7 Tips to Avoid Burnout + Reclaim Your Glow
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When you’re building a business, especially one you’re passionate about, it’s easy to let things like self-care fall by the wayside. “One more email,” we tell ourselves. “I’ll just fill one more order.” But entrepreneurs who push themselves to the limit repeatedly are more prone to burnout, even if their businesses are successful.
At WELL Summit in October 2018, Jenny D. Brice, MFT, MPH, spoke directly to entrepreneurs looking to create more of a sense of balance in their lives—and avoid that dreaded burnout. She says we habitually minimize the definition of “burnout,” when it technically equates to stress that leads to illness, feelings of apathy or depression, lack of motivation and, ultimately, cynicism. Not something to take lightly, is it? But Jenny gives us hope in the midst of potential stress, saying “You don’t need to have a breakdown in your founder’s story. You can change your life and avoid burnout now.” Here are her seven tips to reclaim your glow, and keep burnout at bay.
1. Interrupt Thinking Traps
Thinking traps, according to Jenny, are patterns of thought that tend to trap us in anxiety and don’t let us realistically see what’s in front of us. There are many types of thinking traps, but some that you’re probably familiar with are polarized thinking (forcing complex issues into “either/or” pairings); catastrophizing (believing that something is far worse than it actually is); overgeneralizing (drawing a faulty conclusion about something based on just one example); or “shoulds” (doing things out of obligation or to meet other people’s needs). If we can interrupt these, says Jenny, we’re more likely to be able to avoid burnout.
The antidote to thinking traps? Jenny says using coping statements like “nobody’s perfect”; and “these are just thoughts, not reality”; and “I deserve to feel okay right now” help break us out of thinking trap patterns. Plus, it allows us to tune into ourselves. “Self-awareness is your superpower,” says Jenny.
2. Use Your Breath
Your breath, says Jenny, can trigger a fight or flight response—when you’re not fully utilizing your breath or you’re breathing heavily because of anxiety, your body responds by activating its sympathetic nervous system. That activation causes a burst of cortisol to flood your body, and can ratchet up anxiety and stress. But, by taking the time to tune into and listen to your breath, deliberately, you can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, the system responsible for calming your muscles and body down. Deep breaths can therefore be healing, says Jenny, and she suggests setting yourself a reminder to breathe once an hour.
3. Practice Mindfulness
Another way to combat stress that leads to burnout is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness at its core, says Jenny, is the noticing and observation of your surroundings—without creating a narrative and without judgment. When you can observe your body’s sensations, physical and emotional, your self-awareness can break the cycle of stress and avoid spiraling down into burnout. “Turn back up your noticing,” Jenny says. “Slow down, pay attention.”
4. Approach Your Emotions With Compassion and Curiosity
“We’re taught to turn off our emotions, and to value intellect over feelings,” says Jenny. “We view the ability to override our emotions as ‘resilience.'” But that’s not the truth: Often, our emotions are indicators of what’s going right or wrong in our situations, and they can be an inner guide to the right path for you. So, she says, stop numbing those emotions, and embrace them. “Unmute them,” Jenny says, “and tune back into what they’re trying to tell you.” Don’t place a value or judgement on what you’re feeling. Just observe them and note what they’re trying to tell you with compassion for yourself and curiosity about what you can learn.
5. Schedule Unstructured Time
It sounds counter-intuitive to schedule time that’s “unstructured.” But, Jenny says, if we don’t allow room for our minds to breathe, we can’t cope when trying situations arise. It ties back to her tips about breathing and practicing mindfulness—without space to decompress, our minds stay activated and engaged for longer periods of time than are necessary. It’s related to the old adage about the best ideas coming to you in the shower. That’s because your mind is relaxed enough to make connections it otherwise can’t see. It can subconsciously sort through information while you go about being “unstructured”—and your business will ultimately benefit.
6. Tune Into Your Body
Much like checking in with your emotions, tuning into sensations in your body can give you insight into your best path forward. Cliches like “go with your gut” are rooted in truths about how our bodies react to certain situations, and listening to physical sensations can guide you to better decision making. Says Jenny, “90 to 95 percent of our behavior is motivated by the subconscious—and our body is the subconscious.” But again, this listening has to be without judgement, says Jenny, like you’re an outside observer. “Give the sensations names, and see what emotions they’re connected to,” she reminds. “We can’t think our way to change; we have to feel it.”
7. Connect With Your Tribe
Creating a support system outside of yourself is crucial to avoiding burnout, Jenny says. “When you’re doing what you love,” she says, “burnout can take you by surprise.” But, having others around you to reflect back to you what they see happening is a key way to avoid being caught off guard. Lots of times we tell ourselves false narratives about entrepreneurship, which can lead to guilt that we aren’t doing it right, or we’ll never succeed. Connecting with others who are in the same boat or friends who aren’t related to your business at all can help normalize feelings of overwhelm while also providing an outlet for stress. “Connection and centeredness are burnout’s antidote,” says Jenny.
Interested in what other entrepreneurs do to stay sane? Check out these founders’ tips on self-care.