Learning how to reduce stress so you can recover from business burnout is key to long-term career success. The only problem is that this solution is easier said than done.
While trying to manage my full-time job and my freelance business, I ended up to working about 80 hours per week.
A typical day had me working either at my day job or on my own projects from the time I wake up and roll out of bed to the moment when I finally crawl back in and pass out.
I’ve tried to keep the complaints to a minimum; after all, this is exactly what I wanted, right? A thriving side business that could one day be large and sustainable enough to make into my full-time work.
But I’m realizing that even when I’m exceeding the goals I set for myself on my journey to becoming a business owner, I have limits.
Everyone has limits and it’s important to recognize them so you don’t over-extend yourself and do permanent damage. Those limits aren’t forgiving when you cross them and if you don’t pay attention you’ll end up in creative burnout mode.
When you crash and burn
The common expression for someone who experiences burnout is that they “crashed and burned.” After coming home from my day job one day, I went to greet one of my cats who loves to sleep on the second-floor landing of our stairs.
I sat down on the stairs to pet her, thinking about how nice it was just to sit and do nothing but hang out with my cat.
I stretched out my legs so my feet rested two stairs below where I was sitting. Then I put my head down on my arm on the landing.
And then I woke up an hour later when my phone started ringing. What the….Where am I? I thought as I struggled to regain consciousness.
Did I seriously just fall asleep on the stairs?!
How to deal with business burnout
Maybe an accidental crash nap doesn’t sound like too big of a deal. For me, someone who never naps even when she’s sick or was up too late the night before, it was a sign. A sign that I needed to finally understand that things had to change.
Burnout is something aspiring business owners and veteran freelancers are likely to encounter at some point. We’re trying to launch legitimate, sustainable, the-real-deal businesses. And we’re doing this while somehow juggling an existing career, families, friends, other responsibilities, plus more.
It’s an understatement to say you’re working hard to make your business dreams into realities. From personal experience, mindful business owners are some of the most dedicated, hard-working, and driven people I’ve ever met.
But such determined individuals are even more likely to experience burnout. Why? Simply because most of the time, it’s hard for us to know when we’ve pushed too hard, and done way too much.
There’s a lot of content out there on recognizing the signs of burnout. But what do you do when you missed all the signs and burnout hits you like a ton of bricks?
Or, you know… like a nap attack?
1. Take a step back
It may be the last thing you want to do when you’ve been going nonstop, but the reason you crashed is because you’re running yourself ragged. It’s time to take a step back, unplug and gain a new perspective.
You obviously can’t continue working in this fashion, and you need a break. Give yourself permission to take a step so you can refresh and recharge. Self-care should be an important part of your daily routine, so if it’s not (or it’s on the back burner) now’s the time to make it a priority again.
2. Admit you’re overworked and stressed out
Take this opportunity to pull back and look at the big picture. Create a better system for organize clients, assignments and daily responsibilities.
Is there anything that needs to go? If you need help culling through the pile, as you consider each specific client or particular gig, ask yourself these questions:
- Is this work worth my time?
- Am I getting appropriately compensated for my time, skills, and abilities?
- Do I actually enjoy working for this person/working for this gig?
3. Be honest with yourself
If the work you’re doing isn’t furthering your career or business, it’s time to cut it to make room for better opportunities. If one particular client drives you up a wall and is more trouble than it’s worth, it might be time to say “good-bye”.
Is there a project that no longer brings you joy and is simply holding you back? Cut your losses and move on.
It’s not easy to have these honest conversations with yourself, but it will be SO worth it when you start doing work you love again.
4. Lean on your support group
The reason that community builders have wonderful groups like the Careful Cents Freelancers Club is so that like-minded people who are facing the same struggles, problems, and challenges can band together.
You likely have many different kinds of support groups available to you: friends, family, coworkers, online blogging buddies, other business owners and side hustlers. Reach out to them! Just having someone to talk with can offer a tremendous amount of relief.
Members of your support groups can offer suggestions and solutions to help you deal with burnout and create better systems. Not only that, support through tough times can help you:
- Moving forward with renewed motivation
- Avoiding getting yourself into the same situation in the future
5. Seek help through tough times
Don’t let your pride keep you from moving past a burnout phase. You may need to ask your significant other or family member to help out around the house. Perhaps you can find a coworker to assist you on a tough assignment at work.
More importantly, don’t be afraid to outsource some of your assignments as you deal with feeling burnt out. I am so incredibly grateful I was able to hire a fellow personal finance blogger to help me out with my workload.
Not to mention, it was so wonderful to know that I could, in a small way, help a fellow go-getter start her own journey. My assistant wanted to get into freelancing, and I was thrilled that coincided with my need to have someone help out with my business.
Don’t be afraid to recognize when you can’t do something alone — and then ask for the help you need. It may be the best thing you will do for yourself and your business!
How to reduce stress and recover
Dealing with burnout made me realize that it might be time to reassess my business and my goals. I’ve obviously grown from side hustler to almost-there freelancer much, much faster than I anticipated, and as a result I may need to revise my original plan of quitting my day job by next March.
Recovering from business burnout is tough. Simplifying your life is difficult, but you have to be willing to adapt in order to continue growing.
I’m now looking at putting in my official notice with my employer by the end of June.
I plan on continuing to work with them in some capacity over the next few months, which means that I still won’t be working 100% for myself anytime soon. But I think it’s time to start the transition period.
This feels like a move in the right direction, and I cannot wait to see what I can achieve when I have the chance to focus every bit of my time, energy, and attention on my own business.
My plan for recovery also means making a plan for hiring help in the future. I don’t want to take any more stair-naps, so I need to make sure I ask for help well before I get to official burnout again.
I’m also recovering by taking the time to reassess things like the rate I’m charging and how I’m billing clients. With some gigs, I feel like I’m not being fairly compensated for the value I’ve provided.
That’s stressing me out and leaving me feeling frustrated — which means it’s time to try something new when it comes to charging for my work.
Now, I’m making an effort to simply take one day at a time and to release negative emotions like stress and fear that have a tendency to weigh us down far more than they should.
Letting go of fear as I drastically move up my planned “day-job quit-date” is not easy, and it’s something I have to work at every single day.
But I know in order to continue moving in a positive direction and making the right decisions for me and my just-about-there business, I must keep faith in myself that I can do this and make what started out as a pipe dream into a present reality. It’s all about confidence.
And as I recover from burnout, I will continue to be confident that I will succeed.