This last year has been full of upheaval. Many people have had to cope with all different stressors; financial, health, work… the list goes on.
Although it feels like we're heading towards being in the clear for Summer...this is also prime time for founder/creator burnout.
Instead of taking space, it’s common for founders to drive harder when things get tough. We double the coffee consumption, try and set our alarm earlier, try and “toughen up” with motivational audios and books... and essentially ignore what we’re feeling or push it down.
What we want is to be working at our fullest capacity. And, because there is so much to do, we want to feel like we can get to it all, and then some. But this is a long game; it’s a marathon. Burnout is something that can seriously derail your plans.
If you’re wondering, “Am I burning out?” the simplest metric I have for you to think about is this:
“How fast is your recovery?”
If your recovery is slow or slowing… you might be having or heading towards burnout.
When we’re burnt out, our recovery time continues to extend longer and longer. What we could bounce back from previously now takes hours or days.
At some point, this inability to recover has serious consequences.
I’ve seen it first hand and with others. Burnout can make you sick. I've seen it before and with myself.
It can kick back in old habits that we use to cope (overeating, lack of exercise, lack of sleep...).
And it can make you feel really alone. You start to feel vulnerable, but rather than share about it, you cover it up, questioning your worth and your identity wrapped around your work.
I’m concerned about this problem for myself, my peers, and so many people out there who might feel like this is where they’re at.
So, what can be done about it?
First, if we can get honest with others, we can get honest with ourselves.
So we don't want to be silent about it. Communicating how you’re feeling and being honest will help with the isolation.
So, sharing with people you trust or the people in your circle can help you open up not only to them but also to yourself, which is its own form of accepting that there really is a problem here.
Second, if burnout is caused by our inability to recover… The antidote is to give ourselves time to repair our recovery process.
My experience is that people attempt to do the opposite. Shaming ourselves into being better or numbing ourselves with alcohol, sugar, or other stressors only covers up and pushes us further rather than help us repair.
In the extreme, I had a mentor help me through this one time who said, “Clear your calendar, everything, for the entire week (as much as is possible). No extra meetings, no getting to know you’s, no friendly hangouts. Just clear as much as you can.”
Recover using your "Optional Space."
While we can't all clear our schedules, we can clear out events and areas that are "optional" and commit to having as much free space as possible.
If you can get as much time back in your schedule where nothing is planned, you can give yourself the space for recovery.
The trick here is NOT to fill those spaces once they open up.
Just say to yourself, "I’m going to let all of these open spaces/spots in my week pass without filling them."
After doing this, I started to feel my energy return even after just one or two days.
By not filling the space, needing to with anything I had to do, and simultaneously not giving in too much to bad habits… my body does what it is meant to do... repair itself.
Another thing I learned was that there are a LOT of things that I felt were mandatory that are actually optional. Cleaning out a closet… attending a weekly event I typically attend… all optional. You might refine things at work that aren’t actually that important, giving yourself space.
Ultimately I hope the takeaway here is about being aware of your own recovery and what you need to do that.
Stage two is planned recovery throughout your week so that this burnout doesn’t happen in the first place.
When you keep an eye on the signals, you can get a sense of where your limits are and take appropriate action with more awareness to give yourself that recovery space.
I hope you’ve found some time for yourself this week!
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