Burnout, for a long time, has been classified as a problem linked to life management, but recently in its International Disease Classification, the World Health Organisation re-labeled the syndrome as an “occupational phenomenon”, to better reflect that burnout is a work-based syndrome caused by chronic stress.
Burnout, coined in 1974 by Herbert Freudenberger, an American-German psychologist, and author of Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement, the term means a situation where you mentally or physically collapse due to workload or related issues.
Miriam Ingabire began her career journey at the age of 25, as an accountant, to climb up her career ladder, she outdid herself from the beginning, telling herself to work harder.
Her dreams indeed came true, as she was promoted within the first year but it didn’t take long before the hard work began to take a toll on her.
“I began feeling a sense of emotional exhaustion, lost zeal for the job I loved and eventually became less effective at work. I was barely eating and I looked frail but that did not ring a bell because all that I cared about was proving myself,” she narrated.
It was not until her performance completely declined that she realised she needed to refresh her mind.
“I took enough time off work and soon found ways to manage stress, strike a good work life balance and look after my health. I take breaks off my busy schedule to exercise in the gym and clear my mind and I strive to eat healthy as well as meditate”.
According to Mayo Clinic, although burnout is not a medical diagnosis, whatever the cause, it can affect your physical and mental health.
Burnout, which is similar to entrepreneurial fatigue, is mainly due to stress which can be caused by financial issues, heavy responsibilities and even failure to meet expectations.
While entrepreneurs are known for their energy and determination to make things work against all the odds, the pressure that results can be harsh and lead to physical and mental burnout.
As the old adage says, work expands so as to fill the available time for its completion. Unless you set boundaries, all of your time becomes available time.
So, what do you to do when you notice that you are burnt out?
David Kizunzi, a rising entrepreneur and founder of My Green Home project, says that when you can’t stop thinking about work when you’re at home, it’s a strong sign that you’re burning out.
“Even though it’s tough, I usually make sure I don’t take work at home and during weekends I don’t do work related stuff. I am also intentional about my limit and when to seek for help when things are becoming much but also sometimes I say no to some demands.
Just because you are trying to grow a business doesn’t mean you have to accept every task that comes. When you’re in business you’ll naturally work around the clock and the weekends to try to reach that next goal, whatever it may be,” he says.
For Cynthia Mukansuro, an entrepreneur dealing with clothing retail, if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your business. One way to beat fatigue is to boost one’s levels of resilience.
“Finding a partner to work with or manage business can help boost your energy since it helps reduce workload. Also taking a few weeks off work while struggling with pressure plays the trick,” she says.
In his book Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement, Rich Karlgaard, a successful entrepreneur and author who didn’t achieve his potential until later in life, looks to several years of studies about why most people don’t achieve success until later in life when they’ve had a chance to understand themselves and their strengths and weaknesses.
The “early twenty-first-century society”, he explains “has conspired to make us feel shame” for not racing out of life’s proverbial gates.
For Christine Iribagiza, a content creator who is just starting out, has discovered ways of easing the pressures, and one of them is to mix up her work environment.
“Working in one place all day, every day, is not only boring but can drain your creativity, so I’ll also work from a coffee shop, hotel lobby or from co-working environments to attract the different kinds of energy from place to place,” she says.
For Ingabire, it’s also important to be aware of the signs of stress and potential burn out, such as physical and mental fatigue, loss of appetite, insomnia and address them quickly.
“If you feel wornout, make sure to make use of your support system and talk to them about your situation. You do not always need to see a doctor, merely speaking to your friends and family can be beneficial and get you back on track,” she advised.