Stories of over-stressed, burned-out business owners are not tough to find. You probably know one, have worked with one, are married to one…or maybe you are one.
What is Burnout?
There aren’t any hard and fast clinical answers for “what is burnout,” but most sources tend to describe it as a combination of chronic exhaustion and diminished interest in matters and responsibilities that used to be high priorities.
There are dozens of causes of work-related burnout. These include:
- Lack of support / feelings of isolation. Do you constantly feel cutoff from your peers, or just plain alone? Playing the Lone Ranger or Dirty Harry might be cool in the movies but, in the real world, regular feelings of isolation are almost guaranteed to produce stress.
- Lack of control. If you can’t influence factors that impact your company’s performance, you’re bound to eventually burnout from the frustration and disappointment that feeling of helplessness can bring.
- Lack of stimulation. Boredom leads to stress. If your day-to-day office activities become too predictable and if you genuinely feel you aren’t making a difference, stress is almost certain to follow.
- Lack of life balance. If running your company takes so much time and energy that you end up neglecting your family and friends, eventual burnout is almost guaranteed.
Left unchecked, executive burnout can lead to alienation from friends and family, problems at work, substance abuse, and long-term physical and mental health problems.
What to do about Executive Stress and Burnout
If symptoms of burnout are impacting your general well-being and hurting your productivity, there are steps you can take to get back on track. Professional help is always an option, of course, but certain actions you can implement on your own have proven to be effective.
It’s lonely at the top. Having a sympathetic ear where you can complain, question, admit your fears, rant and just plain vent without worrying about another’s judgment can be very therapeutic. What’s the expression? A problem shared is a problem halved.
Finding the right sounding board can be fairly easy or really tough. You may have someone in mind already. A spouse is ideal, as is a sibling, close friend, or former teacher or other educator who has earned your respect.
While fighting World War II, Winston Churchill’s relationship with his wife, Clementine, took on a special significance. She was said to be level-headed, wise, and politically savvy. And who knows? She may have even been instrumental in defeating the Nazis.
You need to find your Clementine.
Tip: As an alternative, an informal, professional networking or discussion group can provide positive feedback and assurance that you’re not the only one experiencing challenges in your professional life. You’ll have to be careful about disclosing too much regarding specific office situations or personalities, but the opportunity to interact with like-minded peers can be invaluable.
Get Some Exercise
You knew this was coming. The benefits of regular exercise – both physical and mental – are well documented.Scheduled exercise can improve your mood, stabilize your blood pressure, enhance your sex life, control your weight, and raise your energy level.
A daily workout is best, but even 30 minutes, four times a week can provide significant benefits.
But here’s the key: Try to make it fun! If hour-long sessions in the weight room or 45-minute runs on a treadmill are your idea of a great workout, then more power to you. But for most of us, the odds of staying with a long-term exercise program increase if it’s something that’s genuinely enjoyed. Tennis, cycling, swimming, and even brisk walking are popular options.
And when it comes to exercise, it’s okay to be trendy! Following a fad is generally looked down upon, but, when it comes to exercise, there’s nothing wrong with following the pack. Think about it – racquetball, Tae Bo, rollerblading, spin classes, and dance aerobics aren’t as popular as they used to be…but so what? It was fun while it lasted and the people who caught those particular waves benefited greatly from participating.
So what’s trending right now? Well, Zumba, kettle bell training, hot yoga, P90X and other home fitness programs, and “Tough Mudder” type obstacle course/distance runs seem to be all the rage. So come on! There’s plenty of room on the bandwagon.
Of course, be sure to check with your doctor before starting any sort of strenuous exercise program, especially if you’re over 40, or if you’re coming off a long lay-off from exercise
Tip: If you can do it without taking the fun out of your program (see above), it’s a good idea to keep track of how often you’re exercising. Most things that are tracked or measured tend to improve over time. Even just seeing the check-marks on a calendar noting the days you’ve exercised can be very motivating.
Your faith and belief system is really no one’s business but yours, and should be kept as private as you need it to be. But don’t ignore it as a possible tool for handling executive stress and burnout.
Whether you opt for a traditional, organized religious services or a personal, private form of meditation or devotion, you’re likely to leave the experience feeling renewed and better prepared to face your work-related challenges.
But perhaps ironically, the biggest benefit in terms of handling stress is that adding a spiritual component to your life can actually help you take your focus off yourself, at least temporarily. That by itself can bring a fresh outlook and new perspective to old problems.
Enough said. Except that you shouldn’t let your prejudices or old notions keep you from at least giving it a try. Most modern places of worship – whatever the underlying beliefs – tend to be heavy on personal development and spiritual fulfillment, and light on guilt trips.
Get a Hobby
Hobbies are great escapes from the work grind. If you truly enjoy a certain activity, the anti-stress benefits just naturally follow. And an engaging hobby can stimulate creativity in ways that your office duties normally can’t. Some hobbies have even been shown to improve memory and problem-solving skills.
Just make sure it’s very different from what you do all day, and don’t be afraid to try something new. Malcolm Forbes learned to ride a motorcycle in his sixties. Rocker Alice Cooper plays golf, and even claims it helped him beat alcoholism. (He regularly shoots in the 70s, too.) Actor Liam Neeson enjoys fly fishing.
And hobbies don’t have to be solo activities. An afternoon of antique hunting with your spouse or an evening spent tinkering with a V8 engine in the company of some friends can help clear your head, and make for some great memories.
Get Some Help
The possibility of getting professional guidance was mentioned earlier. If you think you might need this type of assistance, there’s probably a good chance that you do.
Services are completely discrete, and you can get a confidential referral from your personal physician or your health insurance provider. You may not get 100% coverage, but most plans offer significant financial help.
If your company’s cash flow management concerns are a source of stress, consider an invoice factoring program with MP Star Financial. Call for more information. (800) 833-3765, extension 150.