Business Owner Burnout – what is it, and what can you do about it?

Being a small business owner can be incredibly rewarding but it can also be incredibly challenging. We’re all at risk of burnout in today’s hectic society but as a small business owner that risk can be even greater. When you’re juggling multiple tasks at once and feeling under pressure to succeed – it can be easy to become overwhelmed and burned out both in your business and in your personal life.

Burnout is a state of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion caused by prolonged or chronic stress and it is becoming increasingly common among small business owners. You might have feelings of energy depletion rather than just tiredness, making it difficult to enjoy your personal life and spending time with your friends and family. Business Owner Burnout – what is it, and what can you do about it? - Picture of stick man with battery on his back at 1%

In this blog, we will explore what burnout is, why it’s so common among small business owners and some of the signs and symptoms of burnout that you should look out for.

The Causes of Business Owner Burnout

There are several factors that can contribute to burnout but two of the most common are working too hard and not taking enough time for yourself. As a small business owner, you are likely doing most of the work yourself, which can lead to overworking and not taking breaks when you need to. It can be hard to take a step back and delegate tasks to others when you’re already feeling stretched to your limits.

Some of the common causes of burnout in small business owners are:

  • Working long hours
  • Putting pressure on yourself to succeed, or deliver perfect products or services
  • Lack of support
  • Unclear goals – you keep working because you’re never sure what the finish line looks like
  • Poor stress management
  • Too much multi-tasking – trying to do everything at once!

When we work as employees and we’re having a hard time with our role, we can speak to a manager or HR and seek help. That might be time off work, counselling, or delegating some work to other staff members for a while but as small business owners we can’t do that. It almost feels like you’re constantly running on a hamster wheel and if you stop for just a second, everything will come grinding to a halt and your business will fail.

If that feels familiar to you, you may be experiencing burnout.

What Does Business Burnout Feel Like?

When experiencing burnout, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and exhausted. You may also lose motivation, have difficulty concentrating and be irritable with your family, friends and even your customers. If these feelings persist and don’t seem to improve, you may be experiencing burnout.

Some of the warning signs and symptoms that might mean you’re in burnout include:

  • Lost motivation – difficulty starting or finishing tasks
  • Decreased productivity – taking longer to complete tasks
  • Physical exhaustion – you feel physically exhausted and may even experience headaches, muscle aches and tension and stomach upsets
  • Mental fog – you might find it difficult to concentrate, feeling overwhelmed and getting distracted easily
  • Emotional exhaustion – anxiety, depression or other mental health issues
  • Increased irritability – at yourself and others
  • Changes to your sleep – you might be not sleeping at all, or sleeping too much
  • Changes to your appetite – under or overeating, or eating lots of sugary snacks

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or feelings of burnout, you should speak to your GP for a diagnosis and a plan to get you back to where you want to be. But there are some non-medical strategies you can use to help prevent burnout and steer you through to the other side if you are currently in its thrall.

Ways to Help Combat Small Business Burnout

Burnout in business owners is a serious issue but with the right strategies, you can combat it. Take the time to make sure that you are taking care of yourself and your business and you’ll be well on your way to achieving success. Here are a few things you can try to combat burnout and keep on top of your business:

Set boundaries with yourself, and with your clients

It can be difficult to set boundaries when you’re trying to please your clients by delivering good customer service, so you might find yourself replying to late-night emails or even taking calls at the weekend.

But it’s so important to get that work-life balance right, so you need to set working hours that suit you and stick to them! Add an email signature with the hours you work and when you’ll respond so your clients know they won’t get an immediate reply.

Take time for yourself

It’s so important that you switch off from work during your non-working hours, so schedule time for yourself. Find ways to distract yourself from work issues and make sure that you’re doing activities that will help you to recharge and feel motivated.

Some business owners will make an appointment with themselves at the same time each week just to ensure they are taking a decent break. You show up for your clients, so why not show up for yourself with the same level of care and attention?

Take care of your physical health

As burnout can take its toll on your physical health, it’s important that you eat well, exercise regularly and get enough sleep every night. Joining a yoga class and cold-water swimming have really benefitted my physical and mental health over the past few years and they give me that much-needed ‘me time’ too.

Reach out for help

It can be so difficult to ask for help when you’re a business owner because you feel responsible for everything but that doesn’t mean you should be doing everything. Whether it’s outsourcing the tasks you hate or asking for advice on something you’re not sure about; reaching out for help is vital in helping you to shed some of that stress and stop those feelings of anxiety and overwhelm from affecting your everyday life.

As a small business owner, it is important to recognise the signs of burnout and take steps to prevent it before it takes over. Burnout can cause serious physical, mental and emotional exhaustion and have a significant impact on your business.

Taking regular breaks and delegating tasks to others can help to prevent burnout and make running a small business more enjoyable and rewarding. Remember, it is okay to take care of yourself and prioritise your own health and well-being. With the right balance of hard work and self-care, you can be successful in running a small business.

Take the time to take care of yourself and don’t forget to enjoy the rewards of being a small business owner!