On Business and Burnout

I wrote this as a post for #ahasmembers in our forums but I figured some of you could also use this too!

WARNING: Raw and real (and a little analytical and motherly) ahead.

Hey All!

I am not sure where to start this, but I do feel like it needs to be addressed in some way. Cuz raise your hands if you are tired and burnt out like a marshmallow that's been in the fire pit a little too long? 🙋🏻🙋🏻🙋🏻🙋🏻🙋🏻🙋🏻🙋🏻🙋🏻🙋🏻

This last week for me was ROUGH on top of a REALLY rough last six months, which were part of a really rough year, which have felt kinda like the norm since I graduated grad school and The Great Recession hit hard in 2007. I KNOW I am not the only one feeling like this and even if you're not feeling like this right now, I am sure you can identify that some point in the last few years or so that this is a familiar feeling. Because I think going into business on your own is rough stuff and life happens to EVERYONE.

There are a lot of reasons why my burnout looks different than yours. This is not the time to compare who is more burned out than who. But I think it is important that when we are feeling this way we talk about it with each other because otherwise it will appear from social media and from the surface contacts that often happen in life that everything is just hunky dory for everyone else and we are the freakshow that's been depressed, distracted, sad, unmotivated, uninspired or all of the above. 

Why am I talking about this? It's not just because I am experiencing some hardcore burnout myself (there have been so many fights and struggles for AHAS in the last three+ years and nothing has wiped me out so fully before), but because I am hearing it from you all too. In meetings, in emails, in posts... I see it and I feel you.

First, let's talk a little bit about diagnosing the problem so you aren't beating yourself up over it. Having struggled with an undiagnosed medical condition for YEARS, I can tell you that even though I had a suspicion about what I had, when the doctor officially diagnosed me, it was such relief that I cried. Naming it lets you see it for what it is. It let's you chart a course of treatment that's appropriate. It helps you externalize stuff that so often can just eat you up inside. So, if you have been feeling:

-Not wanting to deal with anything new
-Off and not like yourself
-Like you "can't even" 

you very well could be experience burnout and it's not you just being bad at business or lazy.

(guys, I want to be clear that I am not a mental health professional and if you've got stuff that is persisting and deep... going to a counselor or psychologist or what have you is always best to 1) see what's happening and 2) to just get some support with dealing with it. Even if you are just feeling super burned out, visiting a mental health professional can be incredibly helpful-- and I say this from experience!).

I also want to acknowledge why you are probably feeling this way. 

1) You are in one of the most drastically changing time periods of your life. Considering that most AHAS members are late 20s to late 40s, I feel like I can broad brush here. These two decades of life are filled with A LOT of change and I don't know why we don't talk about this more. Here's a few changes that typically unfold during this time: Marriage, divorce, grandparents dying or worse parents dying, other close relatives dying, having kids, dealing with the struggles of having kids, dealing with the struggles of staying single when everyone else has relationship "changes", buying a home, not buying a home or losing a home because this economy is poo poo, changing jobs-- often multiple times, getting laid off, getting your salary cut because you're "lucky" you didn't get laid off, having kids rapidly ascend through school and all that goes with it, moving to other cities, moving within your city, having a new pet, having a pet die, changing careers, changing friends, becoming profoundly disappointed because people you thought were one way were actually the complete opposite, etc. 

If you're a person with a pulse you've probably experienced one of these, and more than likely you've experienced several of these in the last few years. And no matter if that change was "good" or "bad", it was still change and change just alters us and requires recovery to get back to "normal" even if it's a new normal.

2) This year, and more precisely this election, has been real HEAVY. And I don't care who you are voting for (I don't even care if you're in the US-- because I know everyone else watching it can't help feel the feels too), I feel like I am pretty safe saying that everyone on all sides of the proverbial aisle are mad, sad, angry, feeling helpless and disillusioned to some degree. I realize that the norm for elections in the last decade or so is that we all know that the closer we get to voting day the uglier the allegations and commercials will get.

But this one, this one was/is a new kind of ugly. And I KNOW it's affecting people. It's affecting me. The uncertainty of all it has been magnified and blasted everywhere you look and is being discussed at the social gatherings you are going to AND IT TAKES REAL TOLL. I say this because as much as we are inundated with this stuff, it can feel very far removed and like it's just happening on our screens and not in real life. BUT SCREENS ARE PART OF OUR REAL LIFE. And they really do affect us (guys, I will spare you my two unused master's degrees of global media analysis ;)). 

3) Other things this year have just been really heavy. You could have been affected by any number of other big changes or news headlines this year. Just pick from the many! And oh, a celebrity you probably liked, maybe even loved, died suddenly and tragically. Yeah, it's just been that kind of year.

4) The platforms we use for business have especially evolved in this last year. Again, I will spare you my media scholar geekdom on this, but it is always so crazy how rapidly social media changes and within no time it just feels like that's how the platform has always been. Since we absorb these changes so quickly it can feel like they were nonevents. As with the life changes, whether these are good or bad doesn't matter, change is taxing on our brains and having a business online means dealing with A LOT of change.

Off the top of my head here are just a few changes makers endured: Etsy shop looks changed along with a bunch of other things that came with it, Instagram algorithm, Instagram look and logo change (guys, I know a logo change seems like no big, but raise your hand if it took you more than a day to figure out where that app was on your phone? 🙋🏻🙋🏻🙋🏻🙋🏻🙋🏻🙋🏻🙋🏻🙋🏻 See this stuff is hard on the brain!), Periscope became a thing but then kind of became less of a big deal, Facebook Live now seems like a thing, Facebook has made it's own layout and algorithmic changes to pages, and more that I can't think of.

5) This all comes after essentially GLOBAL recession and  years of other things that just hit everyone hard, some more than others. So, I think poop hitting the fan this year, however it did for you, feels extra unfun because darnit we could have really used some good news.

Alright... have I sufficiently bummed you out yet? ;) I don't mean to do so, but only to say if you've been feeling this way at all this year, you aren't alone and there are LOTS of external reasons for this-- it's not because you are some kind of failure who can't pull yourself together. 

The thing that feels like would be typical or easy to do right now is to tell you FIVE WAYS TO BEAT BURNOUT or SIX STEPS TO SUCCESS EVEN WHEN YOU DON'T FEEL LIKE DOING ANYTHING or WHY YOU NEED TO JUST CHANGE EVOLVE AND ADAPT AND SUCK IT UP or HOW TO GET RICH IN YOUR SLEEP BY BARELY DOING ANY WORK. Or that you need to lean into this. But when your business is you, you need to take care of yourself, not push yourself when you're about to crumble and be okay without every single quarter of your business reaching new heights of success.

I also think most of you probably lean Type A at some level (because you are SERIOUS about your business and making a good product, which is duh, why you are a member). You don't need any more pressure on you than you've already got. You need permission to let go of things when you need to. Asking for extensions, lengthening your delivery/production times, not answering emails immediately, not making as much product for that craft show, missing that craft show app deadline, and anything else that's getting you frenetic and frantic... go easy on yourself. 

I promise you that these are things that will not kill your business. When you are in the process of burnout, holding yourself to A+ standards helps no one. It's ok to be the B student in business sometimes guys. I promise. Because, SO WHAT? Just keep asking yourself that. So, what all of your fears until you realize it's probably not as crucial or urgent as your brain is making it out to be. 

I'd love to know how you all are feeling and any ways AHAS can help. I'd also like to remind those of you who aren't feeling burnout that being supportive of other people when they are can make a huge difference-- even if that support is to encourage someone to LET IT GO!!!! I think we are often looking for action item business solutions that will maximize productivity and accelerate our business and have us make money in our sleep-- and that's not the answer during burnout mode. :)