Burnout - how to survive & thrive through a major creative slump!
We’ve all been there. The slumpy dumpy season of burnout. If you work in a creative field, you’ve most likely experienced some sort of burnout in the past, or maybe you’re going through it right now.
About 2 years ago, I was pretty much in a perpetual state of burnout: taking on way too many custom projects at once, working an insane amount of hours per week (pulling constant all-nighters), and feeling like I didn’t have the creative capacity to come up with ANY new and original ideas. After almost a solid year of this, I knew I needed to make a major shift. And I did.
Today, I want to break down the dreaded creative burnout feeling and tackle it head on with a few rational points - How do we avoid it? And if it catches us off guard, how do we get through it?
WHAT IS IT?
Burnout happens when we, as imperfect human beings, reach a limit of extortion (physically and/or mentally) that quite literally blocks us from continuing to move forward with a task, goal, project, or idea. It’s often referred to as “creative block” or “writers block” and causes us to suffer from a severe lack of motivation and new ideas, and often even causes a sense of complete disinterest in our craft or passion project.
HOW DOES IT FEEL?
You’ll know you’re experiencing creative burnout if you start to feel overwhelmed, lethargic, and anxious more often than not. You may also notice an increase of self-doubt, especially around your work. And, similar to stress, in some cases you may even develop physical side effects such as headaches, sore/tense muscles, etc.
HOW TO AVOID IT?
The best way to avoid burnout before it hits, is to learn to say NO. If you’ve ever heard the expression “I just have too much on my plate right now” - that person is most likely on the brink of a major burnout moment. In other words, don’t overfill your plate. Be mindful of how busy your schedule is, and learn to say no to events or projects that are going to tip you straight into panic mode. This is much easier said than done, especially for us workaholics! But, I’ve realized that if something costs me my sanity and peace of mind, it’s simply not worth it. You’ll work more efficiently with less on your plate, and as a result, create better work.
Another way to help avoid burnout before it creeps in, is to plan plan plan ahead. Staying organized is extremely important (yes, even for you right-brained creatives too!). When you know your deadlines and have a plan in place to get things done, that’s one less thing your busy brain has to constantly think about or focus on. Thus allowing the creativity to flow.
HOW TO GET THROUGH IT?
If you do happen to find yourself in a totally burnt out state of mind, don’t freak out! Step 1 is to realize that this is just a small phase that you’ll soon be out of. Acknowledge it’s presence, but don’t dwell on it for too long. Instead focus your energy on the little tricks that will help you power through it.
As someone who has gone through burnout several times in the past, here are some of the most effective tools I’ve used to help overcome it:
Journaling - grab a notebook, pen, and just start writing. No really. That’s it. Don’t think about what you’re going to write. Just put the pen to paper and let your hand start moving. I call this “brain dumping” and I do this whenever I feel like I have SO many thoughts in my head it just might actually explode. This is essentially a way of “venting” that doesn’t negatively impact the person on the other end of the “vent” because, well, nobody ever has to read it! Often times, what I write doesn’t even make sense, is full of spelling and grammatical errors, and ends up looking like a complete mess by the end of the page. BUT, once I’m done, the feeling of instant relief is like no other. Brain dumping helps to get rid of your overlapping/cluttered thoughts and frees up space in your minds’ hard drive for more ideas and creativity to flow.
Organize - I truly believe that our environment plays a huge role in our state of mind and overall well-being. A great way to clear out some of the clutter in your brain that causes burnout, is to literally clear the physical clutter around you. Even if you just take 15 minutes to clean out and organize a junk drawer or put away the pile of clothes on your chair, you’ll notice the peace of mind that comes when things are more organized around you.
Step out - like literally, go outside. You most likely aren’t spending enough time outdoors - especially if you work from home! I find that when I start to feel really overwhelmed or on the brink of burnout mode, I need to change my environment. Go for a walk or car ride, or if you can’t stop working, move to a different room or take your work to a coffee shop. These seem like silly solutions but sometimes just breaking out of your typical environment helps trigger new ideas and brings on some new inspiration.
Give yourself permission - If you need to, take a day (or 2 or 3) and mark them in your calendar as “ME DAYS” or “SELF CARE DAY” or whatever you want to label it as. Scheduling this time away from work, projects, and deadlines, will help clear your mind while avoiding that guilt we feel when we’re not working or “on a roll” 24/7. If you schedule these days out periodically, and realize that instead of hurting your timeline, they are actually helping you reach your goals with more ease and facility, you should be able to avoid ending up in another burnout rut down the road.
Hopefully this helped shine a more rational light on this tricky little topic… and may we all continue to pursue those passion projects with clear thoughts & creative flow!
Do you have any tips & tricks for avoiding and getting through burnout? If so please share below!
Thanks so much for stopping by!