Starting and running a business requires immense dedication, hard work, and sustained effort. The pressure to succeed can be intense, with long hours of hard work needed to achieve success. Figuring out how to stay focused and prevent burnout is required to succeed.
Stress is a part of life; while we may wish to be without it, small amounts are necessary. Deadline stress can improve our mental well-being by heightening alertness and energy levels! However, the mental and body consequences can become debilitating when the effects become prolonged or too significant for us to handle. Therefore it’s important to recognize when your experience with stress has surpassed your ability to cope, ensuring you stay mentally and physically healthy.
I’m a chronic “overstresser” and not very good at finding balance. When I’m feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, it’s easy to focus on what I haven’t been able to complete rather than what I have achieved. Entrepreneurs and people growing businesses have to function in highly charged environments, and it’s very easy to become overwhelmed. They need to learn to thrive under stressful situations instead of stepping back.
I recently listened to an interview with Andrew Huberman about high-performing individuals and how they stay motivated under intense pressure. I became curious about elite performers’ strategies to remain effective and avoid burnout over long periods. What lessons from their experiences could benefit us all in preserving our mental health?
What is Burnout
Burnout is a serious condition that can affect anyone. Entrepreneurs who constantly push themselves to the limit may be particularly susceptible.
It is a state of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion caused by long-term stress or work overload.
Signs of Burnout
Burnout can manifest itself both physically and emotionally. Burnout doesn’t just happen overnight – it builds up gradually over time as you push yourself beyond your limits. If you are experiencing burnout, you may feel tired, unmotivated, overwhelmed, and unable to concentrate.
- Digestion issues
- Frequent illness
- Changes in appetite/trouble sleeping
- Sense of failure or self-doubt
- Decreased satisfaction
- Feeling detached or alone in the world
- Loss of motivation
- Reduced performance in everyday tasks
- Withdrawal or isolation
- Emotional outbursts
- Substance abuse
If you are experiencing burnout and need help, speak to a doctor or a mental health practitioner.
Stress and Burnout
Stress differs from burnout in that it is a temporary state, typically brought on by a specific event or deadline. Conversely, burnout is an extended and intense response to stress over time.
Causes of Burnout
Burnout can stem from various sources, but it usually occurs when someone feels overwhelmed and unable to cope with their work or life demands. The following is a list of common causes:
- Lack of control over your work
- Overly demanding job expectations
- A high-pressure work environment
- Overwork with no socialization or relaxation
- Lack of sleep
Stages of Burnout
Drawing on their expertise in psychology, Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North identified the following phases of burnout:
- Excessive Drive/Ambition: The desire to keep working harder, faster, and better to one’s own detriment.
- Pushing Beyond Your Limit: Ambition makes you work beyond your limit.
- Neglecting Self-Care: You sacrifice self-care like sleep, exercise, and eating well.
- Displacement Blame: Instead of recognizing that you are pushing yourself too hard, you place blame on your boss, work, or coworkers.
- Neglect Non-Work Needs: As your values shift, everything else in life takes a backseat to work. Relationships, pastimes, and other interests become secondary.
- Denial: Your frustration with those around you increases, yet instead of taking ownership for your actions, you point the finger at others and perceive them as inept, sluggish, and oppressive.
- Withdrawal: Disconnecting from loved ones and feeling aimless becomes increasingly common. Social events such as parties, movies, and dates begin to feel like a chore rather than enjoyable.
- Behavioral Changes: As people move closer to burnout, they become more short-tempered and may inexplicably snap at the ones they love.
- Depersonalization: You feel alienated from your life and lack of power to manage the course of it.
- Inner Emptiness: When faced with an anxious or hollow feeling, some may turn to risky habits such as abusing drugs, gambling excessively, or binging on food to cope.
- Depression: Life loses meaning, and you begin to feel hopeless.
- Mental or physical collapse: Seeking mental health treatment or medical help may be required.
How To Stay Focused And Prevent Burnout
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Recognizing the early warning signs of burnout is essential before reaching a breaking point.
According to Andrew Huberman of Huberman Labs, the key to maintaining high levels of motivation is mastering the balance between adrenaline/epinephrine and dopamine. These two systems are your stress and reward systems. When managed well, they can offset each other, keeping you in balance and allowing you to achieve high-performance levels and avoid burnout.
Epinephrine acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain and plays a vital role in our flight or fight response, driving action through stress and agitation. Too much epinephrine, however, can lead to overstress and negative mindsets.
Dopamine is responsible for allowing you to feel pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation. It counters the effects of stress by creating a feeling of reward and motivation. Dopamine is released when you achieve a goal or have success. When balanced, you can sustain high levels of performance without burning out.
Elite performers manage the epinephrine dopamine balance by setting specific micro goals reinforcing a sense of achievement. They aim for small objectives and reward themselves when they hit milestones. The goals must be:
- Stepping stones toward a larger goal
The ability to control your internal reward schedule is the key to avoiding burnout. Every micro goal achieved releases dopamine and replenishes your ability to deal with stress. You are moving forward and rewarding yourself emotionally. You get joy from growing and improving while motivating yourself to take the next step.
Recovering From Burnout
Sometimes it’s too late to avoid burnout. Taking time to recover from burnout by reducing stress is essential. Allow yourself to slow down and relax; your mental health and productivity depend on it. Take the time to assess your work and personal life. Identify sources of chronic stress and consider implementing stress management techniques. If you are experiencing physical exhaustion, get enough quality sleep and take regular breaks during the day.
- Consider seeking support from friends, colleagues, or community groups to help you cope with difficulties.
- Find value, meaning, and balance in your work or home life by changing how you perceive them.
- Take time off or regular breaks throughout the day to reassess your priorities.
- Engage in creative activities to nourish your mind and enhance your well-being.
- Prioritize physical activity to improve your mood and energy levels.
- Maintaining a healthy diet and improving sleep quality support your body’s health.
Recognizing signs of overstress and setting specific micro goals to manage the epinephrine dopamine balance better is essential. Personally, I have found the simple act of reviewing the successes (no matter how minor) I have achieved at the end of the day makes a huge difference in how I feel. Combining that with regular physical activity, a healthy diet, and plenty of quality rest, you can thrive in stressful situations. Ultimately taking control of these internal reward schedules is critical to avoid burnout and learning how to thrive in long-term stressful situations.