Earlier this week I posed the question in our Travel Agent Training and Mentorship Facebook group: Are you feeling burnout?
The responses were overwhelmingly: YES.
I loved the responses to come out of that post. The fact of the matter is that a lot of people are feeling burnout. Earlier this summer I wrote about how 2020 is the epitome of uncertainty for all of us, but by now we are starting to feel the fatigue from that with no clear end in site.
Drs. Emily and Amelia Nagoski are twin sisters, researchers and the authors of Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle. In that book they discuss the 3 major causes of burnout:
- Emotional Exhaustion – this is true for women especially. They use Fredinburger’s definition for emotional exhaustion as the fatigue that comes from carrying too much for too long.
- Decreased sense of accomplishment: the unconquerable sense of futility and feeling that nothing you do makes any difference
- Depersonalization: The depletion of empathy, caring, and/or compassion.
There is no doubt that the chronic stressors of COVID-19, combined with an election cycle, combined with the loss of business for most travel advisors have made this year a perfect storm for Travel Advisor Burnout. It’s hard to be an entrepreneur. It’s hard to be a mom. It’s doubly hard in a pandemic year.
One of the things I loved the most to come out of the conversations in our group was the discussion about the different ways we handle burnout. Some expressed that you have to keep moving forward. Others pointed out that it’s in STILLNESS that we find our answers. The biggest takeaway for me was that we all walk our own paths and have to deal with our own set of stressors.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the travel industry was full of “shoulds.” All of the things you should be doing: you should keep encouraging people to travel, you should not travel at all, you should rebrand, you should list build, you should look at your marketing plan, you should, you should, you should……
That’s why when I read this in Anxious People by Frank Backman it really resonated:
One of the most human things about anxiety is that we try to cure chaos with chaos. Someone who has got themselves into catastrophic situation rarely retreat from it, we’re far more inclined to carry on even faster. We’ve created lives where we can watch other people crash into the wall but still hope that somehow we’re going to pass straight through it. The closer we get, the more confidently we believe that some unlikely solution i miraculously going to save us, while everyone watching us is just waiting for the crash.
We all like to believe that we are the exception to the rule, and that we will come out unscathed. The reality is that this is hard on everyone. While many of us do handle stressors differently, and are handling a different set of stressors, the fact remains that we all need to implement coping mechanisms that can outpace our stressors. And disconnecting from our feelings, or shaming others for their feelings is never the right answer.
So what should you do?
Allow yourself to feel your feelings.
Removing the stressors in your life won’t make the feelings magically go away. In fact, it’s at the end of big project/holiday/etc that a person really starts to give in to the feelings they had been stuffing down all this time. Emotions are like a tunnel. There is a beginning, middle, and end, and you have to experience the entire transition to really get through something and release it.
Don’t forget to breathe.
Our breath is such an incredible tool that doesn’t get put into practice often enough. While most people think of a yogi with unwashed hair when I say “practice breathing exercises” did you know that it’s also taught to special forces? Breathing intentionally and rhythmically brings us back into focus and helps us to slow down our environment. Remember the tendency to speed up and add chaos to chaos? Breathing helps us resist that urge in the moment and find stillness where we need it.
Be Active in Positive Social Communities
Postive social interactions make our day better. Period. It can be as simple as giving or receiving a compliment to your barista every morning. Joining a community of travel advisors and being active in those communities can make a world of difference in your travel business. And you don’t have to limit yourself to just one. A community should be supportive, collaborative, and provide accountability. In today’s digital world, there is no shortage of travel advisor communities available to us. But a community that provides those three things – collaboration, support, and accountability – is in short supply. Find one that you can lean into and grow from.
Give yourself grace
A lot of us are experiencing 2020 as an FFT – it’s all our effing first time to deal with a pandemic. Remember that in an FFT you need to name and normalize, gain perspective, and manage expectations. All of this requires a little more grace than usual – for yourself and others.
Systemize as much as you can
This is where strategies and systems come into place. Our schedules are not the same as they were pre-pandemic. We are having to give ourselves a lot of grace (there it is again) and learn to work within the boundaries and time constraints that we have, while trying to juggle different schedules, school, zoom meetings, etc. Having strategies and systems in your business in place helps you prioritize what needs to be done, gives you a focus, and helps you automate what you can in your business. Otherwise you are throwing spaghetti on the wall trying to see what sticks. Not only are you potentially wasting the limited time and resources you have, you aren’t getting any good reinforcement from doing so, making it hard to continue on.
Everyone experiences burnout at some point in their travel entrepreneurial career. 2020 is putting the pressure down even harder than usual. Being intentional and learning how to process all of the emotions along with all of the things is an integral part of the process. But we can’t do any of that unless we start to talk more and normalize the feelings and experiences we are all collectively walking through.
In the meantime, at KTA we are cheering for your success. See you on the other side of that tunnel.
Much of this episode was inspired by Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us Podcast:
Brown, B. (Host). (2020, October 14). Brené with Emily and Amelia Nagoski on Burnout and How to Complete the Stress Cycle. [Audio podcast episode]. In Unlocking Us with Brené Brown. Cadence13.