Updated: Sep 20, 2021
Most entrepreneurs and business people know all too well that burnout (and the subsequent freakout) is common and often daunting to handle. In case you’re a relatively new business owner, let me explain what I mean.
Picture this: You’re going through your normal routine, and something unexpected happens. It might throw a curveball into your day and take your attention away from other important things you want to work on. As a result, you get overwhelmed and start to freak out.
At the same time, it’s probably a pretty low priority, and it doesn’t have to impact the trajectory of your day. It still does, and you’re not sure how to handle the negative feelings that are bubbling up.
As an entrepreneur, I’ve had countless moments like this. After the smoke clears and the problem is solved, I realize how much I overreacted. Sometimes it’s confusing to understand why I reacted negatively in the first place.
For the past 15 years, I’ve been studying neuroscience to understand the why behind human negative reactions. I’ve learned that the reason entrepreneurs freak out over some of the smallest inconveniences is because we’re almost always on high alert. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the nervous system controls our automatic responses, so when something makes us feel stressed, we’re going to react strongly.
When it comes to running a business, many stressors can cross our paths and affect our nervous systems. We’re so focused on accomplishing everything we possibly can in one day that we forget to slow down. In turn, our nervous system is amped up, and our reactions are more intense.
Think about it like this: Our phones are going off all day, whether we’re getting calls from customers, clients, or team members. Our email inboxes are filling up every hour with messages we need to answer. We have social media comments and messages to respond to. And in the digital age, this feeling of overwhelm from constant stimulation is common for all of us. Add on the stress from running a business, and that overwhelm amplifies even more.
Let’s revisit how the Cleveland Clinic describes our nervous system. When our brains and bodies feel overstimulated, it’s common for us to overreact. And when we’re so reactive, the slips and mishaps that cause more stress happen more often.
Let’s say you got locked out of your email account, and you call the IT helpdesk to get back in. Because you’re in freakout mode, you don’t explain the problem well, so you’re on the phone with the helpdesk for way longer than necessary, which ultimately makes you late for an important appointment. It's an endless loop of stress and overwhelm that makes your day seem impossible.
I know this all seems insurmountable at the moment, but there are a few tips or tricks that I swear by that can help you de-stress and calm down. The key is taking care of your nervous system, which controls your fight-or-flight responses.
I want to share with you three keys you can implement into your everyday life to keep the freakouts to a minimum and handle everyday obstacles easily.
1. Give yourself moments to pause.
When you’re an entrepreneur, your to-do list probably seems miles long, and pausing every once in a while doesn’t seem like an option. I’m here to tell you that if you carve out time in your day to decompress, you’ll actually save more time (and save yourself from a freakout).
You don’t have to schedule a time during your workday to pause if you don’t think that’s a possibility. What you can do is set some clear boundaries with yourself to make sure you’re not in "go" mode all day every day. The best way to do that is to turn off your notifications after your workday or to make a commitment not to check emails after work. That way, you have time to unwind and relax before another busy day.
Remember: Your emails will always be there, whether you get to them at 7 p.m. or 8 a.m.
2. Find passions you love that aren’t related to work.
Sometimes we need to get our brains off work, and a great way to do this is to find passions that aren’t work-related. Whether it’s yoga, reading, making art, writing or all of the above, passions help you unwind and relax. Find something that gets your mind off work and allows you to spend a few hours a week thinking about something else.
Having passions that aren’t related to work also helps you create goals that aren’t driven by the work you do. For example, if you’re passionate about running, you can set goals for how fast or how long you can run, which gives you something to look forward to and get excited about.
3. Treat self-care as non-negotiable.
At the end of the day, the best way to confront business burnout is to practice self-care. It’s essential for entrepreneurs to find what makes them relax and de-stress and implement it into their daily routines. You can even use self-care to relax when you face minor obstacles at work to help you calm down.
Personally, I block five hours of non-negotiable self-care per week. That includes massages, bubble baths with Epsom salts, and anything else that helps me decompress.
As entrepreneurs, we’re going to face difficult times. The good news is, we don’t have to burn out and freak out every time we do. It all comes down to our daily routines. When we make sure we’re taking time to pause, enjoy life and take care of ourselves, it makes a real, noticeable difference.
This post was originally published on Forbes.com.