By : Chris Sukornyk (5 time serial entrepreneur)
Building five startup companies in just 20 years made me feel exhausted, overwhelmed and on the verge of an internal collapse. While all of the hard work paid off, my mind and body couldn’t keep up with the exceeding pressures my life continued to pile on. Like a frog slowly boiled in water, I didn't feel the inevitable coming until it was too late. What if I had seen it coming and was able to adjust my lifestyle to minimize the effects before I reached the brink?
Before getting to this point, it’s important to pay attention to the signs – and they’re all around you. After all, your body knows you best and it will work hard to help save you from reaching the edge and boiling over. So what signs can you look out for in yourself to help save your sanity and avoid burnout?
Here are the Top Five Silent Signs of Burnout:
No Internet! OMG! You may think: “How am I going to cope without my lifeline to the world in order to get everything done I have to?”
If you are perpetually worried about being disconnected – even if only for a couple of hours - then you're likely on the path to burnout. The constant need to check emails, look at social media and surf the net can signal a lack in your ability to “shut it off.” For example, I once accidentally dropped my phone in the lake, rendering it unusable and had to go on a forced week-long electronic detox while I waited for my replacement. After the cold sweat and shakes had subsided I actually found enjoyment in being completely unplugged. I no longer felt the need to reply to emails within seconds or feel like I should be constantly kept “in the loop.”
Once a month, try putting your phone away (really away) and work on getting through the day without it. You might feel an overwhelming sense of being without a limb, but this will soon enough help release some of the overwhelming stress of everything else you have going on and allow you to live in the moment. So lift that head up and look where you’re going. This won’t just help you to not get injured by walking into a pole you’ll also be saving your mind from injury, too.
Vacations are supposed to be a nice break from the pressures of life – a pause button on responsibilities and a chance to reset. However, if you’re dreading the flood of emails and to-do lists upon your return even before your vacation has started, you’re clearly doing it wrong. Yes you will have things to catch up on upon your return to work, everyone does. But that doesn’t mean you can’t disengage from work and enjoy yourself for the time being.
Set yourself up for success prior to leaving on that vacation and you’ll come back feeling refreshed and de-stressed. For example, it’s OK to give up some of the control and allow a co-worker to take something over for you while you’re away. Release the reigns and realize that things will continue without you. Yes, you are an important part of the workplace, but you aren’t the only part. Life will go on without you, and that is OK too.
We’ve all been there: A jolt of panic waking you from sleep, your brain worrying about that assignment that needs to get completed or the big presentation you haven’t yet begun. The cold sweat, the dread of not being able to shut your brain off long enough to catch a few more zzz’s so that you’ll be well-rested enough to actually be able to complete these tasks. If this is happening more often than you’re enjoying a night of sleep and pleasant dreams, you may be on the verge of burnout.
In lieu of taking sleeping pills to shut your brain down, it is best to understand and eradicate the source of your sleepless nights. Try to forget about the stresses of the day well before laying down. Try shutting your phone down or placing it on silent one hour prior to when you’d like to fall asleep. Do not bring your laptop into bed with you – your bed is a sanctuary and should never be used for work, only for sleeping, among other pleasurable and relaxing activities ;)
Read a book that relaxes you and a warm cup of decaffeinated tea and call it a night.
Do you find yourself picking fights with the people in your inner friendship circle for no reason? Ok, maybe they did look at you a bit judgingly when you snapped on your cat for not greeting you at the door, but that’s no reason to snap on them too. If your closest friends seem to be steering clear of you more often than they invite you to hang out, you may be burnt out.
While disagreements are normal in friendships, constant arguments are not and if you look around and can’t find the cause of the conflict, perhaps it’s you. Stress can do a number on your patience and make everything and everyone seem annoying and exhausting. It is best to take a time out and when you’re ready, apologize to those around you for acting out of character. Tell them what’s going on and while this shouldn’t be an excuse, explain that you are just having some trouble at the moment and will work on being more patient and a nicer human being.
Suddenly stricken with headaches daily? Feel not quite right, but can’t put your finger on the cause? Not making time for yourself and your own health is the number one sign that you are approaching burnout. Your body knows you well, and it will give you warning signs when it is time to slow down. Ignore the signs, and you will continue to feel sick. Taking care of yourself should be your number one priority, or you won’t be able to help anyone else.
Maybe you have put on a few pounds due to stress eating or being too busy to get on that treadmill. Your body knows when something is wrong and it will let you know one way or another. Ignoring the signs will lead to body burnout, and it can be hard to bounce back from that.
Take at least thirty minutes a day to work out your body, and your mind will quickly follow. Be kind to your body, and it will be kind to you.
Focus and intensity is a positive force in building business and when you’re passionate about something, there is no balance. What matters is that the “always on” approach is not sustainable forever, and without being conscious of the consequences of never slowing down, your body and mind will revolt and burnout. Instead of trying to maintain the elusive state of “balance” that is like a mirage in the landscape of living with passion, think of it as a concept of waxing and waning through periods of intense focus on one area and then pulling-back and focusing on other aspects of your life. You can’t live an “all or nothing” life without the consequences.