Twelve hour work days, skipping meals, barely sleeping and you are attached to your cell phone- is this you? That used to be me until one day I couldn’t breathe and my heart felt as if it was going to jump out of my body.
That was my first panic attack. It wasn’t until after I had an attack every day for a week that I began to think about what was really going on with me. It was my body telling me to slow down and take care of myself. For once, I listened to it.
As a business owner and single mother of three young girls, I was burning the candle at both ends. I was so focused on work as my company grew that I couldn’t catch up.
I was at a place where I knew that if things didn’t change, I was going to make some really big mistakes with clients, my career, and my children. It was time to make major changes. And don’t get me wrong, even though I’ve made these changes, I still have days that I am overwhelmed, miss meals and get a bad night’s sleep, but I am more aware of how important it is to focus on taking care of myself and changing the way I work.
Here are five things that I am doing to avoid burnout.
Stop overbooking yourself and your family. If you have kids, they don’t need to be in dozens of activities.
1) It’s not good for them
2) It’s not good for you
3) It’s not good for your family
In your career, you have to give yourself breathing time. Block out time in your calendar every day for yourself and don’t book meetings during that time. This gives you “catch up” time. I also call it “going dark.” My staff knows that I am focused on my work.
When you are in a meeting, on the road and with clients, your actual work gets pushed out and you end up working till midnight. That can’t happen. This is why you need that time each day to do your work.
Change the Meeting Structure
Speaking of meetings – sometimes we have meetings just to have meetings. See if you can do a phone call versus a sit-down meeting. And better yet, take the meeting outside. Go for a walk and hike. Not only are you focused on the subject, but you are getting a workout and fresh air. Both are great for your mind.
When you are at work ensure that you are focused on what you are doing. That may mean no social media and limit the office chatter. You would be amazed at how much time you get back when you stay off Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter (believe me).
This is one of the hardest things for me and I’m still working on it. But let’s be real, we can’t do everything. In order to grow your business, advance in your career and avoid burnout, we must have a team to help us. Once you get used to delegating some of your work, it will be a wonderful feeling and your mind and body will thank you.
Your best work comes when you are well rested. So it doesn’t make sense to burn the midnight oil when you are not going to put out your best work. Not getting enough sleep is like a vicious cycle. You can’t think straight and make the most informed decisions, you lack the energy to workout and you may make poor eating decisions.
I have found that if I stay off my laptop or phone about an hour before I go to bed, I fall asleep much faster. Meditation before bed is also key. It clears your mind and you can get some Zs without your mind racing.
I will say that since I have been doing this, my anxiety is lower, I’m more productive and much more focused.
We must listen to our bodies. When we are tired, we should sleep. When we are anxious, something needs to change. We are in control of a lot more than we think and it’s up to us to steer our career and life in the right direction.