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Mental burnout, unfortunately, compliments entrepreneurism. There’s no denying this sentiment, but I’ve discovered three proven practices that continuously help bypass much of that mental exhaustion.
The practices — rooted in physical health maintenance, meditation practices and mandatory downtime — take minimum effort or time. These insights will help keep you energized in your entrepreneurial journey without burning out — something I experienced multiple times throughout my ongoing entrepreneurial journey and promised myself that burning out would never happen again.
Related: 3 Insights From the First Large-Scale Study on Burnout and Entrepreneurs
Identifying and checking for mental burnout
According to the nonprofit HelpGuide.org, mental burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress. I’ve recognized the following multiple times while leading my agency and productivity consulting practice:
- Feeling overwhelmed or emotionally drained
- Lack of motivation
- Insomnia or excessive sleep
- Loss of interest in once enjoyable activities
- Decreased productivity at work or school
- Increased anxiety or depression
These factors can quickly creep in without you noticing it. Author and lecturer Chris Bailey helps us better understand this. In his latest release, How to Calm Your Mind, the productivity hacker says understanding and being aware of the six burnout factors within our work life can help us overcome it.
The six factors are:
- Workload (How demanding the workload is)
- Lack of control (How much autonomy, resources and freedom over workload)
- Insufficient rewards (Financial, social or intrinsic)
- Community (Quality of work relationships and interactions)
- Fairness (Treated respectfully)
- Values (Does the work have a sense of purpose aligned with values?)
Bailey says to set reoccurring calendar events to check in on yourself to create awareness around the six factors. He says he checks every six months; I have bi-monthly calendar alerts set now to check on these six factors. It’s shocking how much they pop up, although I’m aware of them.
With that said, it’s essential to recognize when you are starting to feel burned out so that you can take steps to prevent it from getting worse. Mental burnout can be difficult to identify, but recognizing the signs early on is key in developing strategies for battling it.
For new entrepreneurs, the following tactics can be eye-opening, regardless of how simple each sound. And for seasoned entrepreneurs, it’s always good to get back to these basics. For example, I recently acquired an entrepreneurial assessment software company and quickly lost myself, forgetting many of these basics.
Related: An Entrepreneur’s Greatest Asset Is Wellness. Here Are 5 Ways to Protect Yours.
1. Prioritize energy
Although many slog through work and become successful, the efforts take more time and longer-term health suffers. This leads to mental burnout. Focus on creating sustainable energy through proper diet, exercise and sleep, and you’ll be able to focus not only sharper but also longer.
After nearly two decades of biohacking and testing various diets, I mostly follow Dr. Gundry’s diet laid out in Breaking the Keto Code. Still, I tend to rely on more supplements and longer periods of fasting. Exercises include only two strength-training resistance workouts weekly, along with much walking/hiking, stationary biking, off-road motorcycling and bouncing daily on a mini trampoline in my office.
As for sleep, I learned to regulate my sleeping patterns and use Circadian Optics lighting every morning when I wake up to start the day off through reading, writing or meditating. I hack my sleep in various ways, but my favorite includes a proper cocktail of magnesium, zinc, potassium, GABA, ashwagandha and Kava, along with no food or alcohol at least three hours before snooze time. So test, tune and find what works for you.
2. Practice meditation and mindfulness daily
Although the benefits are proven, and it’s well-known across the world of entrepreneurism, many still don’t meditate. It’s a mindset that one must discover, and once discovered, the benefits of relaxed and focused thinking help you produce more quality work in less time.
I treat meditation like brushing my teeth; it’s just part of life now. It helps clear the mind and provides some insight into any problems causing stress. I’m a huge fan of Vishen Lakhiani’s 6-Phase Meditation Method, which works wonders in roughly 20 minutes per day and doesn’t require traditional methods like sitting in the lotus position or clearing the mind of any thought. Want to make it even more rewarding? Compliment the meditation with a FAR Infrared sauna blanket. I typically do the 20-minute 6-Phase, followed by another 20 minutes of the sauna while listening to theta or delta wave sounds.
Meditation and mindfulness techniques can clear your mind from negative thoughts and allow you to focus on the present moment instead of worrying about what’s ahead or what’s happened in the past. The outcome is less stress and a fresh look at everything. Others are 5 a.m. Club workoutaholics, but I have more energy and focus on meditation.
This will help relieve stress levels significantly and enable you to approach work with more clarity and purposeful action steps.
Related: How Mindfulness Can Take Your Entrepreneurship to the Next Level
3. Enforce downtime for mental relaxation and productivity
Scheduling regular breaks throughout the day allows for some time away from work, giving your brain a chance to relax before returning to full focus. My threshold for deep, focused work is about 1.5 hours straight; then I can feel my mind slowing. That’s when I take a break for an analog activity, sometimes a mere 10 minutes of reading something drastically different from what I’m working on or challenging myself for 20 minutes with jazz guitar lessons.
Working nonstop without any breaks will eventually lead to feeling overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done within a certain period. On my deepest workdays, such as writing or creating client strategies, I break for an hour, typically around noon, to take a bath. This supercharges like no other.
My office is a rented lake house, which makes day baths simple. If you work in a traditional office building, try working from home on the days you need the most focus and spend some time soaking. All my greatest client strategies and business/investment ideas manifested while soaking.
It is vital not only to take short breaks daily, but also to schedule mandatory downtime away from work. For example, I totally shut off every Wednesday after 5 p.m. and one entire day on the weekend. That means zero emails, computers, answering calls or anything related. This helps avoid burnout.
Mental burnout can be a difficult obstacle to overcome, but with the optimal tactics, such as the simple ones above, you can learn how to battle it. By taking time for sustaining energy through physical health, meditation and mandatory downtime, You can become a better you and have time to focus not just on the day-to-day work duties but on ideas that will change the world — a mission that should be the sharpest focus for every entrepreneur.