According to Merriam-Webster, burnout is exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.
It's not new. It's been around for years, but usually dismissed with a dose of shame that burnout occurs amongst the weak. Now that it has spread through all parts of our culture however, the topic is being recognized as a threat not only to the health and well-being of individuals but also to the continued success of business and other organizations.
According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, burnout is really an organizational issue, and is not simply the result of a deficiency in self-care. The interventions to address it are more complex, and require strategies beyond the commonly prescribed “get more exercise” or “get better sleep.”
Recognizing whether you’re experiencing burnout can provide insight into your own work experience. Understanding this condition can also help you advocate for organizational change designed to support the well-being of your colleagues and your organizational culture as a whole.
This is also true if you are in business for yourself.
If you're in a position of leadership at an organization and you want to create this great culture, and your health is in dire straits, that's a huge gap. The same is true in your own business... AND dare I say, in your life.
The most important element to notice here is that if you're exhausted, it is not just the organization's responsibility. Nor can you, as an entrepreneur, simply blame your exhaustion on the fact that you are an entrepreneur. (I say that very lovingly as this is when I experienced burnout.)
Burnout arises from imbalances of energy. You put out a ton of energy to produce, and you're not experiencing the value of results in return, whether financial or perhaps recognition for the work you're doing. And many more. The causes of imbalance are many, but when it occurs the quality of life begins to decrease. Disengagement increases. Meaningful contribution is diminished. While we can take on a pretty good amount of stress for a while, there is a point where you just crash.
And the truth is, before that happens you might be missing the warning signs.
So where do we go from here?
The good news is that when you recognize these gaps, embrace them and make correcting them a priority, you begin to create and tap into your own much higher power. It's like pitching a sail that captures the power that was already there. This catalyzes a chain reaction of forward movement of other potentials in your life.
I firmly believe that we are being called forth to redefine success, and we are at a time where doing so empowers all of us who step forward to participate. We're not out to do less, give less, produce less. Rather, we are at a crossroads where we can simply define the healthy boundaries that give us more vitality, more joy, and more connection such that we can amplify what we contribute to our business, organizations and clients without depletion.
Arianna Huffington states that "We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine success, and along with it, the way we work and live.”
For us women, this actually requires some mindful shifts, which can feel counter-intuitive.
When we experience burnout, the first shift is to let go of control. Stop having to control everything. This can be really scary for high-achievers... and yet, it is the only way that we can step back, breathe, and pause long enough to receive wisdom about what's next. The body is speaking louder than the mind, and it is time to listen.
The second shift is to break through our own inner glass ceiling. There is an identity piece that holds us back, and is invisible to us. No matter what external steps you take to make it better, the invisible barrier will stop you again and again along the way until you see it and break through it. This can actually happen fairly quickly but not until you see it.
The third shift is to learn to lead from within. We learn to navigate from an internal guidance system. Arianna Huffington shares yet another powerful point which is that "You will never lack external guideposts for success. What you must develop as you climb the ladder are your own internal guideposts." In a world where we have been taught and have succeeded by being mostly outer-directed rather than inner-guided, it is time to allow both to serve and support you.
The fourth shift is to expand your field of support for playing a bigger game. This will look different for each person, and you cannot get to what this looks like for you by trying to figure it out from your mind. You must go through the first three shifts to be able to accomplish this fourth one.
AND finally, the fifth step is to ensure that you are able to realize your potential beyond the burnout... the shift is to give up wishing, to give up hoping, to give up waiting, to give up strategizing that you can drag it with you just a little bit longer... and then things will be better. One of the biggest mistakes we make is refusing our potential over the idea that the current condition is meant to be. Women who Go For the Gold in their business, their career, and their lives writ large... make a commitment. They reach for unprecedented support. They have a mentor. They work with a coach.
If this is you, I invite you into a whole new level of conversation. What is available on the other side is beyond your wildest dreams.
Connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and learn more about how you can unleash your next-level potential, catalyze your growth, and win without burnout!
Françoise Everett, MS is a facilitator, feminine leadership coach, author, speaker and lifestyle business owner. She works and supports women entrepreneurs and women who hold leadership positions by unlocking their inner wisdom, feminine power, and hidden richness.