Burnout is real and not something you should take lightly. If you’ve ever experienced it, you know it often creeps up on you slowly over time and is usually hard to detect until you are deep within its hold. It can affect your health, your relationships and your desire to want to live your life.
Common signs of burnout are feeling overwhelmed all the time, working more hours while getting less accomplished, and having trouble thinking or remembering things. If this sounds like you, then you may be experiencing burnout. This is exactly how I’ve been feeling lately.
When I decided to become a graphic designer, I knew very early on that I didn’t want to work for a large ad agency or in a corporate setting. I wanted a more laid back atmosphere where things could move at a slower pace. While I was very naïve about what working for myself would entail, I never could have imagined how easily I could burn out.
As my business has changed so much in the last few years, I constantly struggle with knowing that if I don’t do it, no one will. A business is a living, breathing thing that has to be continually worked at. A business that isn’t moving forward is a business that is failing. As a solopreneur, that leaves me feeling like I can’t ever stop working or my business won’t survive. The obvious downside is that I wind up feeling exhausted all the time, I put my health on the back burner and I’m not always the most pleasant person to be around because I’m always cranky. Those common signs I mentioned above, yeah, I’m guilty of all of them too.
If you are nodding your head yes because this sounds like you, chances are you don’t need to be too worried. Burnout happens to the best of us and in my opinion, the key is recognizing it and then knowing how to take action to get yourself on the right path to repair your health and sanity.
Take a Break
Burnout impacts us all differently and can range from mild to severe. Taking a break may mean something as simple as going for a 20-minute walk to taking a vacation or short leave of absence. The important thing is to understand yourself and recognize the time you need so you don’t come back before you are physically and mentally ready.
A few years ago, B and I started planning mini vacations about every quarter. This was more for me than for him but taking a long weekend break every few months has really helped me better deal with and avoid bad burnout.
Just remember to do what works for you. Listing to your own body.
Skip Caffeine and Alcohol
When the feelings of burnout appear, avoid caffeine and alcohol because they can only exacerbate the problem. When the stress and anxiety from burnout take hold, caffeine can often make you feel more anxious. (I know this is true for me.) Alcohol can sometimes lessen those feelings at first but can lead to dependency. Need I say more?
Make Changes to Your Responsibilities
Change can sometimes be just as good as rest. If you work for someone else, talk with your boss or supervisor about making some changes to your responsibilities. If you work for yourself, look at the tasks that are causing you stress and figure out how to delegate them or eliminate them to make it easier on yourself. Regardless of your situation, this may not always be possible but if it is, this can be very effective.
Find a Diversion
With our mile-a-minute, running-at-the-speed-of-light, lifestyles, it can be hard to find and stick to a hobby but it’s important to find something in our lives that provides us with a diversion from the things that cause of burnout. This blog started as a diversion from my stressful business. Home projects, reading, biking and camping are other things I do to take my mind off the stresses of my business.
Whether your release is big or small, the key is to find something. Maybe it’s coaching your child’s sports team, maybe it’s joining a church group, or volunteering for a charity. Maybe it’s adopting a dog that you can take on walks or to the park. Whatever it looks like for you is fine if it gives you some peace and separation.
Talk About It
Sometimes opening up about your feelings to a spouse, parent, sibling or other loved one can go a long way toward helping you feel better. Getting support and encouragement from someone that truly cares about your well being may be just the kick start you need toward getting through your burnout. If you don’t feel comfortable with that, then consider talking with a professional.
Work Somewhere Other than Your Desk
I do this a lot and it’s amazing how even a slightly different setting can go a long way toward changing your perspective and overall feelings. If your job allows you to work from home every once and a while, take advantage of that. If you already work from home, consider changing up where you work in your house.
After my assistant left last summer, I moved my workspace back out into the main shop area but kept the office in back set up as a second workspace. I will sometimes work on that computer instead of my desk or I’ll take my Surface into our Dining Room or on the couch and work and am always amazed at how much more productive I can be. I’m currently working on setting up a pretty outdoor space on the back deck for another potential working spot (more on that coming soon).
Find Ways to Make Work More Fun or Interesting
If you work in an office setting, you may have some limitations here but anything you can do to lighten the mood can go a long way toward improving your feelings of burnout. Listen to music, start an office sports poll or sports team, spruce up your desk or office.
Days when I’m doing a lot of assembly or production and don’t need my computer, I’ll sometimes put a show on Netflix to help pass the time. I’ll listen to a podcast or turn up the music and have a little dance party by myself to shake things up.
Maintain Your Life Outside of Work
This can sometimes be hard, especially when you are already feeling extremely burned out but this is important. No matter how busy I get with orders and clients, I always stick to a very strict timeline to ensure that I always have time for my husband and family. This means that even when I’m at my absolute worst, I always have them to fall back on.
Eat Well, Exercise and Get Enough Sleep
I know this is a tough one especially if you have kids, a job and a home to keep up with. This is something I struggle with personally too. Know your body and what it needs to run at its best, take time to plan meals so you aren’t stuck hitting the fast food place down the street to put a meal on the table. Treat your exercise time just like you would any other appointment or meeting. Find a time that works for you and put it on your calendar to help you stick to it. Then make sure you are leaving yourself enough room in your day to get the right amount of sleep so you wake up feeling your best.
Burnout is real and can not only impact us mentally but physically as well. It can also affect our relationships with those closest to us. So the next time you feel you are suffering from burnout, do everything you can to put yourself back on track by finding the right work / life balance and using these helpful tips.