Running a business this past year has felt like emotional interval training. While the highs and lows of entrepreneurship can be taxing at the best of times, we are all living through an unprecedented level of strain on both our lives and livelihoods–and it can be exhausting.
The toll associated with the relentless pressure to perform leads many business owners towards burnout—a state of emotional, physical and psychological exhaustion. Unchecked, burnout can leave your health and business vulnerable. Entrepreneurship is a long-game and supporting yourself as a critical asset in your success will make the journey–and the end result, equally rewarding. That means sidestepping burnout at all costs.
Dr. Meghan Walker, a naturopathic doctor and “entrepologist” who runs a seven-figure company focused on the health optimization of entrepreneurs and game changers, as well as the host of the Entrepology Podcast, tells us that the good news is we shouldn’t view burnout as a sign of weakness. Instead, think of it as an onboard thermostat designed to alert your body and brain to slow down or correct course. Beating burnout means supporting the system that is supporting you. Here are four ways Walker suggests we beat burnout.
1. Respect Your Need To Restore
“There was once a time skimping on sleep was viewed with a sense of reverence from colleagues and friends. Those days are gone. In recent years, there has been an overwhelming amount of research showing the loss of creativity, productivity and physiological resilience when we don’t get enough sleep,” says Walker.
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“Restorative functions for the brain, immune system and hormones are critically addressed while we sleep. While aiming for 8-hours might be a good rule of thumb, even more critical is maximizing the later stages of sleep referred to as “deep sleep” (which is what you need to feel refreshed in the morning) and “REM sleep” (which is when most of your dreaming takes place) on a regular basis. I’m all for the Miracle Morning but REM sleep usually happens later in the morning. To get more REM and deep sleep, you need to maximize your hours of rest.
“Type A people, common among us entrepreneurs, often excel at getting up early but struggle with an equal commitment to going to sleep on time. A consistent pre-midnight bedtime, limiting technology and even using a sleep tracker will help maximize restoration,” explains Walker
2. Manage Your Energy Inventory
“Our bodies are designed to handle stress, even for extended periods of time. But, much like an engine, the quality of fuel we consume will speak to our resilience and stamina. When stress systems are activated your need for nutrients increases as well,” explains Walker.
“Coffee, while effective in providing a temporary jolt, is not packed with the vitamins and minerals designed to manage stress long-term. Instead, opt for a nutrient-dense, plant-forward diet: think smoothies, greens drinks or color-rich meals, especially early in the day. They assist in restocking your system with vital cellular ingredients.
“Planning is the key to success here. You can have the best of intentions to eat healthfully or post on Instagram every day, but intentions don’t count in your business or your health,” reminds Walker.
3. Reduce Silent Stressors
“Managing burnout is not just about adding things in, it is often about ensuring that we are mindfully taking things out. Drinking alcohol, sitting for long periods of time and absorbing electromagnetic fields (EMF) are three cumulative stressors that add to the overall burden faced by the body. They drain your energy by increasing cellular demands. Mindfully managing your alcohol consumption and adding a standing desk are easy interventions,” says Walker.
“Reducing the electromagnetic fields produced by computers, your phone and wi-fi are important considerations as well. Diminishing the effects of EMFs can be as simple as leaving your phone outside of your bedroom, turning your wi-fi off at night or placing an EMF pad on your desk. Like with money, limiting the drain from quiet, but unnecessary stress adds to both your resilience and energy overall. It is not the things we do every once in a while, but rather the exposures we experience every day over time that will have the most profound impact on our resilience to burnout.”
4. Connect To Your Purpose
“Having surveyed thousands of our patients about their sense of purpose, I had a striking realization. People who had a sense of purpose were less likely to suffer from lingering chronic disease, experienced less anxiety and dealt with less infection,” observed Walker. “Struck by this observation, I consulted the literature and found that clinicians around the world had observed similar findings. Remarkably, having a sense of purpose does not have to relate to your work, but it does need to be present in your life.
“Based on the influence of purpose on both depression and anxiety, researchers suggest that purpose confers a protective feature against burnout, likely by mitigating the effects of the stress hormone cortisol. Whether your goal is to empower women, help others avoid a chronic illness or make the world a more peaceful place, identify it and fall back on it for strength. Living on and with purpose will not only alleviate burnout, but leave you feeling more fulfilled as well.”