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Entrepreneurship Black hole

I love what I do and I am deeply fulfilled by work but a couple of weeks ago, I woke up to the realization that I had no drive or motivation to keep doing what I have been doing best. This is so not like me and I had every reason to be alarmed. I knew there was a problem but could hardly place a finger on what it was exactly. Coupled with this lack of motivation was a constant feeling of fatigue, irritability, lack of concentration or focus. As the days went by, I could no longer take it so I took off time to analyse myself and the situation.

In my many years of counseling and coaching experience, I have had the privileged of working with different people as they overcame burn out but had never really experienced first hand what I was going through. It took me a while to realize that i was experiencing a burn out and there was nothing funny about it. The reality was far from what I had always known theoretically.

Entrepreneurship is a rich and rewarding experience that leads many business owners to real career satisfaction for the first time in their lives. You get to set your own schedule, make your own rules and become a master of your own destiny — but those perks are not without an associated cost.

Entrepreneurship demands sacrifice and commitment, and even if you go into it with a sparkling optimistic attitude and a great support system, the daily rigors and stresses of business ownership will begin to take their toll on you. As entrepreneurs, we’re told to ‘watch out for burnout’, as if it’s something lurking around the corner waiting to pounce.

I was experiencing a good start of the year and things are looking good in regard to the prospective for this year. It has been nearly two years since I founded my organisation, and I was already enjoying great success. I had what looked like a ‘perfect’ life, but I certainly didn’t feel like I was living in a fairy-tale.

I wasn’t sleeping. I was anxious. I was consumed by obsessive thoughts. My business was taking over my life. I was crashing. I was on the brink of a burnout, only I didn’t have the insight or experience to understand what was happening to my mind and my body. Luckily I was able to recognize what was happening before it totally got out of hand. Not every entrepreneur is able to bounce back so fast like I have done and that is why I have decided to share this article.

But the journey of self-care for an entrepreneur is never over. In the words of Lori Greiner, “entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hour weeks to avoid working 40 hour weeks”, and that lifestyle leaves us vulnerable to stress and burnout. These five self-care tips will help keep you sane through the highs and lows of business ownership and family life.

1. Get help
Find an objective ear and shoulder to lean on. Often just knowing that that person is there can be helpful.

2. You don’t have to stop, but you do have to balance
Be your authentic self, but complement it and balance it with a calmer lifestyle.” You don’t have to give it all up, you just have to adapt your lifestyle a bit.

3. Create a ‘worry list’, and leave it on your nightstand
This is exactly what it sounds like. If you wake up with something on your mind, write it down and forget it. Give yourself the mental space to relax, knowing that you’ve recorded the concern to deal with it later.

4. Learn your limits, know your needs
Focus on what you need to be happy and healthy. Listen to your body and respect your limits.

5. Sleep
Sleep is your biggest immunity booster and stress fighter. It is impossible to be at the mental peak necessary to be an effective founder without sufficient sleep. Cut the caffeine intake, get some exercise, and set a cut-off time from work every night.

The struggle with burnout is common in the entrepreneurial community. Whether or not we care to admit it, many of us have had moments where it all felt like too much. It is also essential to know the signs of more extreme burnout (depression, suicidal thoughts, etc).

I tell my story to start a conversation, and to let other founders who might be wrestling with stress and burnout themselves know that they aren’t alone.

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