How Small Business Owners Can Tackle Burnout

This post may contain affiliate links and I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase using these links – at no extra cost for you. Please read my disclaimer here.

Burnout is a very real - and very serious - threat for small business owners. When you first start your company, you’re filled with excitement, enthusiasm, and energy.

However, as time goes on, it’s easy to become accustomed to that high-stress environment, failing to realise when your mind and body need a break.

As a result, you’re left burnt out, affecting you not only physically (by draining your energy and inducing illness), but also psychologically.

An unhealthy mental state can jeopardise your decision-making skills, self-esteem, attention span, and ability to work and communicate effectively with others - all the elements that enable you to run a successful business.

But when the job is so demanding, what can small business owners do to prevent and heal from burnout?

The UK’s leading company formation agent, 1st Formations, explores remedies and techniques in this article.

Find the root cause

We often assume that burnout comes from being overworked, but that’s not always the case.

Burnout is caused by excessive stress and pressure, which can result from a wide range of other factors such as the following.

Find the root cause

Personal relationships

Our personal relationships, for example, have a huge impact on our work, confidence, energy, happiness, and overall well-being.

If a difficult relationship with a friend or loved one is contributing to your burnout, it’s essential to address those issues, maybe by having an open and honest conversation with them or introducing a mediator.

Isolation

If you’re a new business owner working from home, you could be dealing with isolation.

You might find it helpful to spend more time with loved ones, attend networking events, do charitable work, or even spend the occasional day working from your local coffee shop just to get a change of scenery and social interaction.

Financial stress

Money worries are also a very common issue among business owners. It could be that:

  • You’re not taking a salary

  • You’re struggling to raise capital

  • You have a debt to repay

  • You have unpaid invoices from customers

  • The cost-of-living crisis has affected your personal welfare

There’s a multitude of financial reasons eroding the mental health of entrepreneurs. If you’re experiencing burnout from money troubles, try a budget-planning technique, get debt advice, or find out if you’re eligible for any government benefits that could help alleviate the pressure.

These are just a few possible examples of why you could be feeling burnt out - it’s not always your working arrangements. So, to tackle burnout, it’s important to understand its root cause and find a suitable solution.

Be active

A simple and effective way to tackle burnout is to be active. As a business owner, it can be difficult to find the time for this, especially if your company is new and your job entails everything from the CEO to the customer service representative.

However, something as simple as stepping out of the office for a 10-minute walk can make a huge difference in reducing your chances of burnout.

You can even make that a quick run or cycle if you prefer. It doesn’t have to be anything intense, the aim is to get some fresh air, a bit of exercise, and let your mind recharge.

If you particularly struggle with switching off, try leaving your phone so that you don’t get distracted by calls or emails.

Take this short time to truly disconnect and give your mind a rest - you’ll be surprised just how powerful the psychological benefits of regular movement and being outdoors can be.

Be active

In fact, the NHS advises that physical activity improves our mood. It’s a natural way to release dopamine (the happy hormone), which helps reduce stress and anxiety, and even improves our quality of sleep.

Furthermore, you should be active regularly. It doesn’t have to be every day - even once or twice a week is beneficial if you keep it up.

Find a physical activity and frequency that works for you and your schedule and stick to it to help keep burnout at bay.

Practice mindfulness

Some people simply don’t enjoy exercise. If that’s you, you could try mindfulness techniques instead.

For example, meditation is an excellent stress management technique, helping to calm your mind and minimise burnout.

Meditation isn’t just crossing your legs and connecting your index fingers to your thumbs.

It’s truly clearing your mind, paying attention to your breathing, and connecting with your thoughts and emotions.

The purpose is simply to relax; take a breather from the fast-paced, stressful things in your life and return to work with an optimistic and patient frame of mind.

If you’re completely new to meditating, there are plenty of apps (like Headspace and Calm) you can try to help you understand what it is and how to do it.

Alternatively, you could try stretching or yoga sessions. These are also terrific ways to switch off and unwind.

If you work from home, find a little bit of room, lay a mat down, and find a YouTube video to follow if you need some inspiration or guidance. Or if you have a gym membership, check if there are yoga classes you can join.

Like exercising, mindfulness doesn’t have to be time-consuming - find a rhythm that works for your lifestyle.

Once it becomes part of your regular routine, mindfulness can help prevent burnout before it starts.

Get enough sleep

To reduce and prevent burnout, it’s essential to get enough good-quality sleep. There’s a direct relationship between sleep and burnout - it affects our mood, personality, and lifestyle if we don’t get enough of it or if we have an irregular sleeping pattern.

To name just a few examples, our sleep quality determines our energy levels, our attention span, our judgment, and our productivity.

While you’re probably experiencing early mornings and late nights as a business owner, remember that sleep is your mind’s (and body’s) recovery mode, so you should prioritise getting 7-9 hours of it every night, according to the NHS.

If this is unattainable, try carving some time out during the day for a short physical activity or a mindfulness exercise (as explained earlier) to give your mind another chance to recuperate properly.

Share the load

If you’re experiencing burnout or feel that you’re at risk of it, chances are that you have far too much on your plate, which is to be expected when running a business.

If your company is a little more established with a team of employees, it could be time to delegate and ask your colleagues for help.

Share the load

Maybe you’re losing track of your calendar and are struggling to schedule new appointments, ask a PA, receptionist, or another suitable staff member to help you arrange them.

Or maybe you have content to proofread on a tight deadline - why not ask someone with an eye for detail and grammar to take care of it?

Budget-permitting, you could also outsource some of these roles (even temporarily) or hire new employees to take them on, giving you more room to breathe and focus on other key areas of your business.

Not only that but delegating some of your tasks can significantly help improve your work-life balance, freeing you up to have dinner with the family or leave the office for a lunchtime walk.

It can be tempting to do everything yourself. Naturally, as it’s your business, you’ll want to be in control, but remember that we’re all human and we all have our limits.

If you ignore them, it’ll eventually lead to burnout. So, when you feel like you’re drowning in never-ending to-do lists, simply ask for help.

Set your boundaries

When we take on too many responsibilities, that’s when stress starts to build up, and that can eventually lead to burnout.

If you don’t have the manpower to delegate tasks to or the budget to take on extra staff, try setting boundaries for yourself.

In the morning, write a list of everything you need to do that day. Then, arrange those tasks in terms of priority - what do you absolutely have to tick off the list and what can wait?

During this exercise, be honest and realistic with yourself, focusing on the essential, achievable jobs of the day and returning to the others tomorrow. 

This will be your ‘master’ to-do list, at the end of which you know you’ve reached your boundary.

While you plan your daily tasks though, remember to factor in breaks, potential interruptions, and any personal commitments you might have.

For instance, if you have dinner plans with friends at 7pm, organise your daily duties in a way that allows you to finish on time without jeopardising your social life (that’s essential switching-off time, too).

As much as you want to get everything done in a day, it’s simply unattainable. Completing every single job might sound doable in theory, but in practice, you’re left burnt out by leftover tasks you couldn’t get around to.

So, try setting realistic limits for yourself every day. This can help foster a sense of achievement, positivity, and control, thus reducing burnout.

Seek professional help

If you’ve tried everything and you’re still struggling with burnout, consider speaking to a professional. A qualified therapist or counsellor could help you understand why you’re burnt out and provide useful tools, strategies, and personalised recommendations that you may not have thought of before.

Summary

Of course, this doesn’t have to be your last resort, and you don’t have to be severely burnt out (or at all) to take up counselling. If you prefer, this can be your first port of call.

Summary

Burnout among entrepreneurs is more common than you might think. After all, starting your own business can be stressful.

But if you’re feeling burnt out, it may not necessarily be caused by work; it could stem from personal life or a combination of reasons. To tackle burnout, find the root cause first. Then, consider the advice in this article.

About the author 

Peter Keszegh

Most people write this part in the third person but I won't. You're at the right place if you want to start or grow your online business. When I'm not busy scaling up my own or other people' businesses, you'll find me trying out new things and discovering new places. Connect with me on Facebook, just let me know how I can help.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}