Entrepreneur Burnout: Get Professional Help To Deal With Burnout Syndrome What is entrepreneur burnout? An entrepreneur is at a higher risk of suffering burnout symptoms than almost any other group and if left untreated, burnout can have a devastating impact on a business and personal life.

By Louis J Schoeman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur South Africa, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.


Entrepreneur burnout syndrome is real and in severe cases, can be life-threatening. In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises burnout as an official medical diagnosis in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

The official description says, "Burnout is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed." WHO stresses that the phenomena relates specifically to work-induced burnout and not "burnout" brought on by stress in other areas of your life (marriage, kids, personal conflict etc.).

What Is A Burnout?

There are three common characteristics of work-related burnout:

  1. Feelings of low energy and exhaustion
  2. Increased mental distance from one's job; or feelings of negativity or cynicism related to one's job
  3. Reduced professional capacity

People at risk of suffering from burnout tend to be extremely passionate about their work and conscientious to the extreme; they tend to operate in high uncertainty, have a poor work-life balance, are socially isolated and have limited safety nets that provide them with the support they need.

Related: Why Your Mental Health Is the Key to Your Success in Business

How burnout affects a person's mental and physical well-being ranges from minor illnesses and mild depression to mental breakdowns, heart disease and sometimes death. It's a condition that needs to be taken seriously as it can have a devasting impact on a person's life and his or her loved ones.

Need help with Entrepreneurial Burnout – click here

Difference Between Entrepreneur Burnout And Executive Burnout?

There's a big difference between entrepreneur burnout and executive burnout but often entrepreneurs - and "solo-preneurs' as they're called - are overlooked as typical candidates for burnout syndrome.

It creeps up on them but is all too quickly "fobbed off' or purposely ignored because entrepreneurs are self-sustaining and usually don't have the same physical, emotional and financial support as someone would have in a corporate environment.

Let's not diminish executive burnout as a medical condition… it's as real and as harsh for them as it is for entrepreneurs. The difference is executives working for larger businesses and big corporations have – or should have - more flexibility to deal with burnout.

Related: Mental Illness May Plague Entrepreneurs More Than Other People. Here's Why (and How to Get Help)

There'll be someone available to step in and run a department while the person's away seeking treatment for burnout, the expense will be covered by the corporate medical aid and at the end of the month, they'll still get their salary.

As an entrepreneur, you dreamt of starting your own business and being your own boss, or maybe you set up an entrepreneur venture out of necessity (been retrenched). But, now that you have that freedom and you're not reporting to a boss; everything falls on your shoulders.

When you're your own boss; the buck stops with you and - if you don't have a good support system and financial liquidity - decision-making and problem-solving can eventually overwhelm and crush you.

The bad news is an entrepreneur is at a higher risk of burnout than almost any other group and worse news is he or she typically doesn't have the luxury of taking a "burnout break'. The switch is always on, the foot is always on the pedal… and as your business grows, the stakes and stress get higher.

The good news is there are steps you can take to alleviate or eliminate entrepreneur burnout.

Symptoms Of Entrepreneur Burnout

Start with the obvious:

  • Are you exhausted all the time?
  • Do you feel more anxious about your business than you used to?
  • Do you feel overwhelmed and indecisive?
  • Are you struggling to focus?
  • Are you eating badly and getting little or no exercise?
  • Do you suffer from restless sleep or insomnia?
  • Are you quick to anger and lash out at people?

If you answered YES to most of those questions, there's a good chance you are experiencing typical symptoms of physical burnout.

Now for the less obvious: (answer honestly):

  • Is your passion for your business obsessive and misdirected?
  • Are your expectations of success unrealistic and unattainable?
  • Are you determined to "power through' because you don't want to fail
  • Are you bored and uninspired with your business?
  • Do you have trouble delegating or asking for help?
  • Are you terrified of failure
  • Do you feel frustrated, stuck or uninspired while at work?
  • Have you lost interest in your business… is the passion gone?
  • Do you feel frustrated and stuck with the business you created
  • Do you regret starting up your entrepreneur venture?

If you answered YES to most of those questions, there's a good chance you are experiencing typical symptoms of emotional burnout.

Unrealistic expectations, misguided passion, guilt, boredom and control issues are some of the main culprits that drive entrepreneurs deeper into depression and eventually burnout. Emotional burnout manifests as physical burnout and that's when you need to seek help.

How To Deal With Entrepreneur Burnout

The most important thing is to recognise you're suffering from entrepreneur burnout and acknowledge that you need help and support to deal with it. You need to commit to making a change and then actually make the changes needed to get you back into a better physical and emotional place.

Related: The Best Place to Support Mental Health? The Workplace

Focus on what you can control and call for help and support for things that are out of your control. This is where networking is so important; connect with other entrepreneurs or old work friends that can give you sound advice and direction and maybe even some practical help.

Lastly, re-ignite your passion for your business. Remember why you started your own business and re-visit the goals you set yourself. You may need to adjust them or even scrap them if you realise a few years down the line that they were unrealistic.

Sign Up to Entrepreneurial Burnout Therapy

Richard Branson's Tips For Dealing With Burnout

Even the great Sir Richard Branson admits to having suffering from burnout syndrome. He may be flying high now but he obviously had to power through many dark and daunting days to get there.
Interviewed for his own online Virgin publication, Branson shared what he does to try to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

1. Find a routine that works for you with regards to eating, sleeping, exercise… repeat.

We all know a work-life balance is important but that only applies to high-powered corporate executives. Right? Wrong!

"You can never be certain what tomorrow will throw at you and an entrepreneur needs to be flexible and have the ability to adapt," says Branson.

"However, when a challenge presents itself and disrupts your plans, it's important to have a strict routine that keeps you on track and focused with regards to your personal health and well-being."

2. Ditch the guilt

If being an entrepreneur was so easy, everybody would be one. It's tough and the stress is relentless so do yourself a favour and take time off to relax and catch your breath.

"Ditch the guilt you might feel about being away from work or not available," says Branson.

"Personally, I find it's not a good idea to dive straight into work when you wake up, so I dedicate my mornings to exercise and family time. It helps me clear my mind and energises me for the day ahead."

3. Have fun

Why did you start your own business in the first place? So you wouldn't be shackled to your desk and on 24/7 watch by a boss! So why then are you too busy to take a break and have some fun?

"Having fun is often underrated but you are far more likely to succeed if you are enjoying yourself. If an opportunity doesn't excite me and it's not something through which I can make a difference in the world while having a lot of creative fun with it; then I'd rather pass on it and move along to something else that does interest me."

If you are suffering from Entrepreneur Burnout, White River Executive Rehab based South Africa specialises in this therapy – click here for more info

Related: Taking Mental Health Seriously Is How the Best Business Leaders Protect Their Teams

Louis J Schoeman

Entrepreneur, Risk Taker and Father

Entrepreneur, Risk Taker and Father. When I’m not building brands, you will find me far away from technology as part of my monthly digital detox. 

Related Topics


If You Want People to Follow You, Stop Being a Boss — 8 Steps to Truly Effective Leadership

Understand the key differences and embark on the journey from boss to leader with these eight vital steps. This article unveils how to inspire and lead teams with passion and purpose.

Starting a Business

This Couple Started Renting Rooms in Their House As a Side Hustle. Now They Run 11 Airbnb Units Full Time.

In the new book, "Start Your Own Airbnb Business," Airbnb Superhosts share how they have grown lucrative rental businesses.

Money & Finance

5 Financial Moves to Make While Interest Rates Are High

Here's what you should do and what you should avoid while interest rates are high.


Why Most People Fail at Giving Presentations — and How to Make Your Next One Successful

Here's what I learned guest lecturing at Stanford: You can become a better presenter by following the "Two Points per Hour Rule."

Starting a Business

8 Inspiring Tips for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

On this week's Jeff Fenster Show, the Global Entrepreneurship Network's Jeff Hoffman shares advice every budding entrepreneur should follow.