and decide to clean the entire building because you have that tendency, don’t you? Just clean one little area. (Out of your office) A little closet or a particularly dirty window. Why? Because you were feeling out of control and once you have that nasty window cleaned, you will literally have a new view! It will make you feel like you are taking back control.
Write a letter. Look at some old photos. Read a book that is NOT business related. Something fun and mindless.
Take some time to just sit in silence. Don’t listen to music or t.v. or read because they are all just distractions. Just be. For those of us who are “on” all the time, I know this exercise can be excruciating but it’s well worth it.
You need to fill up that well. You’ve been giving and giving. Your brain has been thinking and thinking but you haven’t been giving it any new ‘food for thought.’
Ah yes, that old adage. Go for a walk. Start moving those muscles. When we work too much, we tend to let the workouts slip. Ease back into them.
Go for a massage. Reflexology. A pedicure. A facial. Something that makes you feel pampered and appreciated.
After a few days or a week if you can, of feeding your brain and turning off business, sit down with your journal and ask yourself, what do you want your business to look like? Did you go into business or decide to work from home so that you could work 24/7? What would your ideal day look like? Write that down and then think of some ways that you can make that happen.
If you were going back to tennis after your tendinitis, you would have to take it slow. Same goes here.
Going forward, set a schedule, a strict one, and adhere to it! It’s like physical therapy. You have to do the therapy in order to heal but the therapy hurts and you still need to sit with your ice and heating pad. You need to build those muscles and learn some new ways of being.
So go back to shorter hours. If you can cut your hours to half time, do that. If you can’t, you certainly have to cut them to normal business hours! Learn how to prioritize, schedule and delegate. Train your staff and then trust them to do their jobs. If you don’t have staff, consider how you can outsource or get some help so you can cut your hours.
Schedule, schedule, schedule! It is your friend.
Schedule time off. Put it right there in your calendar: unavailable.
Schedule time in to write in that diary. Put some time in to just sit and do absolutely nothing.
Schedule a day at the beach or the zoo.
Block out those times for the next 6 months and then just do not allow yourself to get overbooked. Really stick to it and you will find that a little self-care goes a long way. You will find that you feel better and freer and that will reflect in your productivity and business.
Just like that tennis elbow, if you are not careful, it will come back to haunt you. Remember you need to give back to yourself so that you can continue giving to others! I hope you will find this helpful if you have hit the wall. If you haven’t, don’t! Take the measures now to prevent it! For more info on working at home successfully, check out the other posts on my blog but especially Work At Home Doldrums: What to Do
Patt Timlin is a marketing expert set on sharing her expertise with other online marketers to help them achieve the dream of working online. She is secretly pleased with the surge in content marketing as revenge of the English majors! Entrepreneur, blogger, guide, helper – Patt loves the online world and loves to share it!
Patt is the author of: Patt Blogs
Patt Timlin’s Spot4 Blog
Work At Home Product Guide
Spot4Connections.com and Patt Timlin Online.
Please reach out on Facebook at Spot4connections on Facebook