Even though entrepreneurs and small business owners are their own bosses, the jobs rarely come without their fair share of stress and hard work. As any startup or small business owner can tell you, working hard, staying motivated, and succeeding in your livelihood are critical for a prosperous company and thriving business venture. But it’s easy to go overboard sometimes—even with the best of jobs—and find yourself burning out, losing your drive, and making mistakes. There is hope for hard working folks, though. Learning how to recognize the signs of burnout, and how to avoid it or get help (for example, from a virtual assistant), can help entrepreneurs stay on track and keep hustling.

Signs of Burnout

  1. Ailing Health: Burnout frequently shows itself by taking a toll on your health. Whether you’re experiencing back pain, depression, fatigue, or are just getting sick more often than you used to, these can all be symptoms caused or exacerbated by burnout. And whatever is causing your burnout is almost never worth the consequences on your health.
  2. Cognitive Difficulties: Stress affects the way we are able to process, retain, and recall information. Declines in your ability to analyze problems and think creatively impact not only your quality of life, but also your ability to plan business strategy and resolve problems. If you find yourself with worse memory and focus than usual or are having trouble making decisions or controlling your emotions, burnout may be the culprit.
  3. Difficulty with Relationships: Burnout can sour your relationships with clients, colleagues, and friends. If you notice you are getting irritable more easily or are snapping at other more frequently, you might want to consider getting your stress levels under control.
  4. Losing Motivation: When you feel good about yourself and what you do, particularly with your job, motivation comes easy. You look forward to accomplishing your goals and view obstacles as challenges. When you find yourself in a state of burnout, everything feels like a struggle. A decline in productivity or a reluctance to take on difficult but critical projects can impactyour business’ growth.
  5. Decreased Satisfaction: Similar to depression, burnout and stress can lead to a constant sense of dissatisfaction. Even if your longer hours are translating into some business successes, your sense of accomplishment at achieving goals may be diminished. A lack of satisfaction may erode your motivation, creating a vicious cycle.

How to Prevent Burnout

If you recognize any of the symptoms of burnout in yourself, don’t worry yet. It’s not impossible to pump the brakes before you feel completely overwhelmed.

  1. Disconnect. Whether we like it or intend it, we are constantly connected to others (our jobs included) through the electronics that surround us. Making yourself constantly available to your job 24/7—whether it’s because you’re answering work calls on a Saturday while out with the family or because you are checking emails late into the night—isn’t healthy and exposes you to a number of unnecessary stressors. When you don’t allow yourself to refocus and recharge, you are taking the opportunity to return to work refreshed away from yourself. If taking the entire weekend or evenings away from work isn’t realistic, try setting specific times when you check emails or answer calls. Providing boundaries and allowing yourself to disconnect from work is important.
  2. Pay attention to your body. Rather than writing off that backache to another night of sleeping incorrectly, listen to your body. Aches, pain, and illness can often be the result of stress manifesting itself as physical ailments. When you start to feel run down, tired, achy, or sick, give your body and your brain a rest. Set an exercise regimen and stick to it. The type of exercise you choose is less important that getting into a routine. Typically, exercising in the morning—before the craziness of the workday takes your energy—is best. Plans to work out in the evening are very frequently thwarted by having work to do or being too tired to do anything other than rest.
  3. Schedule “you” time. Just as it is important to schedule your work, it is important to plan for rest, relaxation, and other activities that YOU enjoy. This doesn’t necessarily mean scheduling a far-away, expensive vacation every other month. You can do something simple like giving yourself 30 minutes to read the newspaper in the morning or getting a massage at the end of a particularly stressful workweek.
  4. Hire extra help if you need it. There’s no shame in asking for help, and there’s no shame in hiring extra help if you need it. Consider delegating more of your work to other team members or hire a virtual assistant to help get some projects and tasks off your plate without having to worry about hiring a full-time assistant. 53% of employed Americans say their jobs leave them feeling “overtired and overwhelmed.” Rather than become a part of this dismal statistic, learn to identify the signs of stress within yourself. Recognizing the downward slope of burnout before you feel completely swamped and defeated can help you get back on track more easily and before any lasting harm is done.