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How to keep from burning out
This article is part of our Complete Guide to Health for Entrepreneurs, which covers topics like mental health, eating healthy, taking vacation and work-life balance.
That there might be a chance that …spring is here for good this time. (I mean, until it’s not, anyway.) If we’re lucky, we might even have a shot at summer, too.
Unfortunately, for most of us that simply means we get to stare at bluer skies through the windows of our offices.
Weather-whining aside, after the (upcoming!) May long weekend, it tends to feel like there’s a shift in social energy. The days are longer, the weather is warmer, and people just seem to be happier. With kids on summer holidays and a few more long weekends thrown into the mix, the next few months are a great time to use up some of those cherished vacation days.
Raise your hand if you just thought to yourself, “what vacation days?”
You might not be able to escape to the cottage for a week this year, but here are five ways to change up your work days so you can catch a break this summer, too.
Change your scenery
Ok, so we’ve established that for the time being your scenery isn’t going to include a beach or speedboat, so where do we go from here? Various psychological studies have proven that context is a crucial component of human behaviour; our environments cue us in on the various habits and emotions we associate with those surroundings. This is one of the reasons that the gym can make some people feel happy and motivated and others miserable and hopeless. So, what does this mean for your #summergoals?
Even the simplest changes in your surroundings can have a positive effect on your attitude (and work ethic)! This could be as simple as rearranging the furniture in your office, having a few meetings a week in coffee shops instead of boardrooms, or deciding to eat your lunch in the middle of a park every day. Small changes can affect your overall mood and outlook, and can potentially make you feel just as good as you would if you were lying on the beach in Florida.*
*The second half of this statement was not proven through any psychological experiments but we’d very much like to believe it.
Read something fun
Do you remember what reading was like as a kid? You’d get comfortable in a quiet corner of the library, and before you knew it, your imagination helped transport you into another world. As adults, we often don’t spend enough time doing things simply for pleasure’s sake, especially when trying to run a successful business. Those rare moments you can spend reading probably won’t go towards the newest mystery novel; they’ll go towards industry magazines, articles, or reports.
This summer, we insist you escape for a few hours a week by reading just one book that has nothing to do with your business. So pick a book—and actually make the time to read it—knowing that it will add absolutely nothing to your business goals! Or, will it?
Researchers at Stanford found that literary reading provides “a truly valuable exercise of people’s brains.” Study subjects experienced increased blood flow to the regions of their brains associated with focusing on tasks—all from reading Jane Austen. So next time you feel guilty for taking some time for yourself to escape with a good book, remember, researchers at Stanford said you should.
Are you already feeling anxiety from the thought of going offline? If you are, you might need this advice more than you thought. Just because you can’t take a week off to join your family at Disneyland, doesn’t mean you can’t afford to take an hour or two a day to simply stop doing all of the things.
Giving the brain downtime can improve our mental health, as well as increase personal growth, insight, and creativity. Conversely, constantly-checking our phones or inboxes has the opposite effect on our mental health. The rush we get from seeing a notification comes from shots of dopamine being injected into our bloodstream, which not only results in distraction and detachment, but is also physiologically addictive.
As a business owner, going dark for a day would be hard enough; a week, impossible. So instead of attempting the unattainable, make small adjustments to your regular routine and improve your mental energy, simultaneously giving you a much-needed break.
Try to recognize those moments throughout the day when you could get away with keeping your phone or laptop in another room for a while—like when you’re not actively working. Start small; put your phone away during meals, turn it off while bingeing a new TV show, and stop checking emails while you’re on the phone catching up with a friend. You might not be able to shorten your work day, but once it’s done, put the phone down.
Switch up your routine
Remember all those science-y benefits that came along with changing your scenery? Well, making some small tweaks to your daily habits and schedule will produce similar positive effects. Although this isn’t an exciting conversation starter, it’s a fact: we are most comfortable in safe and predictable scenarios. Safe sounds good, right? Even we can’t argue that. But, sometimes those routines can prove to be counterproductive.
If you find yourself forgetting how to handle situations that occur outside of your routine, focusing more on routine than results, or straight up having a fit when your routine is altered slightly, it may be time for a mental vacation, at minimum.
Neuroscientists have proven that our brains are always on the hunt for new experiences (also known as sensation-seeking), stemming from our early needs for survival. Originally, we needed to hunt in order to survive, and successful hunters were the ones willing to take risks. Altering your routine—a softer way of saying taking a small risk—will give you a renewed and increased sense of focus.
Switching up your routine also increases creativity. Straying from your predictable systems and routines expands your brain’s neuroplasticity, allowing you to form new connections between thoughts. Any time you force yourself to do something outside of your routine, you’re encouraging your brain to make new connections. So, while you might not be able to book a flight to Paris just yet, at least make sure you try booking a one-way ticket out of your daily routine.
Start planning your next vacation
Vacations don’t exist simply to give you an excuse to fill your friends’ timelines with cute photos of your kids by the pool. There are scientific reasons that make travelling and taking time off good for your health! (Remember sensation-seeking?) It might be hard to get away completely during the first few years of running a business, but don’t let skipping your annual vacation become a habit.
Working towards a goal is important, but equally important is allowing yourself to enjoy the rewards of reaching one. Especially when we all know that as an entrepreneur, it won’t be long before you’re tackling the next one.