When your world becomes a distant haze and nothing has direction

So I’ve heard so many entrepreneurs, accelerators and incubator talk about burn out. We’re all told to be aware of it, try and avoid it and to take steps in order to stop it from happening. It’s the thing that can break up founders, cause frictions between teams and even close down entire businesses.

But beyond this, as entrepreneurs, we don’t spend a lot of time looking into it or even trying to understand what it means for us, personally. And for the most part, I think, like myself, we tend to image some sort of miraculous crash and burn crisis. It’s pretty obvious when it happens. One minute we are fine, the next we’ve broken down in tears or maybe become physically sick due to the lack of energy we’ve left for our functioning body.

There is so much to comprehend and get done when starting and a business that most of us just acknowledge the ideas of burn out and then carry on with what needs to be done when it comes to building our business. It’s an outta sight, outta mind mentality and I held that mentality myself for quite a while. 

The thing is … a lot like depression, stress or anxiety, burn out effects each person differently. Some of us will just reach tipping point one day and crumble. But for a lot of us, myself included, it’s a lot more subtle, creeping slowly up on us.

There are a lot of articles about burn out that you can find on the internet but from what I’ve found, it’s mostly just statistics and ways to bounce back. What I want to explore is the number of different ways burnout affects us and why it can be so hard to recognise.

So here goes –

What is burn out?

Well, the official definition is Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.

It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

To be honest, I think that definition does a pretty good job of giving a decent overview. But what I want to do is looking into the many ways that burn out actually shows itself in our actions, reactions and daily interactions.

Derek from Social Triggers explains burnout as becoming bored with his own business.

He no longer felt the passion and purpose he once did to create his videos that he posts to his Youtube Channel. He also really struggled to sleep which ultimately had a big impact on his performance.

For myself, it was a slow killer.

I’m a pretty high functioning person regardless. Diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I’ve still managed to found two businesses and keep myself alive. Burn out started with just a regular old “off day” which I just pushed through because hey, that’s what you do. You keep moving and keep being productive… maybe finish a little early so that you can do something a bit different or fun.

But that one day turned into a few days. And those few days turned into a week and the week into a month and so on. It can be pretty hard to unpick the general stresses of work from something more sinister, something that is going to have a big impact on the business and your work.

Today though, today it hit me that burn out is what I am going through. I think part of the reason I was able to come to that conclusion is simply because I noticed my depression creeping back in. I realised that I was feeling lost and without purpose, questioning my commitment and wondering if I should just throw in the towel, walking away from all that I had worked so hard to get.

Things just seemed so fucking hard.

Tasks and things that I used to get done quite quickly were taking me a lot longer. Writing down my thoughts was painful. Pushing out any kind of content that actually seemed half decent was not only draining, it was a chore. I realised that I hadn’t noticed when I mind slowly turned into a muggy haze until it was too late.

If I really think about it, I run mostly on adrenalin. I’m the kind of person that’s managed to give myself IBS because of it. Even when I’ve taken really good care of myself, I still get so excited about the projects I am working on that I have to get up a pee about 10 times during a single 3 hour period.

Living out my emotions through my bowels is how I’m used to living. So it makes it pretty hard to pinpoint when a new normal comes to town.
 
Recognition

Most the articles out on the internet about burn out tend to just list different symptoms which tends to make it hard to really pinpoint if you are just tired or if you actual in burn out.

Entrepreneurs are used to working hard. We’re used to having a few sleepless nights and feeling tired. For me personally, I struggle to separate what is “normal” fatigue versus what is burn out. I worry that perhaps I’m just being over dramatic or worse, looking for an excuse to have a day off.

I find the best way to puzzle this out is to take the same approach you would to say, a swollen ankle or physical injury. If you hurt your ankle then you are going to have to rest it. It doesn’t mean that you couldn’t hobble around if you really wanted to but we all know that you will just make your recovery time longer and perhaps your injury worse.

It can be tough, especially if you are feeling low. I’ll want to do work because I want to feel good again. I’m chasing that high and success in way. However, this only makes things worse because you won’t be working to your potential and you’ll be dragging yourself through the dirt while you do it.

Now what?

Do you take the afternoon off? Should you treat yourself to drinks with friends?

Well, I’m sorry that there is no solid answer to this.

Some of those that hit burn out need something as simple as a weekend away and others need much much more.

A word of general advice? Rediscover your passion.

Every high-achieving person I have ever known had one thing in common–a passion. If you’re like most victims of burnout, that passion has probably lost its meaning, leaving you feeling physically exhausted and emotionally depleted. But rediscovering it (or finding a new one) with a new self-awareness that it doesn’t have to be all-consuming can be the spark you need to reignite your flame. This may mean you have to redefine your roles at work, home, or both. It may mean that you have to find a way to redistribute the load you’re carrying. Or it may mean that you have to find a new passion, one that will offer more balance so you can enjoy life the way you once did.

Remember – it gets better together! Don’t suffer in silence.

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