Man sipping coffee taking a break from work to recharge.

Avoiding Burnout as a Small Business Owner

Updated March 28, 2024 . AmFam Team

It’s natural to anticipate pursuing all of the goals you have for your business. But, instead of readying yourself and your company to ramp up, consider taking a pause. A good break can help you reset, start looking towards the future and help you avoid burnout.

Avoiding Burnout and The Power of Pausing

To learn about the benefits of taking a break from your business and “the power of pausing,” American Family Insurance spoke with transformational coach Rachael O’Meara, author of Pause: Harnessing the Life-Changing Power of Giving Yourself a Break (Opens in a new tab).

How to Avoid Burnout at Work: An Interview With Author Rachael O’Meara

Burnout is when stress causes you to feel physically, emotionally or mentally exhausted. For many, it’s the feeling of “running on empty.” This excessive stress may be caused by work, and it may lead you to feel a diminished sense of identity or accomplishment. A key way to avoid burnout can be creating a feeling of sustainability in your work and making a conscious effort to take a break.

“To create long-term sustainability — where you’re striving and not feeling stretched — you have to stop and ask yourself a question,” says O’Meara. “Do I want this and how does it serve me?”

We asked Rachael O'Meara 7 questions about the power of pausing and how small business owners like you can reap the benefits.

1. Your book explores the concept of giving yourself permission to take a time-out. Why is burnout prevention important for small business owners?

O’Meara: In our culture, we value sustainable productivity and profits, yet we don’t take the time to refresh, renew, and recalibrate. I call it the “Pause Paradox.” It’s counterintuitive because we think pausing is the last thing we should do, but in reality, pausing allows us to check-in and realign ourselves.

2. Entrepreneurs work 24/7 to build and grow their businesses. Why is it important to pause in order to avoid burnout at work?

O’Meara: We can make ourselves sick by not pausing. It’s proven! There is medical science associating increasing stress with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and mental stress. Pausing allows you to avoid burn out.

3. What’s your definition of a pause?

O’Meara: An intentional shift in behavior. It doesn’t mean you’re slacking and doing nothing, it means you’re choosing to have some downtime so that when you’re on the upcycle, you’re going for it and your energy is high. Overachievers are trained to operate on autopilot, but that’s not the life we want to create for ourselves.

4. So how do you prevent professional burnout?

O’Meara: Create a pause mindset. You don’t have to take a week of vacation, although that’s a great idea. Instead, consider taking a workcation or Sunday afternoons off, at the bare minimum. Or, if you’re uncomfortable not working for an entire day, then respond during a specific time, say 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

5. What are some examples of a pause that small business owners can take?

O’Meara: Entrepreneurs can try a belly breath pause…literally taking your hand and putting it on your diaphragm and taking one breath. That’s 10 seconds of your time. Or, you can use an hour, go outside and enjoy a walk around the block. It’s a good time to check-in with your family. The idea is to intentionally create little moments in your day that fuel you for the rest of the day.

6. Are there specific signs that entrepreneurs can look for to identify business owner burnout?

O’Meara: Yes, here are five signs that are applicable:

  1. You used to love what you do and now you loathe it
  2. Your partner or even employees are saying it’s not working out
  3. You’re too tethered to your technology
  4. You are experiencing a severe challenge or adversity
  5. You are overwhelmed by a new opportunity

If you are experiencing any of these signs, it’s a good time to create a pause for yourself.

7. What’s one of the greatest benefits of avoiding burnout at work by creating a pause?

O’Meara: As entrepreneurs, we often think we have to have it all figured out and we must do everything ourselves. That’s not realistic all of the time. Pausing helps us to understand what we really want and what needs to happen. At the end of the day, it’s about living a full life with more satisfaction.

Burnout Prevention and Protecting Your Business

Pausing can be a key step in avoiding burnout at work. It’s important to recognize if you feel like you’re experiencing burnout, and then make the time to pause and step away from work when needed.

Want to learn more savvy business strategies? Take a look at our business resource center. And, one of the smartest business decisions you can make is being proactive about protection. Connect with an agent today to learn about customized coverage for your business.

Tools & Resources

Explore our tools and smart tips.