You decide to pack up and go to your favorite coffee shop, order your go-to drink, and put on your most inspirational playlist…. but five hours later, the page is still blank.
Truth is, you’ve been running too fast for too long. You have burnt yourself out.
You’ve said yes too many times and you’ve created and worked more than you’ve rested or been inspired. Your schedule is constantly filled to the brim. And as much as you know you should be practicing self-care, that 45 minutes on your yoga mat once a week just isn’t cutting it.
Even though it seems it is bound to happen to us at some point, there are ways we can prevent burnout in our creative endeavors and vocational pursuits. Here are five ways to start taking better care of yourself and ensure you won’t lose steam as you work toward your calling:
1. Never settle thinking that work alone will fulfill you.
This year at Yellow Conference, speaker Liz Forkin Bohannon assured us that finding our passion and purpose in our work will not fulfill us. If you’re reading this, chances are you work hard toward making the world a better place, using your creativity and talents for something bigger than yourself. Because of the nature of our jobs (or side projects), it can be tempting to try and find our fulfillment in our work. But our work won’t fulfill us, and it shouldn’t. Instead, we are meant to find fulfillment in balance. Things like relationships, leisure activities, and our personal spirituality should all contribute to our sense of meaning and we ought to make those things priorities in our lives. Working hard is so important, but it is not meant to carry the weight of making us happy and satisfied by itself.
Because of the nature of our jobs (or side projects), it can be tempting to try and find our fulfillment in our work. But our work won’t fulfill us, and it shouldn’t.
2. Know where you land on the introvert/extrovert spectrum.
I personally learned the hard way that lack of self-awareness in this area can be a huge contributor to burnout. Many of us are always networking, connecting, sharing ideas, and collaborating with others. But all of this time with people can wear us down if our personalities aren’t naturally rejuvenated by that lifestyle. I would have sworn up and down that I was 99.99% extrovert; so I spent every waking hour with people. Looking back, I realize this was a huge contributing factor to a season of serious crash and burn in my life.
Then one day I was sitting on a plane reading a book called Quiet, by Susan Cain. As I read about what introversion actually is, I realized I fit most of the characteristics! As I looked back at my life over the past several years, I thought, “Well this would have been great information to know!” If I would have taken time to be alone, allowed myself to be quiet on a regular basis, and dealt with the guilt I felt for taking time to myself, I probably could have prevented those feelings of being unmotivated, irritable, and overall drained. I now know that I stand somewhere close to the middle of the spectrum and am learning how to best take care of myself and prevent burnout with this in mind. You can take a quick test to get an idea of where you stand on the spectrum here.
3. Don’t deny yourself the hard stuff.
Failure, criticism, writer’s block, personal struggle, or just plain sad days - they all have the potential to take quite a toll on our creativity, either in the personal or professional sector. But it can cause even more damage when we try to repress or resist them, in our work as well as to our mental and emotional health. The truth is, failure is a crucial part of the process in almost any endeavor and we would be doing ourselves a disservice if we denied ourselves that struggle, along with the potential beauty that could come from it. Let yourself fail and allow yourself to accept that life if hard sometimes. Consider how you might be able to use that struggle as fuel to inspire your creativity or push you harder to where you’re supposed to go.
The truth is, failure is a crucial part of the process in almost any endeavor and we would be doing ourselves a disservice if we denied ourselves that struggle, along with the potential beauty that could come from it.
4. Know who your safe people are and make them a priority.
Who are the people you can always trust to give an honest opinion of a new idea or design without crushing you at the same time? Who are the people you can tell your deepest anxieties to and know you won’t be met with judgment? Being vulnerable and then met with harsh criticism, arrogance, or opposition can kill our self-esteem and murder our motivation, especially if it happens often. So it’s crucial we know who our safe people are, both in our creative and personal lives. We all know that if we’re going to survive in the world of creatives, we have to put ourselves out there, meeting new people and making connections. But when it comes down to it, we all need to have a core couple of people who we know will always be in our corner as we follow our calling.
5. Do things that scare you.
Nothing has the power to break up monotony and get your creative juices flowing like doing something you wouldn’t normally find yourself comfortable with. Maybe it’s starting a new project you’ve been thinking a lot about. Maybe it’s reaching out to someone different than you to hear his or her story. Maybe it’s going skydiving or on a crazy trip to a third world country! When we get ourselves out of our comfort zones, we remember what we’re capable of. We are revived and reminded that life is full of adventure and we can use that to put a spark in our creative endeavors.
Burnout is real and it can really suck the life out of us when it happens. But if we practice self care and make these things a priority, we are less likely to crash and more likely to have a long and healthy career, making the world more beautiful every day. So go spread goodness and bloom - just don’t forget to take care of yourself along the way!
Photos by Emma Fineman