From blank canvas to brilliance: how to sidestep creative burnout
In our Ultimate SEO Makeover (#180DaysOfSEO, #UltimateSEOMakeover) series, we have tackled powerful steps and key tips on how you can succeed with your online visibility campaign while we tackle our own SEO monster as an agency working to get more visibility on Google.
However, the constant need for strategic planning and managing hectic schedules can be particularly demanding. This means we have to incorporate pauses into our busy routine because this is just as important for our personal well-being and the success of our business.
So today, we will take a pause and check in on YOU.
Burnout: when the very source of joy becomes the source of stress
As creative entrepreneurs, we are always on the go, it’s possible to experience burnout especially when it feels like we’re carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders every single day.
So today, let’s talk about creative burnout and what are some tips on how to manage it.
The term “burnout” carries a sense of desperation, conjuring images of a stalled car on the roadside or a fried computer circuit board. Yet, for us humans, burnout describes a kind of emotional collapse.
Amelia Nagoski, co-author of a recent book on the subject along with her sister Emily, aptly describes it as “feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by everything you have to do, yet still somehow worried you’re not doing enough.”
This phenomenon poses a significant threat to creative entrepreneurs, whose boundaries between work and play, career and passion, often blur.
What happens when the very source of joy transforms into stress and anxiety?
The question that naturally arises is: How can one experience burnout while pursuing a passion? Strangely enough, it’s a pitfall that’s easily stumbled upon. I can attest to this from my personal journey; it can sneak up on you when least expected.
My own experience with burnout
Burnout tapped me on the shoulder on a random day sometime last year. I was busy hustling with online projects AND working a demanding job as a flight attendant. I was so focused on my future that I did not have time to pause and take stock of my present.
Even on my days off, my physical body was sleeping but my mind was on the go. I did not set aside time for recovery and rest because I always had this notion that if I pumped the breaks, how would I pay the bills? How would I survive?
I tried to brush off the notion that I was overdoing things (I know you do too, lol) until I started to notice all the little details. I felt that my mind was hazy. It was hard to focus. I was constantly tired. My body was starting to shut down. The feeling was familiar and I realized I knew what it was.
To be completely honest, I am stubborn and a lot of people I’ve worked with can attest to this. However, a part of me knew this was not the time to keep on fighting.
It took a high fever for me to set aside everything and rest. I filed for time off and recharged by sleeping, ordering takeout, and rewatching my favorite series. Having my fluffy cats and my supportive partner made a huge difference in my recovery process too.
Recharging may vary for everyone and while no one-size-fits-all solution exists, envisioning a spontaneous month-long yoga retreat in Tulum might seem enticing. However, for most working creatives, tethered to the studio or office to pay the bills or make sure you have enough projects for their team’s salary, such an escape isn’t feasible.
Nonetheless, creative entrepreneurs can employ specific strategies to evade burnout and resurface after hitting that stress-induced wall.
8 essential tips to help you navigate creative burnout
Confronting this challenge isn’t simple, yet you needn’t face it alone. We’re here to offer insights and remember, others around you might be grappling with similar struggles. Learning from their experiences could prove invaluable.
Each individual crafts their unique approach to surmounting this crisis, recognizing that diversity in coping mechanisms is entirely acceptable. We’ve compiled seven tips aimed at aiding you in navigating creative burnout:
(Note that these are from personal experiences and are not meant to be construed as advice. I recommend you consult a therapist if you experience burnout)
1. Unravel the why
The complexity of your emotions doesn’t equate to an insurmountable problem. Think about the root causes by posing vital queries. Is your workload overwhelming? Has monotony crept into your work? Are innovative ideas elusive? Has your confidence taken a hit?
Mull over these questions and their answers, either through introspection or discussions with friends. By dissecting the problem, you pave the way for the return of your creative vigor.
2. Release the guilt
Creative entrepreneurs take immense pride in their work, justifiably so. However, it’s crucial not to hinge your entire identity on it. Mental roadblocks can ravage self-esteem, inducing feelings of shame and uncertainty. Shifting focus to other endeavors, like a low-stress hobby such as yoga or gardening, can infuse balance into your life. This shift fosters a healthier relationship with your work while mitigating burnout risks.
3. Embrace intermittent breaks
The human attention span has limitations. Your mind requires intervals to disengage from the constant grind. The clarity you’ve felt after a brief respite isn’t coincidental; your brain was replenishing its energy, fostering improved creativity. Honor yourself with regular breaks; consider afternoons off or even a full-fledged vacation. Remember, this isn’t a mere indulgence, but a necessity for your well-being.
4. Rediscover playful creativity
Distinguish between creativity as work and creativity as play. The weight of professional expectations can stifle the joy of creation. To combat this, indulge in creative pursuits just for the thrill. It needn’t be elaborate; a doodle, a lighthearted blog, or an experimental recipe can suffice. Grant yourself permission to create sans pressure.
Playful creativity feeds the source of your creative energy and helps make sure your tank doesn’t get too empty.
5. Lean on allies
Burnout often ushers in feelings of isolation, born from shame and doubt. Counter this by tapping into your support network, which could include friends, mentors, or even a therapist. Communication is a two-way street; express your needs clearly to receive tailored assistance. A fresh perspective might emerge during your break from your work.
6. Ask for help
In her wonder-inducing book, The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer talks about how she found success after learning how to ask more. She gave away her music and asked fans to help her out in any way they could. The response was the sort of stuff that inspires ‘based on a true story’ movies.
Often as entrepreneurs, we want to do everything by ourselves. We believe no one is good enough to take over the work we have been doing and so we carry the load, even as the business gets bigger and demands more of us.
Palmer asked fans for help, but we can reach out to work colleagues, friends, family; anyone in our network.
7. Go easy on self-critique
Creatives and self-motivated people tend to be their harshest critics. Combat feelings of inadequacy by reminiscing about past achievements.
Bask in the glow of positive feedback and testimonials. Keep these affirmations handy, providing solace during moments of doubt. Use technology to your advantage by storing these reminders for swift access.
As someone once said, you are allowed to be your own biggest critic, only if you are in double the measure, your own biggest fan.
8. Tame the stress
Stress is the nemesis of creativity. Seek methods to calm your mind and unload burdens. Mindfulness practice aids in understanding work-related dynamics and alleviating unnecessary pressure. Establishing boundaries between personal and professional realms is essential. Don’t shy away from declining additional responsibilities when overwhelmed.
Pro Tip: Easing stress involves meticulous organization and timely task completion. Numerous online tools can streamline your workflow, reducing stress levels. At Artist Dynamix, we use ClickUp, this tool helps us get work done more efficiently. With ClickUp, we can easily create tasks, assign them to our team members, and track our progress.
“Realize that your creative passion is also a job—and that’s okay”
What if creating art or showing up for your work and its demands become a stress source? When your love for creativity becomes a job, it might stop nourishing your spirit, and you worry that inspiration has faded.
But that’s not entirely true. It’s more about how you see your work changing. Instead of only being a way to express yourself, it gains other roles. That’s okay and common. You don’t have to lose that initial joy of creating just for you. You can try new things, pick up hobbies, or be a beginner. This not only brings back that self-expression feeling but also refreshes your ability to express your main art. Always leave space for learning and growing.
The evolution of your creative pursuit
So remember, as your business grows and your creative passion becomes more intertwined with professional demands, stress will sometimes emerge. Many creatives and entrepreneurs face this phenomenon.
This evolution is natural and need not tarnish your initial inspiration. Embrace diversification by exploring new disciplines or hobbies. These ventures can reignite the spark of self-expression and rejuvenate your primary creative pursuit.
You’re not alone in this journey. Seek help when needed and follow the strategies outlined above to carve a path towards rejuvenation. Simultaneously, extend yourself the compassion you deserve. Embrace rest and self-care; they’re essential for nurturing your creative essence.