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Boss Burnout – What to look out for and how to avoid it

We are not talking about back street burnouts, although for some business owners this may be what it feels like – down a back road or street spinning wheels burning rubber and creating a lot of smoke but not getting very far.

Much has been said on the COVID impacts for employees, but what about the business owner, who may be working long hours, wearing many hats, and feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility of all the mouths to feed – staff families included. 

Yellow car doing a burnout

A feeling of being waist deep in the mud, fatigued, fragile and struggling against the tide could be very real right now for some of us.

On the flipside, there are business owners who have been able to sidestep the muddy puddle and are going gang busters with record business in the door. They have a mindset of resilience that enables them to stay productive and supportive of their staff in times of turbulence, complexity, and pressure.

COVID has challenged us all physically, emotionally, and mentally. We have all had to abide by the same directives however our capacity to deal with life is different. How true is that?

Where one gets a little dusty someone else is totally messed up in dirt. Where one gets a few drops of water another gets drenched, where one falls down a hole another jumps over it, and like the dogs in the image, where someone gets a little mud on the feet someone is fully immersed in mud. That said, your response to the incident depends on who you ask. Where one response will paint a mountain of a problem, another will make it seem like a molehill. It is all up to who you ask. Sometimes that one you ask is yourself so important to watch the ‘self-talk’ when gauging how deep the mud is.

How deep is the mud?

A resilient mindset helps us:

  • Adapt to frequent change and uncertainty
  • Stay productive, despite increasing demands to deliver more with less
  • Manage customer expectations that may exceed delivery capabilities right now
  • Maintain perspective and physical and emotional wellbeing.

How are you increasing your resilience and ability to handle the mud in your life, so you do not end up being knee deep in mud and exhausted from ‘pushing through’? One key aspect of getting through these times is adaptability, maintaining perspective, and positivity. This is about staying optimistic and keeping a solution focus when things go wrong, reframing setbacks and minimising the impact of any negativity around you. In life there is always mud, you need to navigate how to get around or through it.

The risk of boss or business owner burnout is very real especially when you constantly feel under the pump, people are relying on you, and the stress hormones are riding high.

Our thoughts and emotions can trip us up. When we are triggered or react to a situation, catch yourself, pause, and take a simple reality test. It is easy for thinking traps and negative self-talk to creep in such as all or nothing (black and white) thinking, taking the situation personally, catastrophising, or losing perspective.

When this happens, take a moment, and ask yourself (healthy self-talk) the following questions:

  • What has triggered my response or reaction, dig below the surface, why am I reacting like this? What is really going on?
  • What assumptions am I making about the situation?
  • Where is my thinking at right now?

The next step is to try to focus on the solution rather than the problem. This moves you away from potential thinking traps.

Here are some examples:

  • What is the first step I could take?
  • What strengths can I bring to this?
  • What would success look like for this?
  • Who else can assist with this?
  • What has worked well for me in the past in a similar situation?

Maintaining perspective is key in building your resilience muscle and keeping a healthy mindset in times of challenge. Equally important is knowing and living by your personal values, having purpose and meaning in life, mastering stress, giving and receiving support, staying healthy and having a ‘team me’ by building personal and professional networks.

Most importantly, recognise your physical and mental triggers so you can seek help early. If you believe you are becoming uncharacteristically out of whack, you have no more rubber to burn and you are deep in the muddy puddle, reach out to a mate, a friend, family or professional support. 

Reaching burnout stage is not good for you, your family or your business.

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