Recognizing and Surviving Creative Burnout
The longer you work at creating things, the greater the odds that you will one day reach a point where you don’t feel like doing it anymore. Up until then, burnout may have seemed like a problem for other people — but when it hits, what was once fun and challenging suddenly feels trite and frustrating. Or perhaps the things that motivated you before no longer resonate with you.
Does any of this sounds familiar? If so, here’s how to know if you are burned-out and how to deal with it.
The first thing to realize is that everyone’s creative energies come from different places. Creative work is highly personal. Burnout simply means that you’ve pushed your creative energy beyond the point of recovery. As such, burnout is something to avoid and manage as best as possible. The following are some signs of burnout:
- You feel an unusual dread upon waking up.
- You don’t care about something you were once passionate about.
- Inspired, motivated, creative people annoy you.
- Everything seems pointless.
- You notice your personal signs of depression.
- You find it hard to relax.
(Note: while burnout can cause these symptoms, other issues, like unhealthy workplaces or bad work relationships, can cause similar feelings.)
Fortunately, burnout is survivable. Creative people get burned-out all the time — to varying degrees — and many of them develop habits that allow them to come back. The best place to start is with your teammates and coworkers. Pick the one person who you relate to best and tell them how you feel. You’ll get the support and encouragement you need to begin your recovery.
Talking with other people won’t dramatically change the way you feel, but it is still important, because expressing feelings is the only way to work through them. Here are some things with which you can experiment in order to find an effective way of combating burnout:
- Plan An Escape: Take a day off and do the easiest, but most fun, thing you can think of. Use a vacation day or a sick day if you need to.
- Laugh: Whatever it is that you find funny — people, films, TV shows, books, or video games — bring more of it into your life.
- Sleep and Exercise: Start taking a walk every day, go swimming once in a while, or participate in other physical activities. The more you exercise, the better you will sleep and the more recovery time you will provide for your mind and body.
- Travel: Use some vacation time — or even ask for time without pay — so you can just pick up and go. Drive anywhere, with friends or without. Blare music. Just pick a direction and drive.
However you choose to deal with your situation, pay attention to yourself. It’s often harder to figure out and listen to what your own needs are than it is to take advice from others. The sooner you sit down and allow your own truth to come out, the better off you’ll be.