By: Jaja Chen , LCSW, CDWF
In Part 1 and Part 2 of our mental wellness series, we have been talking about burnout and how it can impact entrepreneurs. This week, we will explore the practical of what to do to prevent and address burnout. 5 tips include:
1.) Prioritizing Self-Care
The Self-Care Wheel (http://www.olgaphoenix.com/key-offerings/self-care-wheel/) challenges individuals to look at self-care holistically. Self-care includes our physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and personal self-care. Usually, when thinking of self-care, most people think of having to spend money and having to focus on physical self-care goals. While eating healthy and getting enough sleep are all important aspects of caring for yourself, we also need to prioritize (and make time for!) other aspects of self-care. For some entrepreneurs that may include boundary-setting and choosing not to answer phone calls or e-mails after a certain time of day or during vacations. For others, priority may need to be given to scheduling quality time with friends and family members.
2.) Cultivate Self-Compassion
How do you respond when you or others around you experience burnout? Are you critical of yourself or do you speak to yourself as you would speak to a friend? Cultivating self-compassion helps to reduce the impacts of burnout and increases engagement in self-care. Ways to cultivate self-compassion include mindfulness breaks and exercises. Mindfulness apps such as Insight Timer and Stop, Breathe, & Think lead you through exercises to increase your awareness of thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judging yourself. Spending time with supporters and those who cheer you own can also cultivate further self-compassion.
3.) Manage Time by Energy
Jade Barclay, a therapist and MBA, found in her research on entrepreneurial burnout (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/tracking-wonder/201601/why-entrepreneurs-burn-out-and-what-do-about-it) that the pursuit of a work-life balance is not necessarily what entrepreneurs need. As entrepreneurs, there is always more work to be done. While we often have more free time as business owners, we need more brain-life balance. Barclay recommends for entrepreneurs to do their best work and creations when well-rested, do researching and learning when medium rested, and complete rhythmic tasks like paperwork and deleting e-mails when we have lower energy. For me, I have increased capacity to write blogs and articles during the morning when I have blocked out chunks of time to write.
4.) Pursue Therapy
As a trauma therapist I am a major advocate of pursuing therapy and receive maintenance therapy during major transitions or more stressful seasons of my life to prevent burnout and secondary trauma from the work I do. Just as I go to the dentist for regular cleanings, doctor for check-ups, and car mechanics for oil changes and tune-ups, therapists can provide mental self-care “tune-ups” to help prevent burnout and to increase self-care. Transitions in life such as changing jobs, launching a new business, becoming a parent, or moving, can be triggers for anxiety, particularly if you have experienced previous mental health concerns and/or trauma. If you notice increased reactivity to stressful situations, difficulty doing the things you normally do, decreased motivation in life, or low frustration tolerance, this may be a sign that therapy may be beneficial for you. Therapists are trained to use a variety of evidence-based techniques to help individuals to work through and manage mental health concerns, stress, and life transitions.
5.) Develop Courageous Leadership
In her latest book Dare to Lead, Brené Brown applies her research on shame, courage, joy, and vulnerability to leadership and organizations. Through her research, Brené found that courageous leaders are not defined by their title or what we normally may think of as strength in leaders. Instead, courage is one’s ability to wrestle through challenges, transitions, and change in businesses and organizations. We need courage to walk out in creativity, innovation, and risk-taking. Courageous leaders are able to work through vulnerability and difficult emotions in a healthy way. These skills do not come naturally and are learned. While we all experience set-backs, challenges, failure, or even fear as entrepreneurs; what can hold us back is our response to difficult emotions and challenges that come our way. The Dare to Lead website (https://daretolead.brenebrown.com/) has resources and tools on increasing courage-based skills – both in yourself and in your organization.
While never easy, creating and pursuing a self-care plan can help to prevent burnout and help us to respond effectively when we experience burnout. With self-care tools in place, we not only create opportunities for increased energy and longevity in our work as entrepreneurs, but also create better practices to help our employees and organizations to thrive. Leadership starts at the top.
Creating a culture of self-care requires us to look at our own lives and to recognize that we, as entrepreneurs, are the beginning to creating the change we want to see in our organizations, businesses, and communities.
For Immediate Help Suicide Prevention Lifeline (https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/) 1-800-273-8255
About the Author Jaja Chen, LCSW, CDWF is a social worker and therapist by day, Waco Cha co-owner by night. Jaja is a Certified EMDR Therapist and specializes in trauma, maternal mental health, and helping fellow helping professionals and entrepreneurs manage and work through the impacts of compassion fatigue and burnout. Jaja and her husband Devin run Waco Cha at the Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market each Saturday 9am-1pm and are current members of both the Cen-Tex African American and Cen-Tex Hispanic Chambers of Commerce. Jaja can be reached via e-mail at Jaja@enrichmenttcs.com or through her webpage at www.enrichmenttcs.com/meet-Jaja-Chen