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Business owners: avoid burnout and feel the benefits of your holiday for longer

Woman working while on holiday, having breakfast overlooking the sea and mountains while the sun shines
No rest for the wicked, huh?

Have you discovered yet that working harder for longer isn’t the most effective strategy to deal with feeling overwhelmed?

It's easy to believe that pushing on and on will save the day, but you know the truth: your time is limited, and your energy and enthusiasm are dwindling resources.

I recently conducted a LinkedIn poll to identify what superpower folks wanted. OK, it was far from exhaustive, and LinkedIn isn’t a great scientific research platform, but ‘unceasing energy’ came in just behind ‘teleporting’.

Teleporting is still only possible for humans in the realms of Dr Who and Star Trek but unceasing energy? Ahem. Well, it IS possible to have a LOT MORE energy. And if you’re feeling drained by the relentless list of tasks both at work and beyond, read on...

What if I told you that the key to more energy, heightened productivity, and enhanced creativity lies in scheduling regular breaks, rest, and even naps? Yes, I hear your inner sceptic muttering, "Who has time for breaks or a nap?!" If that's your mindset, you might be walking straight into the arms of burnout – a path I know all too well.

I've been there, done that. I thought the only way forward was to work harder, longer, and expect my summer holiday to magically rejuvenate me. Guess what? It didn't work. Because I failed to change my habits outside of holiday mode. And the outcome? Burnout: an experience you wouldn't wish upon your worst enemy.

What is burnout?

Burnout is not what you get after a tough week. It's not about virtue signalling your busyness to the world. It is the accumulation of feeling persistently overwhelmed and stressed for a long period of time.

“Burnout can lead to emotional exhaustion, a decline in performance and productivity, poorer decision making, lower empathy and making more mistakes.
[Those who experience burnout] feel that their work has little value, to themselves or the world. Burnout can contribute to relationship issues, depression, poor health and high rates of suicide.”
– Alex Pang (author of ‘Rest’)

So, as a business owner, what can you do to avoid burnout?

There are many tactics and strategies you can use to ensure you keep the prospect of burnout at bay, one of which is to take rest seriously and schedule in regular Rest and Recovery (R&R).

Here’s the science and I promise you this is rather INTERESTING 😀

“German scientist, Sabine Sonnentag’s work assumes that mental resources are as important for workers as physical energy is for athletes: however much you love the game, at some point you need to stop and rest.

Her findings are consistent across all professions: workers who have the chance to get away mentally, switch off and devote their energies elsewhere, are more productive, have better attitudes, get along better with others and are able to better deal with challenges at work.”

There are four major factors that contribute to recovery:

1. Relaxation: “an activity that is pleasant and undemanding. It shouldn’t feel like work or require conscious effort”

2. Control: “having the power to decide how you spend your time, energy and attention”

3. Mastery experiences: “engaging, interesting things that you do well; they are often challenging, mentally absorbing (and all the more rewarding when you do them well)” aka ‘deep play’

4. Mental detachment: “the ability to feel disconnected from the job – evenings, weekends and longer holidays”

Four bottles of vitamins, each labelled Relaxation, Control, Mastery experiences, Mental detachment
Avoid empty calories: Take breaks that are high in all four
“Think of them as a bit like vitamins. Breaks that are high in all four are the equivalent of nutritious and nourishing meals; those that don’t are like empty calories.” – Alex Pang

Here’s a fun fact to contemplate on your holiday: peak relaxation is reached at 8 days and after that it falls away.

You’ll already know that the benefits of a break or a holiday don’t last long enough. The emotional boost that a holiday provides lasts about 3-4 weeks. After that your happiness and job satisfaction levels return to their pre-holiday levels. And a warning for perfectionists and workaholics! The boost fades even faster. Oops!

So, it’s time to re-think this to better effect. Oodles of research shows that regularly disconnecting from work in the evenings and weekends, enjoying relaxing and mentally stimulating activities, and incorporating breaks into your daily schedule will recharge your mental and physical resources. Just like having a good sleep routine, breaks and holidays (time-off from work) need to be taken regularly throughout the year.

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” Anne Lamott

The rest is up to you!

woman's feet sticking out of the end of a white duvet, while she stretches her arms after resting
Rest assured this makes all the difference

Remember, you're not capable of doing everything, no matter how hard you push. The worst thing you can do is to convince yourself that you cannot do this or that what you do is too important for you to take this advice.

As a business owner, the solution to avoiding burnout isn't to power through but to strategically pause. It's about embracing the fact that stepping back, relaxing, and prioritising your well-being will result in more energy, higher productivity, more creativity and a happier, more focused you – and you’ll be able to do all of this for much, much longer.

Embrace rest as a rebellion against burnout. And as for handling that never-ending to-do list? Well, that's a story for another day...

If this resonates with you, and the threat of burnout feels real, let’s have a conversation.


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