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Beat overwhelm and burnout in business with my simple self-care guide

Have you ever been so busy in your business that you didn’t know which way to turn? Maybe it’s happening to you right now? I’ve certainly been there. As have many of my female clients. We don’t always know how to stop overwhelm and burnout in business. Even when that little voice tells us that enough is enough!

A new client once told me how her previous business had failed.  Having taken on too much too soon, everything got too complicated. She was so stressed she never knew which crisis to deal with first. So before long, she ran out of time and money. But what was even worse, she had lost her physical, mental and emotional energy to fight for her business!

She approached me a year later with a new business idea, and together we created a realistic and achievable plan. A plan, that even left space for her personal priorities. Yes that is possible!

It’s just one way to help you try and beat overwhelm and prevent burnout.

How to recognise overwhelm and burnout

  • Maybe you’re feeling anxious and tense and are losing your cool a lot more than usual
  • Or your quality of sleep has been poor for a while and you always feel tired and lack energy
  • Perhaps you rush mealtimes and survive on junk food and caffeine. Or you drink more alcohol than normal
  • You may not have time for friends and feel distracted with your family
  • You’re always chasing your tail, have lost motivation and wonder if you should just give up your business
  • You have frequent thoughts like ‘I can’t cope’ or ‘this is all too much’
  • You may lose interest in the activities you used to enjoy most

I have experienced all these at different times. And I know how all this struggling can make you forget what’s important or lose touch with who you are.

The trouble is, many women often feel that they need to do everything themselves, or at least try to. And what if it’s all just mind over matter anyway!

Also… doesn’t everyone tell you that building a business is hard work?

But what does that really mean – working all hours whilst sacrificing your sanity?

Being busy is good (or is it?)

It seems that a lot of people (not just women) keep themselves deliberately busy. And they talk a lot about how busy they are.

But this kind of busy-ness where you always want to achieve more, be better or faster, can backfire.

Living a life of striving makes it hard to jump off the treadmill. If that’s you, have a think how (deep down) you might benefit from being this busy. For example, are you pushing yourself because you have high expectations? Or does it make you feel empowered because you feel undervalued or unappreciated?

Your experience is different to anyone else’s

So many of you are juggling different commitments. For example, when you started your business you also became an admin person as well as a leader, sales, marketing, finance and project manager. But perhaps you’re also a partner, mum, grandma, daughter or carer for a family member?

You probably have a lot on your plate – no wonder you feel overwhelmed!

Saying that, what you take on willingly and what you’re forced to deal with are two different things. How well you cope – especially with things completely outside your control – will depend on how resilient you are.

Some of you are better at withstanding pressure than others and may still feel in control even in challenging situations. We all seem to have a different resilience threshold – not unlike our different threshold for feeling pain!

In other words, what overwhelms me may leave you cool, and vice versa.

How to build resilience 

One of the best ways to stop feeling overwhelmed is to have good self-care strategies in place. They can protect you from pressure and help you to get a different perspective too.

When I feel overwhelmed, I either find solace in writing, go for a walk round the block or practice Tai Chi. They all calm me down and help me think more clearly. And when I feel particularly overwhelmed, I hug my big old apple tree in the garden! (Ok, the latter may be a bit quirky. But it can help me feel more grounded.)

There are many other self-care techniques and you may recognise some of your own in this list:

  • Mental strategies e.g. meditation, mindfulness, gratitude practice, NLP, positive thinking or even humour
  • Physical approaches including exercise, gardening, nutrition, massage, acupuncture or reflexology
  • Eastern physical and mental approaches, e.g. Tai Chi, Qigong and Yoga
  • Creative activities, e.g. painting, writing or journaling
  • Practical strategies including goal setting, prioritising or other time management techniques. Also good/confident communication
  • Spiritual practices like prayer, Reiki and other forms of energy healing
  • Social activities, eg spending time with friends

One or two of these will fit into more than one category, and there may well be more.

Some are easy to use and won’t cost anything. Others can take a little time to learn, e.g. Meditation or Tai Chi.

Business owners usually rely on practical strategies like the ones I mention above. (Also read this to improve your planning and communication to help with stress)

But ideally, you want to have a mix of different strategies to fall back on when you need to beat overwhelm. These will be your own personal ‘resilience resources’!

Why ‘less is always more’

When I first started my training business, the youngest of my three children had just started school. And so I tried to run all my projects during the school terms and keep the holidays free. It took a great deal of planning on my part, and wasn’t always an easy idea to sell to my customers.

At the time I thought I had cracked it despite having had to pack a lot into the school terms to make my business profitable.

In truth, a lot of the time my system didn’t work. Customers would cause big projects to overrun and suppliers let me down. Sometimes I had over-committed myself or my kids fell ill. Then there were serious family illnessess and one or two bereavements.

These 3 lessons may help you too:

  1. You can’t plan for unexpected events as life has a habit of getting in the way. But having good coping strategies does give you balance and a bit of a buffer.  It is vital that you make time for self-care especially when ultra-busy!
  2. You can’t do everything on your own. I couldn’t have managed the most stressful times without help. It was when I started to outsource business and domestic tasks that were draining my energy.
  3. You want to simplify your busy life

In my case, lesson 3 is the one that has had by far the biggest impact on my life. It even made me move my business online six years ago.

To help you simplify, try to think like famous investor and philantropist Warren Buffet who believes in ‘saying no to almost everything’.

Thinking ‘less is more’ has certainly allowed me to take a gentler, more mindful and slower approach in recent years. Which now comes into its own as I get older and have to manage a new chronic illness.

But you don’t need to be older or ill to to do less and achieve a simpler life! You could do it at any time.

Ok, ok. I can hear you object with a thousand reasons why it wouldn’t be possible right now.

Perhaps you’re a single parent, are ill yourself, or have no help and no contingency plan for your business? Whatever the reason, you feel you need to keep the show on the road!

But wait…

How to simplify and avoid overwhelm

You definitely don’t need another time management course or a better way to manage your ever growing to-do list!

There are always things or people in our life that can make it unnecessarily complex. Like those habits or activities that waste too much of your valuable time.

What can you say NO to?

  • Allowing constant interruptions (e.g email, calls and phone notifications)?
  • Getting sucked in too often by social media, especially Facebook?
  • Spending too much time learning things an expert could do more quickly?
  • Procrastinating, avoiding or forgetting important tasks (e.g. invoicing, following up with leads or existing customers)
  • Feeling confused and thinking that everything is a priority?
  • Taking a scattergun approach to your marketing?
  • Over-committing to projects and people?
  • Surrounding yourself with the wrong people? People who either make you feel stressed or take advantage of your goodwill? Overly demanding customers can fall into this category too!

If you’re not sure what to let go of, a good question to ask yourself is “What is the best use of my time right now?” or “What is the consequence of not doing this (task) right now”?

Getting rid of bad habits, the wrong business activities or even the wrong clients can be immensely freeing and empowering!

Simplifying is not only a great way to prioritise. It’s a powerful way to manage overwhelm and avoid burnout in business.

To help you do all that, what you really need now is a ‘What not-to-do list’!

You could add things like ‘not check email every 5 minutes’ or ‘not get distracted by the notifications on my phone’ or ‘not make a promise to client X that I can’t keep’ or ‘not work with client Y who doesn’t value my time’.

Dealing with habits or time wasting activities you’ve identified as not helpful will strengthen your boundaries. You get more focused, the pressure may well ease and you sleep better.

Simplifying gives you more clarity and slows you down almost as a matter of course. You walk more slowly, eat more slowly, breathe more slowly – great ways to stop overwhelm and prevent burnout!


  1. You can prevent and beat overwhelm by having a realistic and achievable plan
  2. Accept what you can’t change and get help – try not to do everything on your own
  3. Stop striving too hard and putting too much pressure on yourself
  4. Practise self-care (and have a mix of activties) to help you build resilience
  5. Simplify your life – put wasteful activities, inefficient practices and time spent with stressful people on your not-to-do list. Remember, ‘less is always more’

So, how to make a start?

Just imagine for now, what 10 minutes spent on yourself could achieve. Then just do it. Whether it’s breathing exercises, writing in a journal or even doing nothing. If anything, it would be proof that you’re starting to treat yourself with love, kindness and compassion.

How liberating!


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