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Becoming a mom is what led me to become an entrepreneur. I’ve always been career-focused. When I was pregnant with my first child, I told myself I wanted to have a baby and a career. I pictured and planned out a future where my husband and I would get up early, get our child ready and drop her off at daycare.
Fellow parents out there are probably laughing right now. It’s easy to say you want it all, but the moment you hold your child in your arms for the first time, everything changes. As cliché as that might sound, that is exactly what happened to me.
My beautiful baby girl was placed into my arms, and I never wanted to let her go. Suddenly, the thought of someone else raising her while I was at work was no longer appealing. I still wanted a career, but more importantly, I wanted to be the one there for my child every day.
I opted to stay home, but the itch to have my own career never went away. Talking it out with my husband, I decided to start my own business. I would work from home in an era where working from home was something no one did. I raised my baby, worked and spent time with my family. I will admit that I had an amazing support system that helped me make my dreams come true.
However, it was a time of extreme stress. I was exhausted from taking care of my child. I felt sluggish at work as the projects kept piling up. I found myself wanting to veg out rather than spending time with friends and family. For the first time in my life, I was experiencing burnout.
Related: Understanding Entrepreneurial Burnout (And How To Deal With It)
Burnout as a stay-at-home parent and entrepreneur
If you’re a parent, then you know that you have two full-time jobs: your career and caring for your family. Those two worlds collide if you work from home because you feel as though you don’t get a break from either. I would argue from personal experience that you’re more likely to feel stressed if you are a stay-at-home parent that also works at home. I remember one day in particular. I was running on almost no sleep between caring for my child at night and staying up late to finish projects for work. My brain felt jumbled, and I kept catching myself making mistakes. Add in a baby crying in the background, and I thought I was going to lose my mind.
I wanted to give up. I was a mess. When my husband came home that night, I told him I was done being an entrepreneur. I felt exhausted. Mistakes at work were piling up. Caring for my child didn’t feel as magical as I once thought it did. After a long day of his own, my husband came home and calmed me down. He was the one who told me what I was experiencing: burnout.
Related: How to Avoid Burnout in a High-Stress Environment
What exactly is burnout?
Many people think of burnout as a stress response triggered by too much work — but that’s not exactly accurate. Rather, burnout is more about unfulfilled expectations or a mismatch between what you do for work and what you expect. In other words, it’s more accurately described as a disappointment in your job rather than a disorder caused by doing too much of it.
While it’s not a diagnosable condition or physical illness like depression or anxiety, burnout is linked to those disorders. When you don’t deal with your stress properly by taking care of yourself or expressing your feelings in a healthy way — to a loved one or support group — it can turn into something worse. That’s why it’s important to find ways to combat stress on an ongoing basis before that happens.
My personal burnout came from that age-old term of “having it all.” I thought I had to be perfect every day at work and perfect every day while raising my child. Somewhere along the way, I seemed to have forgotten that I am human. My husband was the one to remind me that I had a huge support system behind me. It was time to stop being perfect and just be me — and that started by managing my burnout.
Related: How to Spot Entrepreneurial Burnout (Before It’s Too Late)
Tips to avoid burnout in the future
It’s easy to get down on yourself. The fact that burnout happens to so many people at one point or another should come as no surprise. But don’t let burnout drive you away from what you do. Find a way to avoid it in the future by following these tips:
- Turn off your phone and computer at the end of the day. Stick to a work schedule, and don’t let the temptation of nearby electronics sway you from that. Get to bed on time — don’t stay up late to cram in more work.
- Set boundaries with your family. If your kiddos are old enough, let them know they can’t bust into your office when you are in a meeting or on a phone call.
- Do what you enjoy! Find one small activity daily that you can do that helps you relax. This can be as simple as making your favorite cup of tea.
- Get up and get moving. Go for a walk. Play tag with your kids. Just get moving!
- Finally, and most importantly, manage expectations. You’re stressing yourself out because you expect to get a bunch done, and then at the end of the day, you find yourself buried under an even larger mountain of projects. The work is never-ending, so take your time. Don’t stress. Understand your limits and how much you can complete in a certain period of time. But also, forgive yourself if you don’t get it all done! You’re human, and the good news is that you work with fellow humans who understand your stress.