Burnout. It happens to the best of us.
Ever feel like running a practice and being a great acupuncturist at the same time is running you a little ragged? It’s not uncommon. It can be hard, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been at it for years.
Most people would prefer to focus on the medicine, and not on the business end of things. You want to treat more patients and give them your absolute best, but in order to do that, you have to recruit those patients first. Juggling these two (seemingly) opposite responsibilities can be exhausting, especially if you have less interest in the practice-building side of things.
I personally think that anyone who owns a small business, of any kind, is likely to experience burnout at least once during their career. Maybe even several times. Simply put, running a business is a lot of work and responsibility, and the stress of needing to succeed can wear on you.
I describe burnout as feeling like you’re always working, even when you’re not in your office, and feeling exhausted as a result.
It’s one thing to love your job, and to enjoy thinking about it and about how to be better at it. It’s another thing when you feel like you like you must think about your business at all times, like you can’t afford not to be thinking about your business.
If you keep this up over an extended period of time, it’s likely you’ll develop emotional and maybe even physical fatigue.
Do any of these things sound familiar?
- Lack of energy
- Loss of motivation
- Not taking the time to care for yourself
- Neglecting your personal connections
- Feeling extreme pressure/stress to succeed
- Less enthusiasm for your work
- Feeling like you’ll never catch up
In short, you’re working hard 24/7, and you’re just tired. This sucks the sparkle out of being an acupuncturist.
Still not sure if you’re experiencing burnout? Take this burn out quiz on MindTools.com to find out.
So what can you do about it once you feel burnt out? How can you prevent it from becoming full blown, if you feel like you’re heading down that road?
I recommend taking the time to reconnect with your goals and passions.
- Give yourself permission to slow down.
- Remind yourself that all will not be lost if you take time for yourself.
- In fact, you’re a better acupuncturist when you’re centered and balanced, not rushed and worn out.
- Use this time to decide what your priorities are, and make a plan to pursue them. (The plan part is very important.)
Easier said than done, right? Especially when you’re already feeling pooped. When I feel this way, I need instructions. A guide.
That’s why I like to use motivational and inspirational books to help me bounce back from burnout. I like books that act as a road map – the ones that provide worksheets, quizzes, thought-provoking questions, etc. Basically, I like books with instructions, so to speak, on how to refresh my drive and motivation.
I’m a book nerd, remember?
I have a whole slew of books I like to recommend for dealing with burn out and emotional fatigue, but there’s one in particular I’d like to talk about today. It’ll help you redefine your priorities, outline your goals, and basically get the sparkle back in your life and career.
The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin
The Happiness Project is a chronicle of one woman’s quest to better understand and accept herself and find happiness through gratitude and living in the moment. We could all use a little more of this, yes? Especially when we’re feeling worn out.
This book is like a reset button.
I know this book is not precisely about burnout. Rubin doesn’t address career burnout directly. But the concepts she encourages, and the questions she asks, are all in line with defining one’s priorities, striving for balance, and setting goals to reach those priorities. The exact things people typically need when they find themselves mired in burnout.
Additionally, Rubin actively encourages her readers to be more present in day-to-day life. This is something that people with career burnout often lose touch with. Their whole world becomes their job, and they forget that their interests and relationships outside of work are part of a balanced lifestyle. Well, perhaps they don’t forget; they simply take a backseat to the worry and pressure of making a small business succeed.
Although she writes about serious topics (wellness, relationships, eternity), Rubin writes in an honest, funny style that’s easy to relate to. She’s not afraid to admit her flaws. Overall, the book is both thought-provoking and easy to read. And it’s always fascinating to dive into someone else’s life to see how they deal with everything life throws their way.
Obviously, I highly recommend this book. Let it be a guide towards your goals.
The topics of The Happiness Project are varied and span multiple areas. Each month, Rubin makes a new goal and outlines her process for sticking with her resolution. Throughout a year, she chronicles her attempts to achieve these resolutions.
I think each of these concepts can easily be extrapolated to recovering from acupuncture burnout.
January: Boost Energy
Making an effort to get to sleep early and create an environment that fosters quality sleep will improve your energy level dramatically. Rubin speaks with humor about her efforts to get better sleep in order to increase her daily energy and be less grouchy/short-tempered with her family.
February: Remember Love
Nurturing relationships around you and having patience with loved ones helps improve emotional resilience and remind us of what’s important. In short, people who cultivate strong, supportive relationships can avoid and bounce back from burnout more efficiently.
March: Aim Higher
This chapter about work discusses not being afraid to try new things that you feel passionate about in your career. Pursuing a career you love can energize you, but remember that this is only true when it’s in balance with the rest of your life. This chapter may only apply to us burnouts after we’ve bounced back and feel fresh again.
April: Lighten Up
Just because you run a business doesn’t mean your life has to be all seriousness. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and take time off to enjoy the little things in life. Try new things, watch a funny movie, play with your kids.
May: Be Serious About Play
Schedule time for things you enjoy, and treat that time like you would any other appointment. Don’t be a no-show!
June: Make Time for Friends
Again, the importance of cultivating important relationships is paramount. You need someone to lean on and laugh with. Don’t let friendships fall by the wayside because you’re too busy running a business. Make time.
July: Buy Some Happiness
Rubin examines how to spend money wisely in ways that truly bring happiness, like learning something new, exploring something you’re passionate about etc. Maybe a new book?
August: Contemplate the Heavens
Rubin is less religious and more spiritual. She focuses on “cultivating a contented and thankful spirit” so that she can “appreciate … the present moment and [her] ordinary life.” If you’re feeling run down, meditating on something larger than yourself is likely to help give you perspective and peace.
September: Pursue a Passion
Pursue something outside of work that really lights up your life. Pick a thing, anything. Just diversify your interests outside of running of a business.
October: Pay Attention
Be present so that you can cherish the little things in life.
November: Keep a Contented Heart
Sometimes in running a business, it’s easy to get lost in obsessing about what you don’t have yet – a certain number of patients, a specific income, etc. But it’s likely that there is so much good going on in your life. Gratitude helps us slow down and see the big picture.
Think about it: you are one of the rare people who gets to do what you love, everyday. You wake up and go to a job that’s not actually work. Your family and friends are supportive of you in pursuing your passion. What more could you ask for? The big practice with tons of patients and a swanky office space will probably come with time. But for now, relish the practice that you have.
December: Bootcamp Perfect
In her last chapter, Rubin tries to maintain all of her resolutions at once, to be that ideal person she’s been aiming toward for 11 months! Quite a heroic effort!
I’m not sure the last chapter applies to burnout, except in that it’s a grand reflection on everything she’s been trying to accomplish and emphasize in this book:
- Prioritize your personal needs.
- Seek balance between work and play.
- Examine your perspective and live in the moment.
- Cultivate the important relationships in your life.
Sometimes when we’re burnt out, the most important thing we need is motivation and encouragement.
If nothing else, Rubin’s book has this in spades. She also has two inspirational websites, www.GretchenRubin.com and www.Happiness-Project.com, with blogs that offer repeated positive motivational content to help empower you towards your goals.
Think of this post as a gentle reminder of something you already know deep in your gut – that you have to get a handle on your burnout, on your mental state, in order to be a truly good acupuncturist. You’re no use to your patients when you’re not yourself.
Basically, The Happiness Project is like having a very organized, funny, and positive friend who wants to help you reconnect with what’s important to you and get organized to do so.
Have you read The Happiness Project? Did you find it helpful? What other books would you recommend for helping you reconnect with your passion after experiencing burnout?