Being passionate about what you do will not save you from adrenal fatigue.
We hear that if you’re passionate about what you do you’ll never work a day in your life. To follow your passion, and that the money will follow. That a lack of passion is fatal.
I agree. Passion, and a sense of purpose are very important to me.
BUT. There is a but.
Telling yourself that it’s ok to work nights and weekends (without time off elsewhere) because you LOVE your work, and besides, it doesn’t even really feel like work, is not a sustainable, long-term mode to operate in. It may work for a while, but it won’t work forever.
Whenever I hear of an entrepreneur starting out, and they tell me they feel guilty when they’re not working, or justify sending emails at 11pm because (insert reason), or are working all weekend, or that they work all the time because they’re so passionate about what they do and helping others, I remember feeling a similar way.
I get it, and there are usually associated financial pressures with starting out and with business growth which probably drive some of these behaviours. I experienced that too, and although I was always passionate about what I was doing, I was also conscious that if I didn’t make my business work, I would have to get a job.
I don’t do those things anymore.
I adore my work, but I have clearer boundaries. I wish I could tell you that it’s just because I’m wise, and smart, and savvy about how I spend my time and energy.
But that’s not the whole truth.
It’s because I learnt my lesson the hard way.
I thought that because I was passionate about what I do, I could work super-hard and I would be totally fine.
I was wrong.
When I developed adrenal fatigue, in 2011, I didn’t see it coming.
I had just run my Business Alignment tele-class series, which went really well. I was fully booked with clients.
I was buzzing, and yes, I was working very hard. Weekends, nights.
WHAT WAS NEXT??
I could hardly wait to find out. It was going to be AMAZING! I was pumped.
I noticed I was starting to get tired, but I thought I just needed a holiday.
I was exercising a lot, I was looking after myself and I was going at full pace. Who, me, adrenal?? NO WAY, I WAS FINE!!!!
I made some quick changes to try and manage my workload and streamline some processes. I introduced online booking. I increased my prices slightly.
We went on a long awaited holiday for two weeks.
And when we came back I crashed.
My energy levels dropped. I got sick. And then kept getting sick. Just mildly, mostly. But with very low energy.
Guess what happens when you work for yourself and you have hardly any energy?
It’s not good.
Of course my business dropped off quite a bit (how busy I am, or how far ahead I am booked out, is nearly always a reflection of my current energy levels). I did have enough energy for the clients I did see, and was still seeing beautiful changes in my clients’ lives, it was just that my capacity was much lower.
I wondered if I should get a job on the side, something that might be a little lighter on my energy. But I was too tired to go through the process.
It took me at least three months to “bounce back”. And then most of the next year to re-build my energy with a combination of Naturopathy, Acupuncture and Kinesiology and lots of other bits and pieces.
I really learnt my lesson after that. Recovery from adrenal fatigue/burn out takes much longer than you think it should, so you tend not to want to go back there.
I had to re-learn my edge.
Since then, I’ve been learning how much I’m actually capable of doing day after day, rather than using my mind to push beyond my limits (like many of my clients, I have quite strong will). This changes, so I need to continue to pay attention.
Here’s the thing: working for myself did not give me adrenal fatigue.
I had developed a pattern of pushing beyond my limits (partially learnt through being a teacher, a profession where pretty much everyone does this and then crashes at term-end), which I brought into working for myself.
When you work for yourself, you just can’t do this.
These days, I am also clearer on what is proactive activity that will benefit my business, and what is busy-pretend-work. MANY entrepreneurs spend WAY too much time flicking around on social media, checking stats of one kind or another or getting involved in long back-and-forth email exchanges and calling it “work”. Tiring, and inefficient.
We can get caught up in feeling like if we’re working more hours, we’re being more productive.
I used to feel very anxious if I didn’t know what my next big project was. I was actually very comfortable when I was right in the middle of that busy place, and slowing down felt uncomfortable.
I don’t know what my next big project is right now, and I’m fine with that. Curious, yes. But these things cannot be forced and I only create when inspired to do so. And in the meantime, I’m looking after myself with lots of self-care. Not just so that I can work harder (which, somewhat embarrassingly, I have absolutely done before). I don’t fear the feeling of slowing down like I used to. It’s only ever temporary anyway, and life can’t just be an acceleration.
Now, I’m looking after myself simply because I deserve to feel good, and to be well.
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