Every week, I see more people talking about burning out. It seems to be hitting anyone: from seasoned entrepreneurs with glowing track records to people scrapping their side projects because they can’t even handle their day job anymore: people are struggling.
I feel it too. Being cooped up for years isn’t cool, not even for a writer who loves to be left alone. The pandemic life is stressful in so many ways; it wears you out.
I bet that you, reading this right now, have felt the creeping advances of stress and anxiety into your entrepreneurial journey as well.
Let me offer a word of comfort here: you are not alone.
I mean it.
You’re not alone because this is affecting a lot of people, if not everyone around you. You’re not alone because people in our communities are incredibly supportive. And you’re not alone, but maybe you should try to be: taking a step back from social media might be a way to calm your stress levels.
Let’s look into these claims and how you can leverage that to reduce your anxieties, step back from what is causing you to burn out, and find meaning and joy in your entrepreneurial journey again.
You Are Not Alone
The consequences of COVID and the regulatory efforts to control it are impacting people’s mental health. Lockdowns, the endless debates with our parents and peers about if they should get vaccinated or not, and a constant baseline of uncertainty when interacting with others are stressing us out.
Remote work causes stress that can’t just be compensated by going home — because you’re already at home!
Why am I saying this?
People out there understand why you’re struggling because they are struggling themselves. And as painful as their own experience is, they will support you.
I’ve been through burnout twice in my life. Once in 2013 when I was working for a VC-funded Silicon Valley startup, and back in 2019, when I was running my own EdTech SaaS. It slowly creeps up on you. You think you can handle the workload — until you can’t.
Both times, I didn’t reach out to anyone for help before it was incredibly painful. Both times, things got much better once I talked to someone about this and acted on it.
It’s one of the things that astonish me about the human psyche: we struggle to learn even from our own experiences, let alone the experiences and anecdotes of others. I certainly run into this over and over again. But I’m learning to detect the early warning signs better: for me, it starts with losing interest in the work. When I’m mentally healthy, what I do is a vibrant image in my mind. When burnout sneaks in, the colors dampen, and everything turns gray. I stop caring deeply for what I do because my mind needs that energy to protect itself.
Know that feeling?
As I said, a lot of people are going through this right now. We’re experiencing a global desaturation. The way out of this is community. When we share, we liberate ourselves and others. There’s a German saying, “geteiltes Leid ist halbes Leid,” which means to say that “a problem shared is a problem halved.” Never has this been more true than now, in the middle of a global catastrophe. Reach out, and you’ll see that there is support, kindness, and guidance.
With the support of the community, you definitely are not alone. But maybe you should consider taking a break from others. There is a lot of hustling going on, as people compensate for being cooped up in their apartments and houses by jumping into project after project. And as much as I love people building in public, I know that it can be incredibly disappointing to see others being productive while you feel like you’re not good for anything.
Try a digital detox approach. Step away from your social media for a few days. I recently did this when Danielle and I went up north to a lake for a week. I made sure to announce that I was going to reduce my frequency of posting and scheduled some content for the week. When we arrived at the lake, I turned all notifications off on my phone.
I switched my phone out for a notebook and began relaxing on the dock and by the fire. I actively battled down the initial impulse to check Twitter until it was gone. That took a few hours, but it was worth it.
What stepping away from social media allowed me to do was having time for self-reflection outside of the echo chamber. The moment you can’t see the hustle and bustle of a whole community, you start looking at yourself from a more internal perspective. The less exposure you have to the real or imaginary expectations of others, the more you can focus on your own values and goals.
One thing stood out to me in particular. When I stepped away from Twitter for a week, I thought much less about being competitive. Before, I’d often think about creating as much as other Twitter creators. But once I took a step back, I saw that this was unhealthy. You don’t compete with others; the only person worth competing with is your yesterday self.
And when you’re already struggling, don’t even compete with yourself. Don’t compete at all. Stay where you are, reorient, and recuperate.
I know this sounds simplistic. After all, if relaxing was easy, then life wouldn’t get as stressful as it is for so many right now. I’ve found that we often stand in our own way. We believe that we have to work on ourselves and our careers every single day. We think we constantly need to improve, or we’re missing out. Constant growth is one of the weirdest myths that I’ve ever encountered. Who decided that every single day of our lives, we need to work on optimizing our journey? Every diet has cheat days, but life does not? I choose not to believe that.
If you’re struggling with burnout, the best thing you can do is to stop doing the thing that causes it. Stop it slowly, stop it quickly, as long as you stop it. Stop it for a while, stop it forever and do something else; the only important thing is that you take time for yourself.
Your mental health is needed for a wholesome and complete life. If you feel it deteriorating, reach out and share that. I know it’s often hard to be openly vulnerable, but you can trust that your community — which consists of people just like you who are going through the exact same thing — will support you. A problem shared is a problem halved.
And then, take a break from social media.
Take a deep breath.
And then, make your next move.