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07 July 2023

Preventing Clinic Owner Burnout: A Fresh Perspective

Clinic owner burnout is a pressing issue that many entrepreneurs face in their pursuit of success. However, the conventional wisdom surrounding burnout prevention often emphasises extreme measures and unrealistic expectations. In this blog post, we aim to cut through the noise and provide practical advice to clinic owners. Drawing from personal experiences and insights, we will explore the concept of burnout, its underlying causes, and offer a fresh perspective on maintaining productivity while avoiding exhaustion.

The Illusion of Productivity:

Growing up in a family of hardworking individuals, I developed a belief that productivity equated to personal value. This mindset was deeply ingrained and shaped my approach to work. The relentless pursuit of productivity became a measure of success, often leading to a constant state of busyness and an aversion to showing vulnerability. However, this mindset eventually led to burnout.

Re-evaluating my Priorities:
In 2018, my clinic underwent an expansion, which further intensified my workload and stress levels. Despite being on the verge of exhaustion, I believed that working harder was the only solution. It was only through working with a mindset coach that I began to question their deep-rooted beliefs about productivity and success.

A Shift in Perspective:
Recognizing the limitations of my current approach, I realised that achieving different outcomes required a change in strategy. The famous quote by Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” resonated with me. I acknowledged that simply increasing their workload would not lead to the desired growth and success. This realisation marked the beginning of a shift in perspective.

Embracing Natural Cycles:
Comparing the perpetual harvest mindset prevalent in their work culture to the natural cycles observed in gardening and biology, I recognised to the importance of our own cycles as humans. They highlight the need for rest, rejuvenation, and preparation, just as plants and animals undergo different stages in their growth process.

Quality Over Quantity:
In a world driven by speed and immediate results, the focus on quantity often overshadows the importance of quality and long-term sustainability. I urge clinic owners to reflect on the alignment between their business models and personal values. Making decisions solely based on short-term gains may lead to burnout and a lack of fulfilment. Taking a step back and considering the bigger picture is essential for preventing exhaustion.

Understanding Depletion:
Depletion comes from stress. It’s a word that encompasses a myriad of experiences. Personally, one of the biggest challenges we face as a business owner is chronic sleep deprivation. It’s easy to believe that when we’re busy, sleep can be put on the back burner. But let me tell you, that approach rarely works out in our favour. When we constantly find ourselves overworked and lacking balance between work and personal life, we feel depleted. We go to bed with work on our minds and wake up in the middle of the night, still consumed by thoughts of work. This constant “on” mode depletes our energy reserves.

Financial worries and the pressure to constantly attract new clients also contribute to our sense of depletion. We often neglect self-care or prioritise it at the bottom of our to-do lists because we’re focused on producing, pushing for the next client, or striving for more revenue. Personally, I find that watching the news adds to my depletion. It serves no purpose for me and only induces panic and impostor syndrome. Comparing ourselves to others on social media, particularly their business successes and highlight reels, also drains us. It ignites a competitive spirit within me, compelling me to work harder. In fact, I recently had a humorous interaction with a friend’s daughter who challenged me to play a game of Rounders. Being the competitive person I am, I couldn’t resist accepting and even practicing in my own back garden to ensure I perform well. While my competitiveness has contributed to my success in business, it also carries the risk of burnout and exhaustion.

High achievers often experience burnout because we seek external validation and recognition. As someone who grew up playing sports, I constantly sought approval from my teachers and parents. Their praise became my norm, and I relied on it to feel good about myself. I’m still working on internalising a sense of satisfaction without needing external validation. As business owners, our stress response and sympathetic nervous system often take control. We started our own businesses for the flexibility, freedom, and higher income potential, but we often find ourselves in a perpetual state of production, neglecting our need for breaks. Rest can sometimes be seen as a sign of weakness, a concept deeply ingrained in my upbringing.

The Burden of Constant Work:
When we are caught up in the busyness of our businesses, we often disregard the significance of sleep and downtime. Thoughts about work invade our minds even during the night, leaving us feeling depleted and unable to recharge. The pressure to constantly produce, acquire new clients, and generate revenue pushes self-care down the priority list. We fall into the trap of believing that being productive at all times is the key to success, neglecting our well-being in the process.

The Impact of External Influences:
Depletion can also stem from external sources such as watching the news and spending excessive time on social media. Engaging with negative news stories or comparing ourselves to others’ highlight reels can trigger anxiety, imposter syndrome, and an incessant need to do more. As highly competitive individuals, we often feel the urge to outperform others, driving ourselves to work harder. However, this constant drive for achievement and resilience also comes with the risk of burnout and exhaustion.

The Role of Stress and the Sympathetic Nervous System:
The Stress Response
It’s important to recognize that our stress response and the need for a break are natural. Just like bears hibernate during winter, we too need periods of rest and creative fallow in our businesses. This creative void is a necessary part of the cycle. It allows us to gather our thoughts, generate new ideas, and ultimately emerge stronger. The length of this phase varies from person to person and project to project. Sometimes we cycle through all four seasons within a short period, while other times it may take a year or longer. Personally, I experienced a fertile void last year in my Physiotherapy & wellness clinic. Despite appearing busy on the surface, I felt creatively depleted. The pandemic presented immense challenges for all businesses, including mine. I was constantly in a state of production, struggling to keep the clinic afloat. But in 2022, I reached a point where I felt completely drained. I had no direction, no new ideas, and no clear path ahead. It was then that I recognised the need for a wintering phase, a period of reflection and rejuvenation.

Understanding the Creative Cycle:
Just as the natural world experiences the four seasons, our business ventures also undergo cycles. These cycles include the fertile void, winter, spring, summer, and autumn. The fertile void, or wintering phase, is a period of creative dormancy and reflection. It is essential to embrace this phase as it provides the foundation for emergence and growth. Spring represents the emergence of ideas and the transition from theory to action. Summer is the time for visibility, networking, and content creation, culminating in the harvest, where we reap the rewards of our efforts. Autumn marks a phase of reflection and preparation for the next cycle.

Embracing the Seasons of Business:
It is important to recognise that each phase of the creative cycle is productive and necessary. We must find happiness in the process of progress rather than solely focusing on the end results. The journey is never linear, and it is during the wintering phase that we can recharge, gain new perspectives, and allow creativity to flourish. By understanding the cyclical nature of business, we can approach each phase with intention, avoiding burnout and exhaustion.

Conclusion:
Depletion, arising from stress and a lack of balance, is a significant challenge for business owners. Chronic sleep deprivation, constant work, financial worries, and comparison can all contribute to a state of exhaustion and burnout. It is crucial to recognize the signs of depletion and prioritize self-care and rejuvenation. Embracing the cyclical nature of the world and your work!

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