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How to Avoid Burnout as a Social Entrepreneur

Burnout is something we're advised to avoid, but how do we do this when often, we don't recognise it until it's too late? For social entrepreneurs, there is a heightened risk of susceptibility to it, as passion and drive are commonly inextricably linked to work. Whilst this is positive, the shadow side often results in individuals placing a consistently high priority on their enterprises and self care falling by the wayside. Cue, burnout.

What is burnout?

Burnout can rear it's exhausting, confronting and unpleasant head in many forms. The Black Dog Institute identifies burnout symptoms as when one has an increased sense of fatigue at work, a continual feeling of emotional exhaustion, a sense of apathy towards work tasks and clients, a lowered feeling of personal accomplishment and satisfaction. For social entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, burnout inhibits their personal and impact potential.

How do to avoid it?


We know that eating well, exercising, drinking water and sleep are good for us yet they can be the first things to slip when one starts to slide down the slippery burnout slope. Identifying and recognising personal 'signs' that suggest you're falling out of your regular pattern are good to look out for. If your heath routine slips, your environment becomes messy, you regularly miss personal leisure activities or your sleeping pattern is routinely disrupted, you could be on the way to burnout. It's much easier to catch the early warning signs and assess what needs to be altered for you to thrive than it is to succumb to your new behaviour.


For social entrepreneurs, delegating your team, your friends, your family and even yourself are priority. For your venture to thrive, you need to thrive and you can not do it all on your own. Get good at asking those around you to help you when you need, both inside and outside of work.


When you schedule in your holidays (we look forward to an update of you doing this after reading this article), decide how you’ll switch off. Simply putting a vacation-response on your emails, putting your phone on flight mode, asking staff and clients not to contact you are some examples of how you can get the communication break you deserve. Sometimes asking for space can be hard, yet not getting it can have a greater impact in the long run. Decide what feels right to you, clearly communicate it to the people in your life who need to know and stick to it.


Whether it’s once a day or once a week, check in with yourself to observe your physical, mental and emotional energy levels. Stopping to embed a practice of personal reflection will help you become more self aware and can help to identify (and subsequently remove) destablising patterns in your life. Burnout is quite personal and manifests in different ways at different stages of your social entrepreneurship journey and life. In some cases, burnout can severely impact upon mental health. If you are experiencing burnout or mental health challenges, have a look at Beyond Blue for help resources or reach out to a health professional. It is something to be taken seriously.
Natalie Klenner breathes social impact. Through social enterprises eliminating youth homelessness to facilitating preventative mental health and emotional wellbeing workshops, Natalie believes in giving all young people opportunities to thrive. She’s also passionate about ideas that change the world. On a day off, she can be found in a kayak or doing a dance… somewhere.
Jay Boolkin
Jay Boolkin

I'm passionate about positive social change and the power of social entrepreneurship to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems. I believe that for-purpose business models can become part of the mainstream and I am enthusiastic about advocating for business models that are genuinely built around a social or environmental mission.

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