What does creative burnout mean to you?
Picture this — you’ve had a long, exhausting day at work, and you’re finally sitting comfortably in your own home, ready to engage in your favorite hobby. You love writing music. It’s what centers you and brings you that sense of calm we all search for after a hard day’s work. Even in your toughest chapters, you’ve always been able to put your worries and distractions aside and focus on your music to create something beautiful. Lately, however, you haven’t been able to write anything when you sit down to do so, which has been causing immense frustration. What does this mean? Why does this happen?
No matter how much you love doing something, the chances are high that eventually, you’ll have days when you just don’t feel like doing that thing. These days happen to even the hardest working and most creative people, so don’t get too frustrated if you find yourself in the midst of one of these days. However, if this feeling is not isolated to just one day and you find yourself feeling this way for an extended period of time, you may be suffering from creative burnout.
How do you know if this is the case? How can you be sure that you’re suffering from creative burnout and not just having “one of those days”? Fortunately, we’ve put together this article outlining the signs to look for to determine whether or not you’re experiencing creative burnout, as well as nine steps on how to combat it and keep it from returning.
How to Know if You’re Suffering from Creative Burnout
As the pace of the world seems to speed up each year, burnout has become a hot topic of discussion. More people every day are finding themselves stressed and overworked, leading them to feel burnt out at their places of employment. In fact, a study showed that two-thirds of the entire workforce experiences some form of burnout at a point in their career. ‘Burnout’ is described as a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion and can be experienced both in our professional lives as well as our creative lives. Creative burnout specifically ties into the exhaustion of your creative capacities.
It can be difficult to come to terms with the fact you’re feeling burnt out. No one likes to admit they’re reaching their breaking point. Our society has placed such a high degree of importance on our work ethic and ability to remain productive that you may not even be able to lift your head above water long enough to realize you’re sinking. However, there are some key signs you should be aware of that may indicate you’re suffering from creative burnout.
If you find yourself putting off your work — and then putting it off some more — you may be suffering from creative burnout. Those suffering from creative burnout may have trouble finishing even their most important projects. If procrastinating has never really been a problem for you in the past and you’re finding yourself putting off work more and more, you may be experiencing creative burnout.
Let’s be real here — very few people like going back to work after the weekend. However, if you find yourself dreading continuing work on a creative project like music or an art project, creative burnout may be the culprit. You know that pit-in-your-stomach feeling? The one that feels like a cold rock is sitting in your belly? If you feel that when you think about working on your creative project, you are most likely burnt out.
Groundhog Day Syndrome
When you’re experiencing creative burnout, everything starts to blend together and feel the same. Each creative project you start should be like opening a new door with endless possibilities. You should feel excited and eager to put your creative mind to work. The world needs your creativity! If instead, you feel like you’re stuck in that timeless Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day where you’re living the same day endlessly, you’re probably suffering from creative burnout.
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Nine Steps to Fight and Prevent Creative Burnout
Okay, so maybe some of the signs do hit a little close to home, and you’re willing to admit you might be feeling a little creatively burnt out. Congratulations! You’re just like almost everyone else. Creative burnout is something everyone deals with and is nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. All you need to do is figure out how to dig yourself out of this rut and keep yourself from falling in again. The following are nine effective, straightforward strategies to do exactly that.
1. Address the Source of Your Feelings
You can’t fix a problem you don’t understand. Therefore, identifying the source of the issue is an essential first step. Investigate what is causing this negative emotion preventing you from wanting to create. Is your agenda overly demanding? Have you been producing a great deal of work that is too similar? In terms of novel concepts, are you grasping at straws? Has your self-esteem suffered a setback?
Clearly, each of these possibilities would require a very different strategy! Grab a journal or a friend for coffee and begin to reflect because the sooner you comprehend the why, the sooner you can redirect your passion.
2. Reexamine Your Environment
Elements of functionality can play a significant role in your creativity. If you are experiencing creative burnout, you may want to examine the environment in which you are attempting to be creative. Is it typically filled with distractions? Is it unsettling in some way? Are you constantly fidgeting, attempting to block out background noise, or being interrupted? If so, make adjustments, and create an environment that is conducive to your creativity on purpose.
Additionally, you should pay attention to your schedule. Are you trying to be creative when you’re the most exhausted? This will not be as effective as attempting to be creative when you’re at peak energy for the day.
3. Take a Break
This doesn’t just mean go for a short walk, though that may be beneficial for a creative block but is likely insufficient to combat creative burnout entirely. Rather, take a few days off with your out-of-office autoresponder activated during which nobody will expect you to work. Knowing you should be working but being unable to do so can result in a vicious cycle of anxiety, so it’s best to avoid that altogether.
Taking a break allows you to reverse the cycle and begin again. Spend time with loved ones, read books, take naps, cook, watch movies, go on a weekend getaway to the countryside, and tend to your plants, all without feeling guilty. Alternatively, you can simply do nothing, which is also perfectly acceptable.
4. Let Go of Shame
As artists, we frequently consider our creativity to be our sole identity. Being creative almost entirely encompasses who we are as individuals. Therefore, when we hit a mental roadblock and can’t or don’t want to create, it can be a significant blow to our self-esteem — it can almost feel embarrassing, causing us to think, “What’s wrong with me?”
Today’s pressure to produce and achieve can be paralyzing, but a shift in perspective can help you recover from burnout more quickly. When you feel exhausted, you have simply overworked your creative muscle rather than drained your well of creativity. You repeated the same movements too often, overdeveloping some sections and weakening others. However, you can always get back in shape.
Ultimately, creativity is a process. Recognize that burnout is simply a part of this process. There will be times when you are at a loss for words and times when you will be amazed at your own brilliance! Rest assured, regardless of how you currently feel, there is always a way out of your funk and a light at the end of the tunnel! So crumple your shame and toss it in the nearest trash can. A mind filled with negativity will only cloud your judgment and prolong burnout.
5. Don’t Get Stuck Feeling Stuck
Creativity fluctuates over time. However, forcing it is unlikely to work. When you begin to feel like you’re hitting a brick wall, as many artists admit, it’s time to move on. Whether working on a different piece or engaging in an entirely different activity, a change of scenery can help reset your mind.
Consider setting up multiple projects in your workspace that you can work on incrementally. If you require more space, leave your work station and take a walk. Have lunch with your friends, turn on the TED Talk or documentary of your choice, or take a nap even. If you’re feeling guilty about abandoning your work, simply switch to an equally productive activity — something that is beneficial to your business or mental health. It could be as simple as deep cleaning your studio space or taking an afternoon yoga class.
6. Take the Challenge Up a Notch
If a problem is too simple for your level of expertise, it will be tedious. It will not inspire your creativity because it’s not creativity that you need to solve the problem. If, on the other hand, the challenge seems insurmountable due to your lack of experience, you will feel anxious. You’ll exert pressure on yourself, and failure anxiety may set in. This is also not a recipe for creative output.
If you feel like you’re experiencing creative burnout, consider how things might change if you increase the difficulty or your skill level. This is a fine line to balance, but it could be the spark your creativity needs to flow again.
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7. Rediscover What Motivates You
Reminding yourself why you do what you do can be a highly effective technique for overcoming creative burnout. Consider why you’ve chosen this path, how it feels to create something meaningful, and how much you want to do it again if you’re struggling. Restate your purpose. Put it down on paper and rekindle your affection for your purpose. When you do so, you open the door to creativity, allowing it to assist you in achieving your mission.
8. Exercise Your Creative Muscle
When creativity is your profession and you work hard to make a living from it, the pressure to produce can become intense. If this is what’s causing you to feel exhausted, then ease up on the pressure! Once per day, sit down and do something creative for fun. The key here is a lack of stress.
Don’t concern yourself with composition, color palettes, or the final product — just create. This will remind you how enjoyable it is to create and why you became an artist in the first place.
It doesn’t need to be extravagant. Doodle on a napkin, sculpt with Play-Doh, or unwind with a coloring book — do anything to unleash your imagination. If it inspires an idea, that’s terrific! However, don’t pressure yourself. The only objective here is to reignite your passion so that the burnout disappears.
9. Talk to Your Friends
Burnout can be isolating, which is exactly why we need to abandon shame because it can seriously compromise our self-esteem. At the first sign of burnout, you should contact your personal therapist or support group, also known as your friends and mentors.
To put your best foot forward, it is essential to surround yourself with people who will support, nourish, stimulate, mentor, and guide you. There is a good chance that they have been through it themselves and will be able to offer you advice. However, you are ultimately responsible for communicating precisely what will make you feel better. Do you simply require someone to listen and vent to? Could you benefit from some words of encouragement or counsel? Maybe you just need a good laugh and a companion while you change your environment. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends, and have faith that they will be willing to assist you.
Taking It in Strides – Bounce Back from Creative Burnout
It’s sometimes difficult to determine if you’re suffering from creative burnout, and it’s even more difficult to decide what to do about it. But if you only take away one thing from this post, let it be this: You possess a potent creative capacity. If you have lost it due to creative exhaustion, you can recover it. And if you are willing to exert a little effort, you will locate it once more.
Individual differences affect how creative burnout is experienced. Some may find it easier to manage, while others may find it insurmountable. Know that it is possible to break the cycle and recover, that the people around you are one of the best sources of support, and that creative burnout has nothing to do with your talent, work ethic, or passion. There is no permanent cure for creative burnout; therefore, it is best to pay attention to early symptoms and employ some of the strategies included in this article to reduce the amount of time you spend in this creative rut. Creative burnout is not forever, and you have the power to get your creative juices flowing once more.