In his biography “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination,” author Neal Gabler describes the legendary innovator and animator’s work ethic as “sadistic determination.” 

For most of us in the restaurant delivery service industry, that level of determination seems awe-inspiring …and maybe even a little terrifying. Truth is it’s possible to pour our hearts into our businesses without sacrificing our health, relationships, or mental capability. 

But even Disney himself was not immune to the consequences of a lopsided work ethic. In fact, his life and career is a reminder that burnout is real, even for the most successful and driven individuals.

In a 1931 letter to his brother Roy, Disney confessed, “I have had a nervous breakdown. I have gone to pieces. It’s just that I worked too hard and too long.” This honest confession from a legendary figure in American business is an important reminder of how important it is to deal with burnout symptoms before they become overwhelming..

RDS owners face their own unique set of challenges that can quickly lead to burnout. Managing orders, coordinating drivers, ensuring customer satisfaction… It can feel like a never-ending struggle. When you’re the one solely responsible for steering the ship, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need a Disney-like “sadistic determination” to succeed.

The reality is that this mindset is unsustainable and ultimately counterproductive. Here are some warning sign and strategies to keep you balanced

Pay attention to your mental health.

As a RDS owner, you’re no stranger to the physical, emotional, and mental toll. Exhaustion, insomnia, or difficulty concentrating, are only a few of the symptoms of a high-stress environment. These symptoms are also connected to a delicate dance happening inside your body: the interplay between cortisol, dopamine, and oxytocin.

Cortisol, the stress hormone, can drive you to push forward, but when levels remain high for too long, it leads to burnout.

Dopamine is the reward hormone. While it does motivate and engage you, too much challenge with too little reward can cause levels to plummet, and leave you feeling unfulfilled. 

Oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” fosters bonding, trust, and empathy, but when stress and burnout take over, levels drop, leaving you feeling isolated and disconnected.

The first step is to be aware of your mental state.

Finding your rhythm

To balance this delicate dance of hormones, it’s crucial to recognize the signs of burnout and take proactive steps to prevent it.

Set boundaries, learn to say “no” to unreasonable demands, delegate tasks to trusted team members, and prioritize time for self-care and relaxation.

Schedule regular breaks to normalize cortisol levels, find ways to boost dopamine through small victories and celebrations, and nurture relationships both inside and outside of work.

Remember, your worth as a person and as a business owner is not defined by your ability to work yourself into the ground. Even Walt Disney, known for his “sadistic determination,” had his breakdowns. In the end, it was his ability to find balance and delegate that allowed him to create a lasting legacy. 

Take a deep breath, assess your cortisol-dopamine-oxytocin levels, and make a plan to bring them back into balance. Your business, health, and happiness depend on it.

The “I don’t have time” myth

“I can’t afford to take time off or delegate tasks. If I’m not there to handle everything, the business will fall apart”

Does your self-talk sound like this?

It’s a common fear among RDS owners, but the truth is, running yourself into the ground will only hurt your business in the long run. Taking time to invest in your well-being and building a strong, capable team, will  help you to handle the challenges and grow your company sustainably.

Where there’s a will there’s a way out (of the craziness)

Burnout is a serious issue in the service industry, affecting not only the owner’s personal life but also the business’s success. By recognizing the signs, setting boundaries, delegating tasks, and prioritizing self-care, RDS owners can prevent burnout and maintain a healthy, thriving business.

There are a number of tactics you can employ such as time blocking, goal setting, or hiring a coach. But what you need most is a strategy—a mindset for growing your way out of the mess. In other words, making your personal wellness as big a priority as making payroll.

Next Steps: 

Take an honest look at your current work habits and identify areas where you can make changes to reduce stress and prevent burnout. Start small, perhaps by scheduling a short break each day or delegating one task to a trusted employee. Remember, your well-being is crucial to the health of your RDS business.