As a busy mumpreneur, you already know all about the daily trials and tribulations that are part and parcel of running a business while raising your children full time. What you may not know, however, is how much of a toll juggling these two important jobs can take on you in terms of damaging your wellbeing.
We are talking burnout here, people, and it is far more common than you might think. While the term ‘burnout’ is thought by many to simply refer to the natural fatigue that we might feel after a particularly long and stressful week or month, in fact it can be much more severe than that.
Burnout is actually a chronic state of stress that occurs when our brains work under intense pressure for long periods with little or no downtime. As well as causing both mental and physical exhaustion, burnout can also lead to many serious stress-related health problems.
When we overdo things and go non-stop for long periods without a proper break, we are not giving our brains a chance to rest and recover – repair and reenergise. In turn, we leave them depleted of the vital hormones and chemicals needed to regulate mood and emotions.
Not only can this have a significant negative impact on your overall mental state, but it can also affect your performance in that it dramatically impairs concentration and analytical skills.
In short, it is no good for either you or your business. And as such, you should do all you can to avoid it.
Well, of course you need to remember to “take those breaks”. But much more than that you need to have a healthy general balance in the first place – because achieving and maintaining that healthy balance in your working life is an absolutely key ingredient for long-term health and success.
With that in mind, let’s now take a look at six Virtuzone essentials for achieving that balance in order to reduce the burnout risk.
1. Stick to the three pillars of staying fit and healthy
Without a doubt, one of the best ways to avoid burnout and guarantee your wellbeing is to adhere to the three pillars of health: sleep well, eat well and exercise. Get these vital aspects right and you are establishing a strong foundation of balance.
Without a doubt, one of the best ways to avoid burnout and guarantee your wellbeing is to adhere to the three pillars of health: sleep well, eat well and exercise.
So let us deconstruct each pillar, starting with sleep. According to a 2012 study presented in the Journal of Vision, lack of sleep makes us less focused and less productive – and, of course, will ultimately lead to exhaustion if not addressed.
On the diet front, nutrition has a huge part to play. Foods such as wheat, sugar, gluten and anything processed can hugely affect our energy levels, not to mention our ability to concentrate. Avoiding them, or at least limiting them, is a must.
And as for exercise, while it might feel like the last thing you want to do after a busy day of working and dealing with the kids, fitness is a must because it is the perfect antidote to stress – increasing energy levels and enhancing your mood.
As a mumpreneur, you are quite simply never going to work ‘normal’ hours. And, well, that is just fine. But regardless of how erratic your schedule may seem, it still requires clearly defined boundaries.
The best way to do this is through time-blocking, which is exactly what it sounds like. The key to success is committing to the concept and sticking to it. So, for example, if you know you can get a quiet block in the morning before the day starts for the rest of the family (that is, they are all still sleeping), then make that “working block number one” of the day. And sure, while it might mean getting up early, we of course are going by the assumption that you are remembering to get to bed at a reasonable hour.
After that, you get on with mum duties for the morning before the next working block. And so on.
Time-blocking also applies to those breaks you must take just for you, and as an add-on to this we also need to ensure we are setting definitive time limits for the number of hours we work each day, as well as, for example, restrictions on working weekends.
3. Delegate, but do it with care
Delegation is one of the best ways to lighten your load. Countless entrepreneurs drive themselves crazy with their ridiculous workloads, yet any amount of that work could potentially be handed off to others.
Countless entrepreneurs drive themselves crazy with their ridiculous workloads, yet any amount of that work could potentially be handed off to others.
Of course, most starting out mumpreneurs in particular are not in a position to be taking on staff. But great freelancers are always there on the end of a phone, Skype call, or email just waiting for you to commission them.
Outsourcing can be a fantastic way forward in terms of getting those time-consuming, but not necessarily business-critical, tasks off your desk. Not to mention the fact that other specialists may be more qualified than you to do the work.
4. Unplug from technology once in a while (or often!)
One thing that almost all of us struggle to do in the modern age is unplug. We find it impossible to turn off the phone, banish the emails and just switch off. Unfortunately, while hyper-connectivity has many advantages, the very fact that it allows us to be reachable 24/7 from any corner of the earth can get us into trouble if we let it.
A recent report, published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, studied the effects of what it calls ‘telepressure’ – the urge to respond to work-related messages immediately – on a group of employees. The researchers found that those who feel under the most telepressure reported disturbed sleep, higher stress levels and more signs of burnout and exhaustion. In addition, those same employees were also at a higher risk of mental health-related absences from work.
The true impact of technology cannot be overstated. Many academic studies tell the same story. For example, researchers at the University of Hamburg – in a report published in the Chronobiology International Journal – found that those who were unable to switch off from work had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol and were more likely to suffer from headaches, fatigue, anxiety, stomach problems and even serious cardiovascular issues.
We all need to exercise much more self-control. Let technology be enslaved to us rather than the other way around. Try to connect with people and your surrounding environment without a smartphone in your hand for at least some period of time every day. It is the only remedy.
5. Never hesitate to meditate
Many people switch off as soon as they hear the word, but believe me, meditation is no longer just the pastime of hippies and new age gurus. In fact, the positive benefits on wellbeing are now scientific fact.
Not only has research shown that the rest the brain experiences during meditation is equivalent to hours of deep sleep, but there is also evidence to show that it numbs the link between the medial prefrontal cortex and the body’s reaction to outside stimuli.
What does that mean to the active mumpreneur? For starters, it helps to keep things in perspective – vital when juggling both work and family time. Not only that, meditation is also shown to decrease stress levels and help with decision-making, cognition, empathy and compassion.
6. Don’t be a hero – set a realistic to-do list
The to-do list is a staple for every entrepreneur. In theory, they are great: you write down your tasks for the day, put them in order, and remove the stress of having to remember anything. When you need to know what is next, simply return to the list. Or so goes the thinking.
But here’s the reality: Far too many of those to-do lists are unmanageable – simply because we make them that way. By putting down tasks without honestly considering the amount of time of each task, we can in a matter of minutes end up with a very unrealistic to-do list that entirely overwhelms.
It is much more efficient and productive to plan tasks based on what can actually be achieved on any given day. Sure, you might not want to concede that you are not going to get around to that report until Friday, but, for the sake of your wellbeing, it is better to accept that now than to add it to Monday’s list and watch it slide its way to the end of the week – all the while nagging at you and driving up your stress levels.
It is much more efficient and productive to plan tasks based on what can actually be achieved on any given day.
Beating burnout is the key to long-term success
In reality, there are very few entrepreneurs out there who have not experienced at least some signs of burnout at some point. When you are working so hard, often alone, it is almost inevitable that every once in a while you are going to push yourself too far. In the case of the mumpreneur – with all the extra family responsibilities beyond work – the temptation to work to the point of exhaustion is even greater, and so the risks of burnout are even greater.
I’ll stress again that which I did at the outset – it’s about setting yourself up for long-term balance. Yes, watching out for the warning signs of impending burnout and slowing down well in advance are key, but the real solution is the general balance that you must do your best to strive for each day of your work-mum life.