Girl laying on a bed with a distressed look on her face. Eyes closed, both hands pushing her hair back. Open Laptop and 4 cell phones surrounding her.
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You have a hard time painting because colors look off and you fear committing to your canvas until you get the right shade of red. A tiny voice inside your head tells you, your work is no good and makes you want to quit.  Writing has become frustrating and makes you want to destroy all your drafts. 

If this sounds familiar, you may be experiencing creative burnout. Identifying the signs is half the battle. You can pull yourself out of it—and keep it at bay—with a few changes to your routine and your outlook. 

What Is Burnout And Why Me?

Burnout can affect anyone and involves feelings of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. You can feel strained through work, relationships, family, or hobbies.

I’m Done With Art

Creative burnout is a type of chronic stress where you feel overwhelmed by your art, music, or other creative craft. Using your imagination feels like trying to get a dead battery started. You feel as though your work is no longer of value and your efforts are wasted.

Imagine you want to crochet a Christmas sweater. You begin optimistic about your project, but 20 hours in, and you’re not close to being finished. The snowflake patterns become taxing as you weave a mix of white over white yarn. You doubt your sweater will turn out the way you want, and you shove it in a box out of sight.      

Creative burnout can also develop in professional settings. As a freelance graphic designer you may have taken on too many projects and you’re left struggling to make deadlines. You’re trying to meet high expectations from all your clients and have no time to think about anything but work. You start to resent graphic design because it leaves you with disappointment and despair.

Working through burnout isn’t effective and you might end up doing more damage to your health if not properly addressed.

Watch Your Health 

When you’re feeling burned out, your body has a hard time regulating the stress hormone cortisol. Stress can make you find unhealthy coping mechanisms such as indulging in too much junk food or turning to drugs and alcohol. Unbalanced cortisol levels could lead to:

  •  Weight gain or weight loss
  • Trouble sleeping
  • High blood pressure that leads to heart disease
  • Headaches and body aches
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Drugs and alcohol

Identifying the symptoms of burnout could help you prevent your health from spiraling out of control, but you need to know what to look for.

Recognize Signs Of Burnout

It can be hard to distinguish burnout from normal stress, but if you’ve been feeling off for some time, look for unusual behavior:

  • Decreased  productivity
  • Cynicism and irritability
  • Lack of energy and focus
  • Difficulty sleeping

You might find it hard to fall asleep as you toss and turn during the night. It’s hard to get sleep because your mind is racing, thinking about all you have to do. The alarm clock goes off and you dread getting out of bed. Someone better not bug you, because it’s not your day.

The last thing you want to do is take how you’re feeling out on friends and family. If you want to get through burnout and feel reconnected to your art, look for tips and tricks for creative self care.

Can you Avoid Burnout All Together?

No one is immune to stress, but everyone is different in how they handle it. When you start to become overwhelmed, make adjustments and set a new routine to help bring back life balance.

Set Boundaries

Burnout can happen when we try to do too much or say yes to everything. Visualize your day by keeping a calendar or notebook. Write out all your tasks for the day and try time management methods to combat feeling stressed by taking on too much.

If you find yourself spending more time than you have on a project, set limits on what you’re able to do. Saying no will also help you manage the risk of burnout.   

What’s My Role Here?

Before you become frustrated because your sewing project doesn’t look how you pictured, take a breath. What’s at stake if things don’t go according to plan? If the only person you’re letting down is yourself, you may be pushing yourself too hard. Think about why you started the project and what’s expected of you.

Take A Break

Set an alarm or sticky note to remind you to step away from your project. Do something you enjoy, as your mind might be too close to what you’re working on and needs a break. Go to the dog park, run at the gym, binge-watch Netflix, or grab some food. Inspiration could strike you while you’re out and you’ll return to your project with fresh ideas and solutions on how to deal with burnout.

 Is It Too Late For Me?

Recovering from burnout is possible, but it will take time and effort. You could start by slowing down and starting with the essential tools of self care to deal with stress and anxiety. 

Talk To Someone

It can feel isolating because no one knows how you’re feeling. Consider seeking professional help from a therapist. They can help you process what you’re going through and recommend a solution for how to deal with burnout. You’ll be able to learn stress-management techniques, such as recording your feelings in a journal.

Journaling

Try getting your thoughts and feelings on a page. There are multiple types of journaling to better fit how you want to express yourself. Journaling can remedy burnout by:

  • Helping you manage stressful situations by getting them onto paper
  • Strengthening your emotional resilience
  • Tapping into your right brain to grow your creativity

Seeing your thoughts in front of you is a way to process your emotions so you can start visualizing a path forward. If you have a hard time writing your thoughts, try a journaling prompt to get started. You’ll have a novel before you know it.

Drawing

If you’ve been struggling with creativity and anxiety, drawing can spark your imagination and soothe you by releasing dopamine. Don’t worry if you can’t draw like Davinci. Drawing patterns can be done at any skill level and daily practice can help enhance your creativity. Try mindful drawing that prompts you with techniques designed to engage your sense.   

Meditate

 Reflect on your emotions and explore a deeper connection to your body by learning how to meditate. Meditation is a stress reliever that allows you to pause and connect to your breath. The health benefits include reducing stress caused by cortisol imbalance. Mastering meditation takes practice, but your mind and body will thank you.

A New Outlook

Creative burnout can take a toll on your well-being and you may experience it several times throughout your life. It’s important to be mindful of when you start to feel burned out, that way you can take the proper steps to get out of it. Set a self care plan in place.
Look for the signs of burnout. Keep a sticky note on your computer or an alarm to remind you to take a break every hour. Try turning your anxiety into art. It’s going to take effort, but you’ll feel recharged and ready to create your next masterpiece with a new sense of joy.  

Want to Learn How to Meditate?

Meditation 101: Spark, Joy, Peace, and Creativity in Your Daily Life

Written By

Sean Kettering

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