I started running my own business in 2003. To put this into some kind of perspective, Tony Blair was the Prime Minister of the UK, the Iraq war was at its height and the most popular phones were Nokias and Blackberries. If it seems like a long time ago, it’s because it was!
My point here is I’ve been in this game for a long time now. I’ve done a lot, seen even more, and learnt some hard lessons along the way. And in this time I’ve seen plenty of people burnout – myself included. From colleagues through to my peers, I’ve seen people go too hard for too long and eventually it all catches up with them.
I’ve spoke openly about my own experience of this, how it affected me, and the different steps I took to make a change in my own life (you can read more about my story here). If, like me, you throw yourself completely, heart and soul into the work you do, you’ll know as well as I do how hard it is to switch off. Even though I’ve made big changes to my life and lifestyle, it doesn’t mean it’s easy and it’s something I have to consciously and proactively work at.
As a result, I find myself constantly reinforcing good and healthy habits. I also know there’s countless people out there who are struggling with a similar situation to the one I faced a few years ago. And I know from first-hand experience how difficult it can be to not just ask for help, but to identify you might need some support in the first place.
It’s very easy for people preach about health and wellbeing. They’ll tell you to turn off your phone, meditate, become a vegan, do yoga twice a day, practice mindfulness, do 100 press ups before breakfast, only drink water, and listen to a self-help podcast each morning.
Sure, some of these are great to do but trying to do all of them, all of the time, can heap even more stress and pressure onto us because we feel we ‘should’ be doing them. In reality, it’s incredibly impractical for busy people who run their own business or work for themselves to be able to do this.
However, there’s a number of things I’ve found which do make a big difference to my personal and professional life. They might not all be for you, but here’s my tips for avoiding burnout and finding balance…
Take a break
Trust me, this is advice that works. If you want to be your best and want to avoid burnout, you have to take regular breaks. This was something I didn’t really do before and when I did, it was last minute and I was staring down the barrel of burnout. Planning them has given me achievable goals and something to look forward to. There’s a lot to be said for taking a break before you need it, not when it’s too late. If you can take a break, turn your phone off and shut out the world, even better. I know for some of you out there you’ll feel you can’t do this, and that’s ok too, but please make sure you make time for a break to help you recharge and return rejuvenated. The world keeps spinning without you, believe me!
Spend time with people who make you smile
This one’s a no brainer. Time is precious. Don’t waste it on people who aren’t deserving of yours. Spend time with those people who make you laugh without a care in the world, who make you smile, and who fill you up with joy.
Summer is here (finally!) so make the most of it and get outside. Study after study shows the benefits we get from spending time in the great outdoors. Whether it’s strolling around a park or hiking a coast path, if you have the opportunity to get outside, feel the sun on your skin and the wind on your back, then grasp it with both hands.
Step outside your comfort zone
Never lose the ability to surprise yourself. Doing things that scare you or take you outside your comfort zone will be some of the most rewarding things you can do. Ask yourself the question of when you last did this, and if it’s something that was a long time ago, then do something this summer that takes you beyond your boundaries.
Don’t take yourself (or others) too seriously
Being successful is a wonderful feeling, especially when you know it’s a lot of your own hard work and solid graft that’s taken you to the position you’re in now. But don’t let that success go to your head and don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking the work we do is terribly important when the reality (unless you’re a brain surgeon or emergency responder) is there’s often far more important things happening all around us.
Say goodbye to the ‘shoulds’
In our social media age there’s always a high risk of beating ourselves up with all the things we think we ‘should’ be doing because we see our peers and network doing them. It’s nonsense. Do the things that make you happy and don’t let yourself be defined by what you think you should be doing.
For me, planning regular exercise; eating healthier by thinking ahead, instead of grabbing unhealthy food-on-the-run; seizing the moment, by stopping to appreciate the sunset; or taking that hour out to have a walk or a couple of beers with a friend, has been amazing at keeping things in perspective and reducing my stress and anxiety to manageable levels. I hope some of this advice helps you do the same.