When fatigue and burnout is hurting your business
Our start-up culture here in the UK and the US celebrates hustle-and-grind and hard work, and yet sells us the passive income dream and laptop freedom lifestyle. This social pressure to achieve, crush it and chase the 6 or 7 figure business formulas, has resulted in many of us experiencing entrepreneurial burnout.
The hustle-and-grind culture of internet marketing is proving not to work for the majority of people, particularly for those of you who are not designed to be stuck in front of screens all day or work in isolation from home offices.
Fatigue illnesses, stress and hormone imbalances have become serious problems for many business owners, particularly those of us in our 40’s, 50’s and beyond, and it’s caused many of us to pull back and play small to protect ourselves.
When we feel exhausted, we can talk ourselves out of plans we feel we don’t have the capacity, confidence or courage to take action on.
But this fear of not having enough energy is costing us and the economy dearly.
I’ve experienced this myself over the years so I know only too well how frustrating and costly this exhaustion can be.
When we take full responsibility for our health and energy and create the right conditions to fuel our vitality, we can grow profitable, sustainable and potentially scalable businesses and our visions for the future won’t get sidetracked or forgotten.
We have to understand and know how to work with, rather than against, our own cycles and flow, and the cycles and flow of our business, the economy and the planet we live on.
I’ve been prompted to write about this today because of a recent setback in my health journey. Fortunately, this time around, I feel I’ve caught my energy spiral quickly and it’s only taken 2 weeks to feel back on track.
My fatigue illness began about 10 years ago. I was in full Superwoman mode; mother to two young children and running a successful term-time coaching business. Then my Dad got sick. After 18 months of pure hell and going through three rounds of seriously intensive chemo, he died of Lymphoma in the summer of 2010. My parents lived in Devon at the time. Me in Surrey. So I spent the best part of two years driving up and down the A303, sometimes back and forth in one day. It was no surprise that my shoulders seem stuck to my ears from all the driving and I consequently had chronic neck pain.
My life seemed to take on a black comedy theme as if that wasn’t enough to deal with, I had been convinced to take on a 9 month rescue dog because the family wanted a pet. The autumn of that same year of my Dad dying, he got run over by a truck on the A3. £6,500 worth of vet bills and reconstructive leg surgery later I was left looking after a lame dog, whilst dealing with our family grief.
I tried counselling but one session was enough for me to decide I didn’t have time to let all this grief out so I zipped it all in and in January 2011, I went headlong back into making my business work again.
I re-designed my business to get away from the constant launching of digital programmes and closed down my membership site product. I knew I didn’t have the capacity or the inclination to spend my time learning and keeping up with the latest digital tactics that I was teach in my Web Tech Club membership site and I missed direct contact with clients, being involved with their decision making and simplifying their marketing systems.
My business moved into a 1-2-Many model and I launched my first group coaching programme in June 2011, The GID Marketing School, which still runs successfully today.
All the changes I was making to my business was working on paper. I was certainly doing less, having far more fun and making more money than before.
The problem was that I was still in Superwoman; that same driving force I had back in my 30’s was being used in my 40’s. And let’s not forget the trauma of losing my Dad I had buried deep inside of me.
The summer of 2012 I hit the proverbial wall. I simply couldn’t get out of bed one weekend. I realised that this tiredness I was feeling wasn’t going to be fixed by a few early nights. I would like to be able to give you a happy ending now. But unfortunately, my exhaustion confused and depressed me. There was endless information out there which overwhelmed me. My GP told me I was fine and that all women my age go through this kind of symptoms and as my blood tests all came back normal she simply suggested I take some iron tablets.
I conveniently blamed my physical state on peri-menopause which gave me permission to believe that all women went through this so just get through it and by the time I’m 52, all will be well.
My saving grace came from finding a community called One of Many and it was through learning about how to change the energy I was using in my life and my business that literally saved my life and helped feel alive again.
What I’ve come to deeply understand now is that you can look to others for inspiration on what makes a business work, have the best product funnel set up and following the latest surefire, tried-and-tested marketing system … if you don’t take full responsibility for your health and energy and create the right conditions to fuel your vitality whilst you go about growing your business, you’re in danger of boom-and-bust and crashing your body.
That’s entrepreneurial burnout. And it’s rife right now. Because of the stories my clients have shared with me over the past few years, I know my story here today is not unique.
But it’s not doom and gloom.
The reason I want to share my story is to inspire you that there is life, vitality and the full force of creativity on the other side. Once my fatigue was under control my business has blossomed once again and through my teachings around True Profit, I feel I am doing my best work yet.
As I mentioned at the start of this article, I’m still experiencing setbacks. My recent fatigue was caused by a wonderful family holiday where I simply consumed too much pizza, croissants and rose wine for 10 days – reality check when I got back home and my hormones kicked off kilter again. But a couple of sessions with an acupuncturist, twice daily Clary Sage and him putting me on a very mean and horrible 😉 30-day wheat and dairy free diet, and I’m beginning to feel “normal” again.
My post-holiday slump was simply a reminder that I need to keep looking after myself, watch how I’m fuelling my body and find the time to create space for replenishment so I have the energy to forge forward when I need to.
So what to do if you feel you are on the track to burnout?
Perhaps you’ve hit the wall like me back in 2012 and you’re staring at this screen frustrated that your brain fog is so thick you can’t think straight.
Perhaps you’ve not hit that wall yet but you recognise the tiredness is affecting how you think about your business and you’re perhaps pulling yourself back on plans you previously had.
Here are a few suggestions to start taking some control back over your energy.
1. Recognise you have a health problem
The sooner you stop kidding yourself that everyone else is tired and this is just the way of the world, the sooner you can start helping yourself recover. Start with your GP. Now I know from experience, that the NHS just isn’t equipped to understand and investigate fatigue illnesses so it can take months, if not years to be diagnosed with illnesses such as ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
And you may have to go private if you can afford to pay the fees. I’ve found that hormone testing is best done privately because you’ll simply get better results. If you’re interested in speaking to someone, then I can recommend Nicki Williams from www.happyhormonesforlife.com
But don’t get ahead of yourself and make this a bigger problem than it needs to be. One visit to the GP and a blood test later and you may find you have a real simple medical treatment to follow. The reality is that there’s every chance you’ll have to be making some serious lifestyle changes – what you eat, drink and how you exercise and move – but start somewhere and your GP will hopefully be the place for that.
2. Ask for help and explore your options
I know from experience that fatigue causes confusion, brain fog and decreases your ability to make decisions so you need to ask for help. I battled with this for years. Thought I could fix it all by myself with good old Google and a few books on menopause. But it wasn’t until I started getting recommendations for health practitioners such as kinesiologists and acupuncturists that I started to realise that my fatigue had a shed load of trauma and grief blocked behind it. It wasn’t pretty, that’s for sure, but shifting this blocked energy helped me tremendously.
For someone who has always thought quite logically and pragmatically about stuff, I still can’t quite get my head around the fact that my ten-year shoulder pain simply disappeared after working with a Chinese doctor who unlocked my liver meridian.
But I digress.
Explore your options, try out treatments recommended to you and you may surprise yourself with what works for you.
3. Know that energy flows and needs replenishing
I’ve learnt that we have many energy states that we have access to help us thrive and rise to our full potential. And to help my clients experience these energy states, I teach three different energies to use when they are growing a business.
Lean In. Lean Back. Ground.
They work like a pendulum swing and help you keep going forward with your business growth plans, but without the drive and push energy that can burn us out. When you know what energy to use for visioning, planning and implementing, for example, you’re able to make better decisions and focus on what’s important to you and what you want to create.
If feeling energy flow is new to you, then I recommend you first start tracking your energy cycles and flow that happen throughout the day, week and month. It can be hard to do if you are particularly fatigued so it may be that you need to action steps 1 and 2 first before you try this.
But what you will find is that some tasks you do in your business light you up and some suck you down. At some points of the day you feel alive and at other times you may just want to crawl back under your duvet. For women, your monthly cycles have a direct impact on our energy so if you haven’t done so already, starting tracking these immediately.
4. Is your business model right?
Most of what I teach now is something I call True Profit; a process that shows you how to create the foundations for sustainable growth and scalable opportunities that will help you thrive and step into your full potential, rather than burn you out.
As the pace of our living gets faster and social media feeds us a stylised version of what business success looks like, we seem to be obsessed by how to get more done in less time. And when we’re not sure exactly what needs to be done, rather than look to our vision and business strategy for answers, we buy into the next “should-be” marketing tactic, funnel or success formula that promises us results but simply distracts us by never-ending to-do lists.
It’s easy to see how a lot of people get trapped by building the wrong business model and end up selling and delivering the wrong products and programmes that only drain them of their energy.
It’s why one person’s success formula won’t necessarily work for another.
The more time we spend understanding ourselves and how we work, the easier it becomes to build a business that fuels us. Personality profiling tools such as Talent Dynamics are a really quick and easy way of starting this process. Think of it like packing for a holiday; if you were going on a beach holiday, you wouldn’t be taking your ski jackets with you. It’s the same for your business. If being in front of screens all day drains you, is a digital business really right for you … even though you’ve been told by many experts that passive income is the way to go?
Build a business model that’s right for your being, your values, how your energy flows and the money you need to make the choices of how you spend your time.
There’s a really simple tool called The True Profit Pie that will help you see within a few minutes where your business may be out kilter. It will be available for you real soon. I hope by sharing some of my story with you today has woken some of you up and made you realise that being knackered is not OK … not for your health and not for your business.
If you know me personally, I’m certainly not some bean-eating, juicing goddess who gets up every morning and starts her day with yoga and meditation. I’ve tried but it’s simply not me LOL If that’s your thing, great but you may be pleased to know you don’t need to be all zen in order to create zen in your life.
What I do know is that without vitality, the vision we have for our business just doesn’t happen, and this is what I want to help you stop happening. Because when you are exhausted, you pull yourself back; you will talk yourself out of plans you feel you don’t have the capacity, confidence or courage to take action on.
Thank you for reading. Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.
About the author
Karen Skidmore is a business mentor with 25+ years of experience, specialising in True Profit™; the design & growth of purposeful, profitable businesses. Business Books Awards finalist 2020 & podcaster, Karen uniquely combines the being-ness and doing-ness of business to help scale up, without burning out.
The first step in discovering the True Profit in your business is to take the True Profit Test.