How to Recover from Business Burnout

What to Do When Feeling Overwhelmed

Nobody starts a small business celebrating all the stress they are taking on. Yet, stress is part of taking on the responsibility of working towards your dream. The passion you have that starts your business can quickly dwindle. Especially as you see the stressors mounting while searching for customers and clients to feed your growing business.

If this sounds familiar, you need to take a break. At the same time, you can’t see a good time to give yourself one, at least not enough time to fully recover. A tough week can call for more than just a temporary fix. And while an extra day off or even a meditation routine is nice, neither will fix your problems long-term.

Like any other business-related issue, you need to stop patching and start to really fix the issue, or it could lead to burnout from work.

In this article you’ll learn:

· How stress can kill your business

· How to tell if you’re burned out

· How to deal with burnout

· Why self-care is so important

How Stress Can Kill Your Business (and More)

Extreme and chronic stress can lead to:

1. Fatigue

2. Insomnia

3. Depression

4. Alcohol and Substance abuse

5. Heart Disease

6. High Blood Pressure

It also can leave you more socially isolated and lacking in support systems to deal with your stress. This is not to say that your lower-level chronic stress can kill you. It can leave you in a state where your passion for your business leads to it failing, because you cannot support it.

Business News Daily reports that while some famous entrepreneurs encourage you to work 60–100 hours per week, the data does not support those kinds of hours.

As an I-O Psychologist, I let business owners and entrepreneurs know that anything over 50 hours a week causes your quality and productivity to take a steep nose-dive. Why spend more time working if it will only lead to more re-work?

The stress you are feeling, the kind that’s breaking you down and giving you problems, has deeper roots. If those deeper roots aren’t addressed, your stressors will have a big impact on your ability to do your work. Your work impacts your health, both mentally and physically.

Extreme stress is always much sexier to talk about, but even low-level chronic stress can be dangerous.

We don’t always give voice to lower level stressors we feel because those are “first-world” problems or because “everyone’s a little stressed.” This is why it’s so harmful. Humans can get used to almost any conditions, and the more we normalize more extreme conditions, the harder it becomes to see the problems standing directly before us.

We’re the frog in the hot water and if we don’t keep objectivity, we can get boiled too!

How to Recognize if You’re Burned Out?

If you are reading this and see some similarities to your experiences, or want to show this article to someone you know that fits into the risk factors for burnout, take the time to answer these 10 questions:

1. Have you become cynical or critical at work?

2. Do you drag yourself to work and/or have trouble getting started?

3. Have you become irritable or impatient with your team, customers, or clients?

4. Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?

5. Do you find it hard to concentrate?

6. Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?

7. Do you feel disillusioned about your business?

8. Are you using food, drugs, or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?

9. Have your sleep habits changed?

10. Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?

If you answered “yes” to three or more of the questions above, you have burnout symptoms. You need to seriously start looking at how you’re doing your work so the underlying causes of your stress can be addressed properly.

How to Deal with Burnout

Burnout and somatic responses to stressors can come from many places. Here are the general things I look at with business owners, professionals and executives.

By focusing on these six areas:

You can improve how you feel about your work and how you go about it. It’s the first step to re-designing how things are done.

· Locus of control — an inability to influence decisions that affect your job — your schedule, workload, resources — could lead to job burnout.

To counter locus of control, having a sense of purpose (having an impact on others, or feeling as if one is making the world a better place) is invaluable. Often, meaningfulness can counteract the negative aspects of a job. You might re-spark your passion by reaching out to other entrepreneurs and listening to discussions on things you are interested in. You might also want to challenge yourself or search out assistance through coaching services to recenter yourself.

· Workplace environment. Perhaps you work with someone who undermines you or you are not able to work in a productive place. This can contribute to stress.

To counter a poor workplace environment, make sure that your space to work is set up for success by cutting out distractors and any people that are not committed to being productive and helpful.

· Social support. If you feel isolated at work and in your personal life, you might feel more stressed.

Reaching out to peers and other professionals can be a healthy way to speak to people that understand and know the stressors you are dealing with every day.

· Extremes of activity. When a job is monotonous or chaotic, you need constant energy to remain focused. Which can lead to fatigue and job burnout.

You may want to redesign the job or find ways to delegate or automate more tasks. Investing in a remote administrative assistant might be helpful. Work with someone at Fiverr or another service. There are many out there. Look for help outside of yourself; it is a sign of success.

· Role confusion. If you or others are unclear about the degree of authority you have or what is expected from you, you are likely to feel some level of stress at work.

Set-up a meeting to reset expectations. This happens a lot to projects that span over years or have a fair amount of scope creep. It helps to call a “time-out” and clarify.

· Work-life imbalance. If your work takes up so much of your time and effort that you do not have the energy to spend time with your family and friends, you might burn out quickly.

To counteract this, I work with people to set healthy boundaries. Where you set that line for yourself is important. Know that your boundaries are a moving target. And at the end of the day, your business will not take care of you while you are sick. It can’t hold meaningful conversations with you, or care about you if you pass-on.

Why Self-care is So Important

Another way to relieve the stress you are feeling is through self-care. I know, you read “self-care” and a few things come across your mind. “I don’t have time for this,” is probably at the top of the list. Many people are resistant to self-care. I hear people argue that self-care is nonsense, or that it shows weakness.

My argument to that view is:

If you are a part of your business and you take care of the business, it means that you need to take care of yourself too. Acknowledging your resistance is the way to get over the resistance. Every time you don’t address your stressors and burnout signs, you amplify them. This hurts you and hurts your business.

As a business owner, ask yourself, “What are the key priorities in my life? Can I achieve them without health and well-being? What is one thing I can choose to say ‘no’ to today that will give me back at least five minutes?” You probably spend longer on social media than it would take you to do something to de-stress. Make it fit who you are, and your agenda.


Make yourself stretch. Do something that is completely out of character; something that scares you. New life experiences are motivating and keep you from stagnating. Remember, what got you here (stress) will not get you or your business to the next level. People do not “maintain.” We either grow or we do not. Keep growing and working on supporting your business, by supporting your well-being.

About the author

Dr. Simmons is an Industrial Organizational Psychologist and Owner of RHSimmons Consulting. His business focuses on Executive Coaching, Leadership Development, and Organizational Change Management. As a professional with more than a decade of experience in multiple industries, leading the adoption and change of multi-million-dollar business initiatives, Dr. Simmons gives unique insight to professional development and organizational change. Learn more about Dr. Simmons here.


Conlin, B. (January 2019). How many hours should entrepreneurs work per week? Business News Daily.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Job burnout: How to spot it and take action. Mayo Clinic.

Neale, P. (October 2020). “Serious” Leaders Need Self-Care Too. Harvard Business Review.

Psychology Today. (n.d.) Burnout. Psychology Today.

Edited for the web by

I/O Psychologist and owner of RHSimmons Consulting expert in Leadership development, Coaching, and Organizational change.