We know that young entrepreneurs work hard at everything they do. You take all the best classes, study for every test, give your all to every team, and go the extra mile for every extra-curricular. You’re high-achieving and college-bound, with dreams of success in your future.
But sometimes all that hard work can drain you mentally, physically, and emotionally. This is called “overload burnout.” WebMD defines it as “…when you work harder and harder, becoming frantic in your pursuit of success. If you experience this, you may be willing to risk your health and personal life to feel successful in your job.” (In this case, your “job” is school, extra-curriculars, and the small business you’re running.)
A young entrepreneur who works themselves to the bone, who burns the candle at both ends, and who doesn’t take time for rest and self-care, will only burn themselves out. And a burnt-out young entrepreneur simply cannot be successful.
ARE YOU AT RISK OF BURNING OUT?
Signs of burnout may come on suddenly or a little bit at a time. Watch out for:
- Physical pain
- Self-critical thoughts
- Unhealthy eating habits
- Unusual emotional behavior
- Increased risk-taking
- Panic attacks
All of the signs listed above are normal experiences occasionally. It’s highly unlikely that anyone in the world has gone their entire lives without occasional insomnia or self-critical thoughts! Feeling unmotivated to do something you usually love or needing time alone are also normal now and then.
Watch out for when these things start to become your new normal. If you’ve never had stomach issues before but now you have stomach pains every day, this may be a sign you are burning yourself out. Perhaps your friends have commented that you no longer hang out as much, or your family has noticed that you engage with them less often. You might even consider asking friends and family if they’ve noticed any major changes in your behavior or attitude.
WHAT TO DO
You’ve noticed some of the signs of burnout listed above, or they’ve been brought to your attention by those who know you well. You can feel yourself changing and you don’t like the person you’re becoming. You’re angry or anxious all the time and you don’t know how to stop it. Your “bad days” are quickly outnumbering your “good days.”
First: stop, pause, breathe. No matter how bad you feel or how bad things have gotten, there are ways to feel better.
Next: do you have a grown-up you trust? This can be a parent, teacher, another school administrator, boss, parent of a friend, aunt or uncle, or really anyone who seems to “get” you. Tell them you need to talk and set up a time when you can both give each other your full attention. Pick a place where you feel safe. Nearly every adult you know has faced burnout, or something like it, in their lives. They might be able to offer advice on how to prioritize or structure your days. And sometimes just getting it all off your chest can help.
Not everyone has a grown-up they trust and can talk to about feelings of burnout. If that’s the case, do you have a peer who will listen? A close friend, a sibling, a cousin, or a teammate? People who are “in it” with you will not only fully understand what you’re feeling, but they may be going through something similar and be glad to have you around, too. They might be able to offer a fresh perspective on the situation. They can help you out when and where you need it the most.
TAKE SOME TIME OFF
Yes, we know that taking time off may not seem realistic to you when you’re in the thick of it. Start by looking at your life from a distance. Evaluate every activity you do. Some, like school and chores, are not optional. Make a list of your optional activities. There’s no need to quit everything. However, there might be a club or volunteer organization that won’t collapse without you. Even if you don’t quit, see if you can pull back and be a little less involved than you are right now.
We’re aware that high-achieving college-bound young entrepreneurs want sparkling college applications of perfection. But burning out in the name of getting into college will not work in your favor.
HOW TO AVOID BURNOUT IN THE FIRST PLACE
Most of the ways to avoid burnout are probably things you’ve heard a million times. Have you thought about why everyone’s talking about them, though?
-Mindfulness. Such an overused word, we know. But have you considered what it means? The short answer is that mindfulness means paying more attention to your immediate thoughts and feelings without judgment. Doing so helps you stay in the moment and avoid excessive worry about what’s next or obsessing over past mistakes.
-Learn how to say no. A packed college application is great, but that doesn’t mean you need to be all things to all people all the time. How many after-school activities do you really need, anyway? Do you honestly need to be in charge of every single fundraiser or school event, or can you just help out? Learn how to recognize your limits and set boundaries for yourself.
-Manage your time. This is so important. When you have a million things to do, you can easily become overwhelmed. There are plenty of apps and time management tools out there to relieve you of the burden of remembering every deadline, every due date, and everywhere you need to be. Once you download one or two of those, you’ll free up brain space.
The three tips listed here are small but important steps you can take to control your own life. Try doing one at a time and see how it goes. Better yet, grab a friend and work on these together! You can swap mindfulness tips, try out apps, and remind one another when it’s time to say no.
Remember that burnout is real. You can’t do it all – nor should you try. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness and stepping back from some of your activities doesn’t mean you won’t still get into the college of your dreams.
The Kantner Foundation is proud to offer college scholarships to Florida’s high school entrepreneurs. To learn more about our program, and to start your application, click here.