Surviving Burnout

As a designer, you’ve probably experienced creative burnout. All creative people go through it. You’ll have days, and sometimes weeks, where you just can’t muster up the emotional, physical or creative energy to do anything.

Burnout is different than being Creatively Blocked. A block is when you find yourself uninspired. When you're burnt out, you'll feel it throughout your whole mind and body. It's mental and physical exhaustion

No matter how much passion you have for your work, the day will come when the world suddenly seems gray. You’ll find that the things that used to encourage, motivate and inspire you just don’t anymore. What you have is a case of:

Creative Burnout

Everyone’s creative energies comes from different places. The reasons you may feel stuck or empty will be different from everyone else's. Creative work is personal and is fueled by the unique combination of qualities that makes you, you.

Burnout means you’ve pushed your creative energy to the point of mental and physical exhaustion. You feel stuck. Your business is stuck. Just like a well, creative energy needs to replenish itself slowly over time. Someone who constantly pulls from their creative well without replenshing self-care, will wake one day find that well empty. 

What does Creative Burnout feel like:

You may feel a combination of any of these symptons:

  • It’s difficult to muster up passion for your work
  • You may want to call it quits
  • You’re physically and emotionally exhausted
  • Nothing inspires you
  • You’re unmotivated
  • You’re less productive
  • You’re moody
  • You're depressed
  • You feel overwhelmed
  • Your thoughts are foggy
  • You start to doubt your talents and abilities 
  • You start comparing yourself to others

I’ve experienced creative burnout and it can be debilitating. I was continually pushing myself until my mind and body pushed back. It took me several months to get my creative mojo and energy back. 

Although they may have similar symptoms, creative burnout is different from depression. Prolong and untreated creative burnout can turn into depression. If you feel you may be depressed, please contact your doctor immediately to get the help you need. If you're experiencing a prolonged period of burnout, contact your doctor.

What Causes Creative Burnout

Very simply, creative burnout is caused by:

  • Overwork 
  • Pushing yourself past your limits
  • Working too long and hard without adequate breaks
  • Not getting enough rest or sleep
  • Being consumed by your work
  • Trying to achieve perfection
  • Not making time for leisure or fun activities 

7 Ways to cope with Creative Burnout

You know you’re burned out. Now, what can you do about it?

There isn’t a manual on creative burnout because each person handles it differently. So what can you do you do now?

Start by asking yourself some questions. 

  • How did I get this way? 
  • What was the point where I could feel myself getting exhausted? 
  • Which project was the tipping point? 
  • What could have been done differently? 
  • How can I work better? Smarter?

I had to stop working on L Knits for awhile and then learn how to limit the time I spent working. I added more self-care. I had to make myself the priority. I took up yoga. I read for pleasure. I spend more time with family and friends. I occasionally go away for the weekend (sometimes by myself). There are times when taking care of my self looks a lot like laying on the sofa and binge watching tv. 

There’s no set time to get over being burned out. It takes as long as it takes. Everyone is different. It took me almost six months before I felt back to normal. Now, I do what I can to lessen my chances of experiencing burnout again. 

Here are some ways to cope:

1. Be good to yourself

Take some time off. Do things you enjoy, and that relax you that have nothing to do with yarn. Work in your garden, turn up the music and dance or spend some time vegging out in front of the TV.

Being creative can be exhausting, so take a nap, enjoy a long, hot bubble bath, meditate, get a good night’s sleep. An overworked mind isn’t good for finding inspiration so taking some time off to relax and unwind will invigorate your mind.  

2. Tell someone

Pick the one person who you relate to and trust most and tell them how you feel. “Hey friend, I’m so burned out right now.” Nine times out of ten you’ll get more support and encouragement than you expected.

If your exhaustion is lasting longer than you think is should, reach out to your doctor and tell them how you're feeling.

3. Don’t push

Take a mental step back from your creative project and create some psychological distance. Try looking at it from a different angle. Don’t try to push.

Inspiration may come to you when you sit back and look at the problem from a different perspective. What would the person you most admire do? Try that.

4. Schedule a time and place to design and create

Feel like you never have enough time to be creative? Mixing work, family and those everyday tasks just doesn’t work for a lot of us. Choose a time and place to create, and commit to it whether that space is a home office, studio or a corner in the living room.

Set a schedule to work each day. When you think you’ll be able to get to it later, life gets in the way and later never comes.

5. Don’t wait for Inspiration

Inspiration doesn’t just strike. It’s cultivated. Waiting around for the perfect moment to tackle a creative challenge will keep you waiting a long time. Just do the work. Sometimes all the best ideas come out of the process; out of the work itself. 

6. Start over, again

Sometimes trashing the whole project and starting from scratch can work wonders.

Instead of trying to untangle the mess you’re in, just set it aside and create something new using what you learned from your first attempt. When that try fails, set it aside and start over, again.

7. Be patient with yourself

Above all, be patient with yourself. Running a business isn’t a sprint; It’s a marathon. Set a pace that feels comfortable and that can be maintained over the long haul. Take breaks. Meet a friend for lunch. Talk about something other than your business. 

Building and growing a business can be challenging. It relies on you to be at your very best. To do so you must make your self-care a priority. Get adequate rest and make time for friends and family. Schedule some ‘me’ time to refill your well of creativity. 

I hope this article helps you overcome and avoid creative burnout. Share it with a creative friend.

Sticks & String,