How to Know and Stop Freelancer Burnout by Avoiding This Common Mistake (+ Free Checklist )
Feeling burnout that's making you want to throw in the towel on self-employment?
This tip is going to sound contradictory to everything on motivation I have ever posted, but...
If you're feeling this way, please DON'T do what most people do:
Force toxic positivity and push yourself to keep going past your breaking point instead of stepping away from your business for a minute and dealing with what's underneath the burnout. 😮💨
I've been in the clutches of toxic positivity before, and while I was successful in business by everyone's definition, it took me an entire summer last year to feel grounded again.
No really, it took me almost a month of laying in my apartment staring at the ceiling to start feeling like myself again, but I learned three of the most valuable lessons from it.
💡 There’s a time to keep pushing and a time to stop and rest.
💡 There's a difference between being pessimistic and BURNOUT.
💡 There's a difference between a positive outlook and toxic positivity.
Maybe these statements make you feel more frustrated. You might be asking, "but how do you know the difference?!"
Keep reading, because knowing the difference is going to help you spot burnout before you’re deep in it.
Knowing what burnout looks like will help you be more productive and successful (while being happier and energized) in the long run.
It’s annoying when you’re completely tapped out and hitting a wall to hear someone say, “Just take a breath…relax!”, so I won’t do that.
But I will say that trying to punch your way through a thick brick wall and keep going is a lot harder than stopping, then walking around it. I personally prefer the latter.
Honestly, have you ever seen someone hit a building accidentally with their car and then…back up and hit it again, trying to drive through it?
I sincerely hope not.
Burnout is one of those oxymorons where you feel anxious about the fact that you’re tapped out, which may lead you to react by trying to punch through walls or drive through a building (METAPHORICALLY).
And what is worse than feeling unmotivated and then feeling restless about BEING unmotivated? When you’re self-employed, honestly, nothing.
Because no one is going to fire your butt for crying on the couch instead of building your business.
Learning when you need to push yourself and strengthen your self-discipline vs. when you’re in a burnout cycle is a process.
For example, procrastinating to avoid doing things that aren’t stimulating or fun is much different than feeling emotionally and mentally exhausted because you aren’t taking care of your needs (aka burnout, aka me teary-eyed and spread-eagle on the floor last summer).
Knowing the difference for yourself is a mindfulness skill—it requires sitting with your emotions and listening to your needs.
Learning when to slow down vs when to keep going will help you be nimble and disciplined in your business while taking better care of yourself.
As mentioned above, burnout happens when you have not been listening to your body and your needs...and you become super exhausted.
ie, no fresh air, social time, water, meals, sleep, or care for your individual physical and mental health needs.
What the heck?? 🤬
Taking care of ourselves and enjoying life is one of the main reasons many people start their own businesses!
So WHY are we doing this?
Because of a culture that reinforces the idea of toxic positivity.
Toxic positivity is why many self-employed people find it hard to stay self-employed and grow their business—they’re running on an empty tank!
Toxic positivity culture tells us we need to stomp out any feelings other than happiness and gratefulness.
It tells us that if we are struggling, if we need to slow down, if we need to care for ourselves, then we are flawed.
We are not good enough. We should feel shame.
We don't deserve to be rewarded if we aren't perfect; if we aren't happy with chasing perfection. (This probablyyy sounds like a work environment you’ve experienced in the past. We've all been there.)
In a nutshell?
💡 Toxic positivity = the pressure of perfectionism in a prettier package.
Ignoring burnout with toxic positivity is a common mistake that most self-employed people make, and it's why I often talk about mindfulness skills.
In fact, it's the part of my Launch + Scale Bootcamp program (and upcoming course inspired by L + S) that my students tend to love the most. Mindfulness builds a foundation for long-term success, and not just in your business.
However, everyone deserves to care for themselves even if they can’t afford a course, so use this free resource the next time you are feeling stuck or unmotivated.
Stop and sit for a minute.
Go through this process.
Part 1: Burnout and Balance
Getting enough rest/ working on better sleep habits?
Drinking enough water?
Moving my body (Doesn’t need to be intense exercise, just something you enjoy)?
Seeing loved ones?
Using mindfulness skills to sit with my emotions and scan my body?
Eating nourishing foods that fuel me?
Taking short breaks during the day?
Creating a plan for what I need to get done and setting time limits on it?
Am I practicing self-discipline when things don’t go my way in business and finding another way to approach the challenge/keep moving the needle forward?
Am I following through with the work I have the mental capacity to do right now?
Saving money for unexpected expenses?
Am I looking for more education on an area I am struggling with in my business rather than giving up?
Practicing financial habits for success?
Investing time in activities and hobbies I enjoy for the sake of pleasure?
If your answers are “yes” to the above, you’re on a great path to creating work-life balance and avoiding burnout before it begins. If there are a few “no’s”, consider a course or advice from someone who you trust.
If you answered “no” to most, you might need to focus on these or seek help in learning mindfulness and improving your business and personal habits to avoid burnout.
Part 2: Toxic Positivity
Do I judge myself for not being perfect?
Am I scared of what others will think if I take a break for myself?
Am I feeling short on patience or “ready to snap”?
Going through an external situation other than work that is causing stress?
Am I ashamed of feeling emotions like anger, sadness, fear, jealousy?
Do I ignore these emotions when they come up instead of processing them with mindfulness skills?
Do I need to process any difficult feelings about an external situation?
Am I ignoring my mental and physical well-being for the sake of “just pushing through”?
Do I need to ask for help with something because I can’t do it alone?
Am I faking “happy” because it feels like I have to put on a mask?
If you answered “yes” to any of these, you might be practicing toxic positivity. That’s okay! It happens, especially in a culture of go-go-go.
First step, stop and take a break. Practicing toxic positivity can lead to burnout.
Here are some tips you can use right now:
-Practice seeing mistakes as challenges and learning opportunities. Approach mistakes with curiosity instead of fear (It’s a process; you have to practice it to develop it).
-Learn mindfulness skills that will help you tap into your emotions and process what’s going on.
-Honor the anxiety of stepping away from your business or daily tasks, then don’t react to the anxiety by working harder or pushing past your breaking point. Acknowledge your feelings but step back.
-Take a break and take care of your needs in part one of this survey or any other needs you have that aren’t listed.
-Sometimes you just...are burned out, whether it be from current events, your environment, or personal situations that you can't control or prevent. Sometimes, it just is. And that's perfectly okay. It's okay to need a break, and it's okay to take care of yourself, even if it seems like difficult emotions are coming out of nowhere.
-If you are feeling helpless or dealing with mental health difficulties, it might not be just burnout. Please consult a health professional. This post shouldn’t be taken as medical advice or mental health counseling, and sometimes we need help beyond taking a break from work.
You’re not alone, and this is temporary.
There are many ways to seek professional help. Check out NAMI’s site or your health insurance customer care for personalized recommendations.