I just had my voice tested via a piece of technology called Kijini, which analyzes the tone of your voice for personality traits and nutritional deficiencies (pretty amazing!), among other types of health information. My voice indicated that I’m deficient in lutein and B-vitamins—both easy fixes. The personality portion, though, revealed this: “You spread yourself too thin.” Well, that’s no surprise, I thought—who doesn’t? But how do we fix that and avoid dealing with burnout?
Most modern success stories read like adaptations of Greek myths. Our role models are remarkable demigods like Oprah, Tony Robbins and Beyoncé. We admire and study them with awe, aiming high and taking our own leaps as they lead the way. The entrepreneur or career rock star is the hero, on a journey built from accomplishing half a dozen amazing feats and still fitting in Pilates before dinner. Accomplishments like these are our new currency and our status symbols.
While we strive to be our happiest and healthiest, we also reach for financial success, achieved through long hours and hard work. As we reach for our “best life,” we aim for work-life balance and feel bad when we don’t think we have achieved it.
And here’s where it gets real: That stress is killing us. Over the past few years, we have seen the detrimental effects of increasing stress levels. As of 2021, for example, the number of physicians who reported dealing with burnout increased to 47%.
How to avoid burnout
If left unchecked, those high stress levels can evolve into burnout. They can evolve into other physical and mental health conditions as well. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve found some remarkably easy ways to avoid falling into the trap of burnout:
1. Don’t mistake busy for business.
Watch your workload. Use this simple question for each item on your task list: “Will the effects of accomplishing this task make a positive, lasting impact in my life and the life of the business?” If the answer is no, it’s most likely not worth doing.
2. There’s no such thing as self-made—so get good at asking for help.
Use this simple formula for making requests of others: Identify who can help you, ask them if you can make a request of them, make the specific request with the time it’s needed by, and thank them profusely whether or not they help you. If they don’t help, ask them who they think will. Your success is directly proportionate to your ability to ask for assistance.
3. Keep Sunday sacred to avoid burnout.
There’s a reason some religions have a sacred day of rest—it’s required to maintain health and emotional well-being. And it works; when I take time to do nothing, I come back to my work with new insight, boosted creativity and a renewed sense of curiosity.
4. Mind your adrenals.
Stress taps our adrenal glands and causes exhaustion in our bodies. We often cover it up by drinking more caffeine. When I began taking Standard Process Drenamin supplements, my energy increased exponentially. You can also take Holy Basil supplements or sip Holy Basil tea to help moderate the effects of stress. I do both now, and my focus, clarity and ability to accomplish big goals has increased beyond anything I ever thought was possible.
5. Meditate (so you don’t have to medicate).
Start by setting your digital timer for five minutes. Then sit comfortably and inhale deeply through your nose for a five count and exhale for another five count. Repeat this over and over until the timer beeps. Increase as you are able.
My mentor used to call me a “blender without a top” back when I was heading up my first tea company, Zhena’s Gypsy Tea, and not meditating. The mindfulness activity increased my ability to discern opportunities, delegate more wisely and be more confident. It’s as crucial to my parenting as it is to my business, because it decidedly calms the chaos and helps with avoiding burnout.
I’ve scheduled a follow-up with the voice analyst. My prediction is that my lutein and B-vitamin levels will be normal since I bought the supplements and triple-dosed myself. But I expect the personality analysis will not change. I believe that balance is a point of view. While some would call it spreading ourselves too thin, I’m opting for a different perspective, a healthier hero’s journey: “spreading our wings in flight.”
Spreading ourselves thin is a tendency most of us have in our quest to succeed, but it’s not a lifestyle we can’t counterbalance with some simple, healthy habits. So here’s to your balance and your success on your own hero’s journey—and may you avoid burnout!
This article was published in May 2015 and has been updated. Photo by oatawa/Shutterstock
Zhena Muzyka is a social entrepreneur, author, public speaker and the publisher of Enliven Books, a new Mind-Body-Spirit imprint from Atria/Simon and Schuster. As the host of Change Maker CBS radio podcast, Zhena explores the inner terrain of personal development with best-selling authors, politicians, artists, experts and business leaders. Zhena’s book, Life by the Cup, chronicles her experience of growing a multimillion-dollar fair trade tea company, Zhena’s Gypsy Tea, as a single mom with $6 to her name in hopes of inspiring others to achieve their most audacious dreams.