Picture this: You’ve been powering through your To Do List (or trying to, anyway) for months, letting one must-be-perfect-or-I’ll-absolutely-die client project swirl into the next. You haven’t worked ON your business in ages. And you’re constantly promising you’ll make it to yoga, catch up with your book club girls or schedule that massage “next week” after all the chaos dies down.
The only problem? It never does.
So, instead of rocking and rolling through your weeks like you used to, things start to feel…harder. Take longer. And frankly, make you exhausted. Like, every single day.
Then you might be teetering on the brink of creative burnout, babe.
But what is “creative” burnout exactly – and how can you avoid it?
In the book The Joy of Burnout (which I wildly recommend!), Dina Glouberman says the classic signs of burnout are:
- A growing emotional, mental or physical exhaustion which isn’t alleviated by sleeping
- An increasing sense of being cut off from ourselves and other people
- A decreasing ability to be effective at doing what we have always done, either at work or at home
And here’s how it might look in the entrepreneurial world:
- Taking hours to whip up your weekly newsletter that used to take you 20 minutes – and never feeling like you quite “got in the flow”
- Struggling to do even basic business tasks, but especially the more creative, energy-consuming ones that require you to think and concentrate deeply for hours at a time
- Sleeping late, not wanting to wake up and face your responsibilities and/or indulging in Netflix binges in the middle of the day because you’re just done
- Feeling resentful and thinking, “Ugh, no” every time a new client books (rather than doing your usual celebratory happy dance)
- Wanting to be alone. Not leaving the house for days. And having all your groceries delivered via Amazon Prime because you just can’t fathom doing ONE MORE THING (Just me?)
It’s serious – and it seriously sucks. But I’ve got good news: There are some ways to fan your flames and get your creative spark back. Here’s what to do to stop from getting totally fried:
Your first line of defense against burnout is simply taking a pause. For some people, this might mean saying sayonara to your desk for a three-day weekend (the kind where you don’t check your rose gold iPhone every 5 minutes). For others, it might mean an entire month completely unplugged. Burnout comes in varying degrees, and people’s lives also come with varying financial responsibility. But no matter what you do – try to take at least a few days completely away from your business. (It WILL still be there when you get back. Pinky promise.) Don’t check work emails, don’t respond to client text messages (just let ‘em know first) and don’t even think about listening to business-related podcasts. Try to detox from your business world completely and give your brain a real, solid rest.
Just for right now, stop saying yes to ALL new projects. (Unless Oprah comes calling, then by all means! 😉 ) Even if we’re not actively working on a project, just knowing we have a big one looming can freak us out and cause stress and anxiety. Give yourself a deadline – like say, three weeks – where you DON’T take on anything new. You’ll feel (at least a little) relief almost immediately.
Get a life outside work.
As business owners, we can become unhealthily obsessed with the almighty dollar and monetizing, um, everything. But when you’re feeling frazzled, it’s time to stop thinking like a businesswoman and start doing things just for the fun of it. Yep, I’m telling you back away from the laptop and instead, bust out the colored pencils, pop open your Pinterest DIY board and/or hit up your hot yoga studio. Humans need to do things just for sheer enjoyment sometimes, and revisiting old hobbies is one amazing way to do this. According to Business Insider, hobbies are an incredible way to clear our minds (especially ones that require us to uni-task and concentrate deeply), distract us from our problems (in a healthy way) and obvs, open up new social opportunities. This is the time to go do whatever turns you on…regardless of whether it will “make you money” or feels “productive. Plus – just like in relationships – you can’t depend on your job to fulfill all your needs. If you’re trying to “get everything” you need from your business – money, creative satisfaction, personal achievement, fun, friends, etc. – you’re setting yourself up to grow crazy resentful of your biz, no matter how much passion you had at the start.
Get bored – or go somewhere fresh and new.
Sounds contradictory, right? Well, turns out creativity thrives not only on novelty and thrilling, new-to-us experiences, but it can ALSO “grow” when we’re doing mindless tasks, too. So, if you were totally bubbling over with creative ideas like pink champs on New Year’s Eve at your monotonous desk job but can’t seem to dream up anything original (let alone inspiring) these days, know you’re not alone. As a self-employed woman, you just have to make a more concerted effort to both a) turn your brain off sometimes and b) stimulate it with new stuff so it keeps making new connections + ideas. In The Artist’s Way, creativity goddess Julia Cameron suggests taking yourself on weekly “artist’s dates” – maybe gussy up and go see that sappy new film, visit a diner in a nearby but unexplored city + nom on an exotic cuisine or soak up some sunshine with a notebook and zero agenda – to refill the well. New experiences ignite hot new connections and give us a fresh take on the world, our lives and consequently, our businesses. Make these dates non-negotiable. This is all about filling your cup before you can give to others. You simply won’t have the creative energy or mojo to create inspiring, meaningful content if you’re depleted, and trust me, your clients and customers actually want you at your best.
Shut down your inner mean girl.
Read: Stop criticizing yourself for feeling the way you feel. And also, stop criticizing your work. (I’m SO guilty of this!) Burnout isn’t a sign of weakness, and you’re NOT going crazy and/or “losing” your talent. You’re just tired.
On that note, don’t forget to sleep, eat and exercise.
These basic needs seem SO obvious, but how many times have you glanced at your iPhone only to realize it’s 3 p.m.and all you’ve done all day is sit hunched over your MacBook and all you’ve consumed is a ridiculous amount of coffee? Our bodies need fresh (preferably green) whole food, at least 15 minutes of movement and 8-ish hours of sleep every single day (although this varies person to person). Even when in “launch mode” – try to adhere to at least these basic self care principles.
Have you ever feel frazzled, fried or like your flicker finally went out? Tell us what you’ve learned about how to curb creative burnout!