This article is a follow-up to my blog post on my morning routine of meditation, hydration and fasted workouts for energy and productivity. Sometimes the best way to improve your energy level is not figuring out how to work harder, but how to mentally refresh when you inevitably find yourself overworked.
Owning a business is exhausting. Even with an uber-efficient business, there will be times when you’ll be engulfed in a never-ending to-do list. In that situation, you’re left with two options– fire up the coffee pot and charge full-steam ahead into the god-awful hours of the night, or realize that the current situation is not sustainable and things must change in order to move forward. Many of us choose Door #1, which leads down an unsustainable path that demands torturous amounts of time and mental energy. For a while, the hustle provides a sense of accomplishment. But eventually, that grueling pace stop being fun and you begin to accomplish less and less, and you’re all of a sudden left with a severely depleted body and mind. You are sufficiently burned out.
At this point, the smartest thing you can do is hit the reset button, because hustling more will be counter-productive. After all, Albert Einstein defined ‘insanity’ as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”– so if you’re expecting to hustle at the same unsustainable pace yet expect to overcome your burn-out AND accomplish everything you need to do, that’s literally an insane plan.
Here are some recommendations on how you can overcome that burnout and get back to being your uber-productive self–
Accept the fact that you are burned out. The only true way to recover from a full-blown burnout is to rest your body and mind. Once you come to this realization, you won’t feel guilty about taking more personal time because you will understand that the quicker you recover, the quicker your business can move forward.
Give yourself more down-time, but don’t disconnect completely. Unless you’re taking a mental detox vacation, I wouldn’t recommend disconnecting completely. Completely disconnecting without proper planning would probably lead to more stress instead of less, which is counter-productive for our purposes of beating the burnout. Take a look at your to-do list before you go to bed every night and plan on only getting a few things done the next day. Don’t overreach on what you think you can accomplish– it’s better to get a few things done early than to try and get more done and fail. Set yourself up for success, not failure– it will do wonders for your mental recovery.
Go to sleep earlier and/or wake up later. When people have a lot on their plate, they usually wake up earlier or go to sleep later to have more working hours– which makes sense when you’re functioning at full-strength. When you’re burned out, it doesn’t matter if you have more hours in the day because those hours are wildly unproductive anyway. You’re better off getting a few extra hours of quality sleep and recovering faster. Working fewer hours will also give you a chance to see where your business processes could be improved in your absence– Do you need to hire more employees? Do you need to automate a specific process?
Optimize your morning routine. Take this reboot time to test out new lifestyle changes that you incorporate into to your normal everyday routine to prevent another burnout. One of the best things I personally have done for myself was to optimize my morning routine, which led to improved energy levels and focus throughout the entire day.
Temporarily stop drinking coffee. Boom– yeah, I just said it. It’s probably not what you wanted to hear, but while coffee does give you temporary energy, it is not sustainable energy, which it what we’re aiming for. Coffee does have many health benefits, but it also raises cortisol levels (the stress hormone), which is very counter-productive when you’re trying to reducing stress and regaining your natural energy levels. I love coffee, but when I’ve accepted the fact that I’m burned out, I’ll completely refrain from coffee and switch to green tea until I have my energy levels back. The first few days are rough, but around day 4, you should start to feel better.
Hang out with friends, phone disconnected. I’m not advocating a complete electronics detox, but rather to opportunistically choose when to disconnect. Leading up to your burnout, you probably weren’t spending much time with your friends and family because you were working nonstop. Take this recovery time to relax with friends and enjoy the time being physically and mentally away from work.
Laugh more. Aside from refraining from coffee, laughing is a great way to reduce cortisol levels. My favorite surefire way to laugh? Spend some time on YouTube watching funny videos, or going to a live stand-up comedy show.
Supplement with Vitamin D, Rhodiola and Astragalus. Diet, sleep and exercise should be the foundation of any healthy lifestyle, but there’s definitely a place for supplements, especially when it comes to rejuvenating your body and mind. Optimizing your Vitamin D levels is very important since chronic stress can disrupt your body’s Vitamin D3 uptake. There’s also a class of herbs called adaptogens which help your body adapt to stress and normalize your hormone levels. My two personal favorites are rhodiola rosea and astragalus— I take both every morning if I’m under more stress than usual.
Drink a ton of water. Being dehydrated will negatively affect your mood, energy levels and ability to think clearly. By not staying hydrated, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage in your battle to recover from burnout. What helps me stay hydrated is to always have a large glass of water by my side, and every time I finish it I must refill it immediately. [Update: along with a large glass, I now also leave this pitcher on my desk, which makes it a LOT easier to stay hydrated]
New physical activity. If your body feels good, your mind will follow. If you don’t usually exercise, start exercising– even something as simple as morning walks before breakfast is enough. Already on an exercise program? Try a new routine. If you exercise specific body parts each workout, try switching to a full body or upper/lower routine. Always lift heavy? Try dropping the weight and do circuit training instead. During this burnout period, it’s important to inject new healthy energy into your life, and an easy way to do that is to switch up your workout routine.
There you have it– those are some of tips and tricks that I personally use to recover from burnout. Depending on how burned out you are will determine how long it will take to fully recover. Avoid setting yourself a deadline for when you need to be back to normal– just take your time. I hope these tips help you get back your normal energy levels quickly!