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From Burnout Cycle to Peace & Rest: My Personal Transformation as an Entrepreneur

All my life I have been a go-getter.

It’s not always a good thing, come to find out, but as an Enneagram 3, it makes sense that I’m an “Achiever”. I mean, the assessment says so, so it’s gotta be true right?

I tend to live life on overdrive. I unintentionally seek personal validation from the work I do, which of course has many drawbacks, but it has also driven me to produce many results that have positively impacted others lives. I’m grateful for my drive, but it wears me out at the same time. It’s a double edged sword if I’ve ever seen one.

In any case, this drive means that as an entrepreneur, I feel the need to work work work and constantly produce results. My mind is always active, even if I don’t want it to be.

After 13 years of entrepreneurship, this hustle mentality has made me well acquainted with the burnout cycle. I jump in head first and work my tail off for months at a time, then hit a wall and lay in bed for several days. This time in bed is always my breaking point, and is usually accompanied with Netflix, ice cream, and intermittent periods of crying. During this burnout time, I wonder why I do all that I do, and I want to give it all up. I wallow and pout and wonder if I’ll ever feel like myself again.

Then, after a few days of wallowing, new ideas emerge of what else I can do for my business, and I come out of my hibernation with a renewed desire to keep pushing. Hard.

It’s honestly embarrassing to admit it, but this has been my life for the past 5-7 years. For a long time, it was okay with me. I could rest for a few days after accomplishing a lot in between, and life was good. But in recent years, these breaking points have become more and more frequent. Instead of once every few months, it became every few weeks. Then, at the height of my overwhelm, it became every few days.

As an entrepreneur trying to run a business, that just doesn’t work.

Something had to change.

Hitting the Wall

One evening I laid in bed crying for the third time that week, asking myself all of the big questions. Why did I feel compelled to work so hard? Why couldn’t I rest? Why did my mind have to work so far ahead of my body? Why couldn’t I simply enjoy my life instead of trying to get to the “next big thing”?

I had been trying to build rest and self care into my schedule: get good sleep, spend time with family, do things I enjoy, observe the Sabbath day once a week. But the reality was that no matter what I was doing, the time I spent awake was consumed by thoughts of how to improve my business. Even while I spent time with family or pursued hobbies, I often found myself distracted by work-related thoughts.

I wasn’t present with my life. I knew I wanted to be, but I honestly didn’t know how.

That night as I laid in bed, I felt ready to give up on everything. If running a business made me feel this way, then perhaps I just wasn’t cut out for the job. Perhaps I needed to give it all up and start over again.

Then I had a realization. I didn’t need to give it ALL away. I needed to give ONE thing away.

What was the ONE thing that had been clouding my mind more than any other? What was weighing me down, demanding my attention, and stirring up stress in my body?

I knew right away. I needed to give up a new business venture I was pursuing. It tore me up to think of giving it up, because I had poured energy into this venture for the past several months, but it was becoming overwhelming. I needed to stop obsessing, stop hustling, and start living.

Even if it was just a week or so, I knew needed giving it up would create enough space to rest.

I decided that I would not do anything to pursue this venture for the next 7 days. I’d give myself permission to let it go, and would spend the time doing things I loved instead. To keep myself accountable, I told my husband about my intention, and I decided on the concrete tasks I would do whenever I felt the urge to break my rule. For example, whenever I felt compelled to go work on my computer, I would go sit at the piano or open a recipe book instead.

The thought of a change this big thrilled and frightened me, but I was ready to jump in with both feet.

From Withdrawal to Truly Living

The next 7 days were truly life-changing. Admittedly, I had withdrawal symptoms on day one. I felt like I was addicted to my work, and I honestly didn’t think I could give it up. It came to mind constantly, and it was much harder than I expected to replace those thoughts. But I was determined to cleanse myself of overactivity.

On Day 2, I began to feel more like myself again. I found myself feeling drawn to do activities that I had neglected for months, even years. Baking, for example, is something I have always enjoyed, but I had pushed it off lately because it seemed like a waste of time. Now, however, I had that time. As I baked for the sheer pleasure of baking (and not for some end result), it felt like I was coming back to myself.

On Day 3, I began to notice more of the needs of the people around me. I was more attentive to my children and enjoyed being with them even more than usual. I also remembered a neighbor who had recently moved into the area and I invited them over for dinner, which was a wonderful experience.

As the week went on, I felt less and less attached to my work, and more and more invested in my life.

“This”, I said to my husband, “is rest. This is living.”

The Unexpected Result of Rest

To my surprise, at the end of the 7 days, I realized that the business venture I had been pursuing was not actually what I wanted. I had the clarity I needed to change directions. In my case, that meant strengthening the business I already had instead of branching out. I became more engaged with my current clients instead of trying to get new ones, and as a result, the business grew from the inside out.

Because of this experience, I’ve learned that rest isn’t about adding more “self-care” to my schedule, it’s about removing weight I do not need. Rest is about identifying what is draining my energy, and finding a way to either slow the flow or cut it off completely. It’s about pulling away the layers of what I think I need to do for the future, and seeing what is happening in the present.

Rest is about letting go.

Your Turn to Rest

So, my question for you is, what do you need to let go of in your business, or even your personal life? Is there some aspect of your work that is draining you? Is there something (or even someone) who is driving you to hustle and run faster than you have strength? If so, what can you do to let it go?

Perhaps you can do an experiment just as I did, and let it go for a period of time. Whether it’s one day or 7 days, just see what it feels like to give yourself permission to fill your life with something else.

My hope for you is that through rest, you too will feel more like yourself. You, too, will revisit activities you have neglected for far too long. You’ll rediscover the people around you and find joy in those relationships. You’ll feel clarity with your work, and move forward with renewed determination to do the right things at the right time.

Now go, my friend, and let it go!