By Mary Oquendo
About two years into my mobile grooming business, I was grooming eight pets a day, five days a week. I was tired, grouchy and achy.
Yes, the money was awesome. But, with no time for activities or myself, I was quickly approaching burnout.
A decision needed to be made. Do I keep on working myself ragged or do I start taking better care of myself?
What is burnout?
Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to:
- Physical & emotional exhaustion. You’re simply tired all the time and quick to anger. Your muscles and joints don’t get a chance to relax. There is also a tendency to grab quick, high calorie and high fat meals, as you don’t have the time to prepare healthy options ahead of time.
- Cynicism & detachment. Because you are tired, you lack clarity and discernment. You may easily misunderstand someone’s motives or message and respond inappropriately.
- Feeling ineffective. You question your career choice—what you used to love, you now dread.
- Always Tired. Burnout affects the quality of your sleep. You wake up tired. The snooze button timer is less than a sleep cycle. Sleep cycles are typically anywhere between 60–120 minutes. Consistently hitting snooze contributes to your overall exhaustion throughout the day.
Then I stumbled upon this university study:
Harvard University tracked 724 men over a 79–year period to see what factors contributed to success and happiness. What they found were the men who fostered close relationships; both personal and business, were the happiest, healthiest and the most successful.
I knew that making drastic changes overnight was a sure fire recipe for failure so I slowly changed some of the factors that were contributing to my burnout. Some of the changes I slowly instituted included:
1. Getting my schedule under control. Either I could hire a groomer or reduce my workload. Personally, hiring a groomer was not a viable option for me. Adding employees would only increase my stress levels. Reducing my workload was the path I chose.
Reducing workload starts with identifying those clients who are problematic and releasing them. I raised my prices to account for the loss of income. I set boundaries with my clients and my first Terms Of Service was crafted. I instituted weight restrictions, frequency of grooms and penalties for no–shows. Most importantly, I enforced the new rules.
Not everyone was happy and sought out other options. Within a year, I was working four days a week, grooming six pets a day. My body and mind felt so much better.
2. Taking better care of myself. I started the day with a no sugar or high fat breakfast and brought a healthy lunch. That meant preparing food the night before. It had to be ready to go in the morning. If it wasn’t, then I found myself grabbing something quick (i.e. unhealthy) at a gas station or fast food joint. I carved out a lunch break where I could eat and digest my food.
Massages and spa days became a regular part of my life. Our muscles work hard and they need tender care. Massage isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Orthopedic quality floor mats along with supportive footwear are also a necessity.
While some people like to meditate in the morning, I prefer meditation just before going to bed as I can get my mind off of the merry go round and get some sleep. Meditation has many benefits including reducing stress, as well as improving cardiovascular and immune health, and concentration.
3. Repairing my frayed relationships. All work and no play wreaked havoc with family and friends. I took a play day. I blocked out one day a week in my schedule book for fun. Vacations became real downtime with no work, no phone and no computer. I joined a friend a couple of days a week for a walk. It was nice just to get outside and talk with friends again. I spent an extra day at a trade show or workshop to see the sights with friends. I volunteered once a month with my dog at a senior center. All things I had forgotten I liked to do.
My idea of fun may not be yours. Other ideas include:
- Organized sports like softball, volleyball, soccer, bowling and so forth.
- Socializing with friends doesn’t mean just hanging out at the bar (Although it could.) How about: tag-saling, book clubs or visiting farmers markets.
- Girl’s (or boys) day/night out to the spa or movies.
The possibilities are endless.
Carving that time out for us and including friends and family has a ripple effect. We are in a better place, our relationships improve and our jobs become fulfilling again.