As of today, we are at the height of spooky season!
But, do you know what frightens me MORE than ghosts, ghouls, goblins, and even the scariest of haunted houses?!
It happens all too frequently in the creative business world. And if you’ve ever experienced it, burnout can feel like a pretty lonely place.
That’s because we are constantly bombarded by email blasts, social media posts, and TikTok videos of our fellow entrepreneurs who somehow seem to just keep going 24/7/365 without skipping a beat. And that’s on top of the client requests, inquiries, our ACTUAL WORK, and showing up for our families day in and day out!
It’s a lofty, and TBH unrealistic, expectation many of us put on ourselves to do more, produce more, and BE MORE.
Now, the answer isn’t just to load up on productivity hacks or be as efficient as humanly possible.
The solution, in fact, might surprise you.
What I’ve learned is that SELF CARE and REFLECTION are the keys to sustainability in business without the burnout.
Yep– they’re more potent than any Pomodoro Method or a witch’s poison apple.
So if you’re finding yourself feeling uninspired, frustrated, uninterested…or straight-up burnt out, I’ve collected 5 scary good tips to help you work through and break out of burnout!
Before you can figure out a solution to your burnout, you have to get to the root of the issue. If you don’t tend to this step, it’s like trying to medicate an illness without ever getting a REAL diagnosis– you’re just fumbling around in the dark, making assumptions, and HOPING something works!
Don’t just treat the symptoms, treat the source.
Otherwise, you’ll forever be on the burnout rollercoaster!
The key is to get to the ROOT of the problem.
It’s all about getting honest and creating some space to pay attention.
I highly recommend you take time for quiet reflection. This can be as simple as setting aside 5-15 minutes each day, to complete this journaling exercise, from Alex Banaya’s 30-Day Challenge.
After 30 days, Banaya recommends you do a “graduation ceremony” where you set aside an hour, make it special and celebratory, and read through every entry!
Trust me…the results can be eye-opening!
You’ll get a bird’s eye view of trends and insights that you’re too close to in the day-to-day to notice. And it may help shed light on not only WHY you feel burnt out, but also the path out of it!
You can read more about the 30-Day Challenge directly from Alex, here.
COO Tip: Worried you might forget to complete your daily journaling in the hustle and bustle of the day? An easy hack is to place your notebook on your pillow in the morning when you make your bed (hello, habit stacking!) so that if you didn’t get to it earlier in the day, you’re reminded to do it before you go to bed each night!
OK, we’ve all heard this before. But, it’s for good reason.
I honestly think rest, wholesome food, and proper hydration are the keys to most things in life!
Sleep not only FEELS good, but it is essential for your mental and physical well-being.
In fact, this study found that getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night is one of the main risk factors for burnout development.
Although you can still experience burnout even if you get enough sleep (mental fatigue is real!), making sure you’re well rested is a great place to start to combat symptoms of burnout before they creep up!
Nutrition is another important piece of the puzzle. Eating well literally gives your mind and body the fuel they need to function! The challenge is, when you’re constantly busy, it can be easy to forget to eat a balanced diet throughout the day. You may become so absorbed in your work that you even forget to eat at all!
“When everything is terrible and I hate my life and I feel certain that I need a new career, a new religion, a new house, a new life, I look at my list and remember that what I really need is probably a glass of water.”
Dehydration is REAL and unfortunately, while it might feel the same, chugging another iced coffee isn’t helping the problem.
If sleep, nutrition, and/or hydration are in short supply or out of balance, you will continue to wear down and the effects will compound over time.
If you’ve ever pushed through a chaotic, busy season and ended up sick by the end of it, you can relate to the sentiment that…either you take a break yourself or your mind and body will make you!
Start prioritizing your health by setting a bedtime each night (and sticking to it), prepping healthy snacks ahead of time for easy munching during your work day, and be sure to keep that water bottle handy! I actually set reminders every hour to ensure I don’t forget to drink water!
It can have such a tremendous calming effect on both the mind and the body.
Pair some good old-fashioned fresh air with a nice, brisk walk, and you have yourself a wonderful self-care routine.
The benefits of walking outside are twofold: they offer both exercise and a connection to nature.
Plus, intentionally carving out time away from screens is always needed because it’s harder and harder to come by these days as our homes, businesses, social lives, schools, etc. are all run and managed on apps, tech, and the internet.
I make a point to get out and take a walk each day during my lunch break and my mid-day walk has been essential for me as I work to keep burnout at bay.
Sometimes it’s only 20 mins, and sometimes it’s an hour, but regardless, it makes a huge difference. When I prioritize getting out for a walk, I find I come back to my work with more energy and I tend to finish the day stronger!
Now, sometimes my walking routine needs to change based on the seasons. During the summer, for example, I do NOT do well in the heat. So instead of taking a midday walk, I would get my walk in first thing in the morning while watching the sunrise as I strolled along the beach– it was MAGICAL!
Now that I’m back in PA and the weather is cooler, I’ve switched back to my daily rhythm of taking lunchtime walks.
What matters most is that you find a routine that works for you, your preferences, and your schedule so you can get out and get moving consistently.
Regularly walking in nature also has a cumulative effect and gains momentum. The more I do it, the better I feel and the “easier” it becomes to find the time and take a break.
That’s because I’ve shown myself over and over again that it’s possible AND because I work better, more focused, more effectively, and more efficiently when I am energized mid-day by some fresh air, sunshine, movement, and a reset.
Talk about a self-esteem boost!
One of my favorite ways to avoid burnout is to carve out time outside of my creative WORK to be creative just for the fun of it!
I actually put creative rhythms in place throughout my week to ensure I’m prioritizing my creativity and getting those juices flowing! In fact, I highly recommend you try to create BEFORE you consume so that your ideas are fresh instead of influenced exclusively by what you take in from the outside world.
When I tap into creativity just for myself, not only as a means to an end for my creative business, I find it easier to tune into professional and personal inspiration.
I encourage you to try something new and give yourself permission to be a beginner (aka you don’t even have to be good at it)! If you are a graphic designer, maybe you explore a new dimension of your creativity by learning to play a musical instrument or taking a dance class!
These new perspectives may fuel you in innovative, unexpected ways which can be helpful if you need to get out of a rut or rekindle your excitement. And even if not, they simply offer you an opportunity to have FUN, reduce stress, and bust through burnout.
Finally, let me introduce you to one of my favorite words in the English language.
It’s a full sentence.
To move past burnout you need to be gentle with yourself and prioritize your well-being. This might mean setting boundaries or temporarily letting others down to make sure you don’t let YOURSELF down.
If you are currently burnt out or worried that you’re headed in that direction, you can start saying NO by getting rid of the extracurriculars on your calendar that are draining you of your time, energy, and peace.
A LOT more of the things on your calendar are more optional than you’d think! Let that shit go!
When it comes to saying NO, another helpful tool is to get to know your true capacity (both mentally AND physically). Your capacity is a combination of your schedule, your availability, and your priorities. Once you know how much time you have to spend on certain tasks, both in your business and your home life, it becomes easier to honor and protect what matters most to you.
We live in a culture that tells us being busy is something to be praised and celebrated. This is why we’re bombarded with all the productivity tips as we aspire to fit one more thing into our already hectic lives!
I think this story from Jenna Kutcher’s book, “How Are You Really?” captures this beautifully:
A monk was visiting New York City and his tour guide said, “if we take the subway instead of walking to our next location, we can save 10 minutes.”
The monk replied, “okay– great!”
– and proceeded to sit down on a nearby park bench.
Confused, the tour guide asked,
“What are you doing? Let’s go!”
The monk’s reply was definitely not what most people would expect.
“I’m enjoying the 10 minutes that I just saved.”
His logic was, instead of trying to jam-pack every spare minute of time with more STUFF, he was choosing to savor it and be in the moment!
I compare this story to how we approach productivity tips in our lives and businesses.
Sure, we can be productive in order to try and DO as much as humanly possible in a day, but this often leads to burnout!
Instead, I sincerely believe that productivity isn’t just about being able to do more. It’s about creating more time and space to enjoy our lives when we aren’t “doing.”
This perspective shift may help you understand why you might be trying to optimize your productivity on a deeper level so that your strategies are not only effective in helping you get things done in your business but allow your business to support your life outside of your work!
I hope that each of these 5 tips inspire you to introduce healthy, sustainable self-care practices into your daily routine while also shedding the draining obligations you’ve been holding onto.
Running a creative business isn’t for the faint of heart. Take a moment to recognize how far you’ve come, and then carve out time to set yourself up for success.
Tending to your emotional, physical, and mental health with intention and self-compassion can help you do the work you love better and for longer without burning out!
Want to learn more about my journey with mental health as a creative entrepreneur? Be sure to check out this very vulnerable blog post where I talk about my journey with anxiety. If you walk away from this blog feeling a little more seen and a little less alone, then sharing my story will have been worth it.