If you want to make more money, be more productive, stay healthy, and not lose your mind, then it’s essential to chill as hard as you hustle. The simple idea is to take care of yourself, but here is my method for avoiding burnout and quickly recovering when burnout happens.
I gotta admit, it’s been a crazy past 6 months and this week I completely burnt out. Fizzled. Hit the wall. Shut down. It happens to me a few times a year. Are you an entrepreneur? While entrepreneurs are particularly susceptible to burnout, it’s unfortunately getting more common for all of us.
When burnout hits you
All of a sudden I go from moving 120 miles per hour to 0 without warning, and once it starts coming, there is no stopping it. I gotta ride it out. It’s the same feeling every time, my mind starts to get a little fuzzy and my eyes start to lose a bit of focus. I feel tired, but like a restless tired, where I can’t actually get to sleep. Then it hits me and down I go, I’m on the couch in the fetal position for a few days, not able to move, think, or even watch TV.
You know that too-tired-to-watch-TV feeling right? It’s the worst. I rise out of it the same speed I came into it and after 2-3 days, I start to feel like myself. By day 5, I am back to 120 mph, vowing to take better care of myself, slow down, and chill as hard as I hustle.
Honestly, it’s a pretty unhealthy way to live, but I have been actively working hard (working hard to chill?) over the past few years to cultivate more balance in my life. Unfortunately, I am addicted to working and creating.
It’s my nature. I am happy when I am building things, but sometimes it’s very hard for me to stop. I let my body stop me when I should be stopping myself. Thankfully, I am getting better at this and burning out less and less.
All of these steps should help you avoid burnout or bounce back from it when it happens.
5 steps to avoid burnout (or bounce back from it)
1. Learning to say no
The simplest way to avoid burnout is learning to say no. Burnout comes from being overwhelmed, doing way too much, or scientifically a lot of it has to do with an overwhelmed endocrine system.
Most things in life, from spending and saving to eating healthy, are about balance. Finding that equilibrium state where you feel good, happy, productive, and like yourself. When you swing too far in one direction, you inevitably lose one, if not all four of those things.
Slowing down often comes back to learning when to say no. As you get more successful, the world opens up more opportunities, which, when you’ve worked so hard to get them, it’s even harder to say no to some of them. But the word “no” will save not only your time, but your mind, your health, and your balance.
2. Be honest with yourself and others about your limits
Unfortunately, we live in a burnout culture. It’s celebrated, rewarded, and pretty messed up. Sure, I’m all about the hustle and the side hustle but how hard you work should be your choice, and it should ebb and flow in balance with other areas of your life.
At many companies, employees are expected to stay late, work weekends, and be reachable 24/7. I recently had a client who reached out to me and asked me if I was okay because I hadn’t emailed her back in 2 hours – this was at 9 pm in the evening BTW.
I was like, uh, I’m cool, just stopping to eat some dinner. I’ve found myself doing the same thing and getting impatient if I haven’t heard back from someone I emailed only 24 hours before. It’s an unhealthy way to live–for you, for me, for all of us. But thankfully, it feels like the cultural standards are starting to shift, if ever so slightly, from hustle to balance. But balance is a privilege and many people living paycheck to paycheck just can’t afford it.
When you do burnout, be honest with yourself and others around you. Slow down and tell everyone else in your life you need a break and that are you are disconnecting. No matter how hard your boss or anyone else in your life tries to get you to keep going, don’t. It’s your health and your life. You are only responsible for yourself.
Also, be honest with yourself about your own limits and realize that your work capacities are going to change depending on what else you have going on in your life and how old you are. I am starting to realize that while I can work almost harder than anyone I know, I can’t work as hard as my 25-year-old self. Sometimes I try to kid myself and pull an all nighter, but my body then takes almost a week to recover. The same goes with traveling–I am more conscious of the flights I book and how I travel to minimize burnout. The older you get I am finding, the more important balance becomes.
3. Do no work – not 50% or 30%. 0%. Nothing. Completely disconnect
When you feel like you are on the verge of burnout, slow down immediately and stop everything. Most likely, it’s already too late and at this point, you need to focus on minimizing the burnout time frame and focus on recovery.
Too many people, myself included, make the mistake of trying to do less work, but we keep working. There is always one email to respond to, or blog post to write, or meeting. But this is a mistake and will only make the burnout worse. You need to stop everything you are doing and quite literally shut down your life. No calls, no emails, no flights. Nothing. The more you try to do, the longer and more severe the burnout is likely to be. The more you try to do also significantly increases the chances that you will get physically sick, which could sideline you even longer or potentially be dangerous.
When you burn out, your body and mind are literally telling you to shut down, so that is what you need to do. You need to shut it all down. Close the curtains, crawl into bed or a nice couch, or if you are lucky, sit in a hammock in the backyard or on a beach, and let yourself melt away. Do this as long as needed until your mind is able to focus again, your body feels balanced, and you start feeling like yourself.
4. Eat super well and stay hydrated
Eating healthy and staying hydrated will help you both avoid burnout and recover faster if you hit it. When you feel crappy, you crave crappy foods. While it’s okay to have a little bit of comfort food, you should make sure that you eat healthy enough and stay hydrated so your body can start to heal. When I start to burn out, I drink green juice and carrot juice and stay hydrated with water and some coconut water.
It all really helps you feel better and ward off sickness that can often follow burnout. When your body is burnt out and run down, your immune system is inevitably compromised and it’s super easy to get sick. The green juice, carrot juice, coconut water combination works for me every time. It’s all about nutrients and hydration.
Sure, feel free to indulge in some comfort food, but make sure it’s balanced by healthy food and you will recover a lot faster.
5. Take walks and get fresh air
Yes, I know that I told you to chill out and do nothing, but you should go for walks and get some fresh air if you can. While you might not be able to go for walks right away, they definitely help with burnout recovery and reconnecting you to the real world. Getting outside for just 20 minutes a day is healthy and will speed recovery. Being outside also makes you feel more alive.
When I burnout, I take my dog for a walk and move slowly. It always helps me reconnect with myself and establish a calmer rhythm. While getting outside and fresh air can help with burnout, they are also essential in preventing it.
I tend to find the more walks that I take, the calmer I am in my everyday life. I walk to and from my office. I walk my dog and when I travel, I take walks every morning. Moving slower, getting outside, and finding a calmer rhythm help me cultivate balance, reset, and avoid burnout.
Burnout is serious, unsustainable, and unhealthy. It wreaks havoc on your body and your mind. When you are honest with yourself, by setting limits and saying no to cultivate balance, you will feel better, make better decisions, and form stronger connections. These are all essential to achieving long-term success and happiness.
It took me a long time to learn this, but now I know how essential it is to always chill as hard as you hustle.