We've all had periods in our life and in our business where things just feel kind of stagnant or energetically stuck. You're exhausted, you're overwhelmed, and you really don't have the energy to come up with a solution, let alone, tap into the wisdom of your intuition. When you’re exhausted, it’s hard to reconnect with your bigger purpose for why you're starting a business in the first place, or why you're showing up every day to the office and your job. And that exhaustion can lead to burnout.
Burnout isn't just a phase, it's actually a physiological process that happens in our body where we literally get stuck in a loop. This loop keeps our nervous system on fight or flight, which dims our light and doesn't allow us to show up as healthy individuals or as business owners.
This blog post is inspired by the conversation I had with Sunn Mixon, a certified functional medicine health coach, a master Reiki practitioner, and a holistic herbalist. She helps impact-driven business owners get unstuck, escape the overwhelm and burnout cycle and create a resilient self and business of freedom.
We'll talk about what burnout is and explore some ways to beat business burnout and re-energize yourself and your business!
Prefer to listen to this on the podcast? Click here to listen to the podcast episode.
What causes burnout, exhaustion, and overwhelm in business?
As business owners, we tend to believe that if we keep hustling we will reach a point of freedom, relaxation, and ease within our businesses. In reality, we may be facing burnout without even realizing it.
Our focus is often on the mind, believing it is only a mental issue. We use our mindset techniques or enjoy a vacation for a change of perspective. But after that, we find ourselves back in that survival state, and the burnout cycle never ends.
Getting out of the stress-cycle requires us to look at the whole picture of what is causing our stress and holistically treat the root causes. It’s so important to address stress because if our bodies aren’t healthy, our business won’t be either.
There are so many of my clients who are in that space where they think that if they work hard enough, eventually they'll be able to relax and enjoy their business. Of course, you have to work hard at the beginning of your business, you will need to put in some work. But if you are hustling, and you're working 12 hour days, and you are pouring your blood, sweat, and soul into your business, then there's not going to really be that point, because you're going to always feel like you have to keep up with what you've been doing. And honestly, you're also training your nervous system, to always be at that point of being on guard of stress and hustle, and you're never gonna feel that ease and that freedom that you're really wanting. - Lexie Sparrow
What is Burnout?
Burnout is a state of survival for your body. Your body can handle periods of high stress or repetitive high stress, but only for a certain amount of time. Once you begin to constantly experience triggers or stressors over a longer period of time, your body begins to continually pump out your stress response hormones, like cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. To learn more about the physiological effects of chronic stress, read here.
If we're stuck in the stress response cycle and experience periods of high cortisol levels for too long, it starts to wreak havoc on the body. As a result, our blood sugar gets higher, our blood pressure elevates for longer periods of time, and our immune system is on alert, which means we may have a harder time fighting off viruses. We don't want to be in that space for too long.
Our body is so brilliant that it notices this, and it tries to stop the damage. It does this by downregulating or pumping the brakes on our cortisol production. This is SOS, or Survival Overdrive Syndrome. Others may call it adrenal fatigue, adrenal dysregulation, or burnout.
Eventually, our cortisol levels can get so low that we aren't able to function normally. Normal cortisol levels help us function throughout the day, giving us energy, waking us up (as it is tied to our circadian rhythm), and even helping us feel good. When it's too high, we're in that state of stress and overwhelm. When it's too low, we're exhausted. When our body slows the production and release of cortisol, we experience low energy and sleep disturbances. Those feelings can manifest themselves in the mind as apathy, frustration, resentment, low motivation, and lack of inspiration for your business.
The connection between repeated stress and business
Having a business can be the most stressful thing for your nervous system short of jumping off a cliff because it is filled with uncertainty. As a new business owner, you might not always have a steady income, and starting a business is risky. You are exposing yourself to the public and there's a lot of fear of failure.
It’s important to know that your brain doesn't quite understand the difference between real and perceived stressors. When you experience mental or emotional stress, such as maybe a client ghosting, a failure to launch a troll on social media, your body may respond in the same way it would to actual lethal danger, like a bear chasing you.
Starting a new business, scaling your offers, and running a profitable business all come with periods of stress and overwhelm. When we are in the space of overwhelming our mind tries to protect us by turning to survival strategies (also called protective personalities). Our subconscious mind may believe that these personalities can save us based on experiences as a child. But often they lead to more overwhelm and issues within our business. Examples of these could be perfectionism, people-pleasing, procrastination, self-sabotage, and disassociation. When we live in these protective personalities, we don't live as our true selves. Instead, we live as a fear-based version of ourselves. This can trigger a cortisol feedback loop.
How to Break Out of the Burnout and Exhaustion Period
Take a step back and assess everything going on in your life & business
Remember that stress is not only mental, it's physical, it's emotional, it's environmental, and it's spiritual. When we have a physical imbalance within our system, it adds to the stressors, which is why we get stressed. We might think that it is just mental, but even if it is just mental, it is changing the physiology of our bodies, thus creating more stress.
Take a step back and think of all the current ways you may be feeling stressed out. This could be emotional or mental stress, like feeling overwhelmed, worrying about money, or fighting with a friend. It can also be physical stressors that you are not as aware of like, continuing high-intensity exercise during periods of high emotional stress (stressing your body even more) or skipping meals which leads to dysregulated blood sugar (stressing your body even more). Where can you make changes in your routine to support yourself during stressful times?
Practice creating flexibility within your nervous system and clearing out the stressors
To create a flexible nervous system, one can work on their subconscious mind to discover blocks, survival patterns, or the personality patterns that are keeping them stuck. No matter how big or small the past trauma, may be keeping you stuck in a fear loop, adding to your stressors.
The use of energy medicine such as EFT, Reiki, or mimetic techniques such as meditation is well suited for tapping into the subconscious side of the nervous system.
By adding in practices that allow your mind and body to feel safe, you’ll begin to physiologically relax and subconsciously realize that everything is safe. That is the most important thing we can do for our nervous system.
Create boundaries and safety space within our business
Creating that sense of safety within our business is so important. We can do that by setting boundaries. For example, when on social media if you encounter a troll or anything that makes you feel unsafe, you block that person.
You can create boundaries around a ton of aspects of your business. First, determine what processes, systems, or communication styles you might be feeling stress around. Are you tired of responding to clients at 10 pm? Are you wanting to take Mondays off? Are you feeling unsafe when posting a video? Identify the stressor cause and set a boundary around it.
Discover what fills up your stress cup
Which underlying stressors are taking the most space causing business stress, mental stress, or emotional stress to overflow into every aspect of your life?
We do want the good - exciting - new - stress of building a business and putting ourselves out there, we just want it to be done in a way that doesn’t feel completely overwhelming to our mind and body.
Start peeling back the layers of your own inner self and do the deeper inner work
This is literally “doing the work”, as people say. It's looking at stressors, triggers, and then analyzing them deeply. There's more to it than just being afraid to appear online, it’s about the WHY.
Why are you scared? When did that happen? When did it first happen? What does that feel like in your body & energy? And then how is that making you show up? Not only in your business, but in life as well.
The first step is to realize that holy crap, this is actually happening. I'm not just making it up in my head, it's not just some story that I've been telling myself like I am burned out, I'm exhausted. I have a lot on my plate. However, there is so much I can do to not only change that now but completely change my life going forward. - Lexie Sparrow
Connect back to your WHY
When you're feeling overwhelmed, burned out, and exhausted, the most common thing that happens in business is feeling uninspired, unmotivated, and becoming disconnected from your purpose. So, bring yourself back to the reason why you're doing what you're doing. Get clear on the impact you're trying to make, what you're trying to create, what life you want to create, and do a visualization of it, or write it down.
Never forget to remind yourself: I'm doing this for a reason. And this is why I should take care of myself so I can continue to do what I really love and what I'm here for.
Let me also offer grace to those of you who feel you know you need to have a WHY, but you’re not sure what it is. Maybe you're so burned out that your vision is a little clouded. It’s ok to take the time you need to find the clarity in your vision and purpose again.
Like sunsets, your why can change and develop over time. The way you share your gifts in your business doesn't have to look the same forever, it's always going to shift and change. By peeling back the layers of yourself as you release some of these stressors, you will be able to figure out what you are here to share and how you're here to share it more easily.
Burnout is something that many entrepreneurs experience, but it doesn’t have to be a recurring part of your business strategy. That’s why I encourage you to find a business strategy that supports you for the long term, so you are about to build a sustainable business. Want to learn more about how I can help you do that? Check out The Magnetic Business Podcast here or scroll the blog for more free resources and support!