Psyche logo

Creative burnout.

by K. Ross about a month ago in anxiety / advice
Report Story

Recognise the signs of burnout before there's nothing but ashes

Creative burnout.
Photo by Anshita Nair on Unsplash

The idea of 'burnout' is not new and you've most likely experienced it at one point in your life. It was described by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in 1917 as a psychological response to prolonged, excessive stress that has a negative impact on one's physical, emotional and mental health by causing symptoms like fatigue and loss of motivation.

There are various triggers for burnout whether it be academic, workplace stress or overwork. Burnout among workers is a worldwide issue with 77% of respondents to a Deloitte survey indicating they have experienced burnout at their current job. Additionally, the survey found that:

  • Burnout has no boundaries: 91% of respondents say having an unmanageable amount of stress or frustration negatively impacts the quality of their work. 83% of respondents say burnout from work can negatively impact their personal relationships.
  • Passion does not prevent workplace stress: 87% of professionals surveyed say they have passion for their current job but 64% say they are frequently stressed.

Burnout is not caused solely by stressful work environments or extra responsibilities. It can be experienced by anyone with prolonged levels of chronic stress and pressure causing people to become overwhelmed by work or home demands.

What is creative burnout?

The sensation of having exhausted all of your creativity is known as creative burnout. Similar to academic or workplace burnout 'creative burnout' makes people feel stuck and uninspired, but specifically affects people in creative jobs. Creative burnout may be present if you dread starting work, feel exhausted and anxious all the time or believe you will never be able to produce quality work again. 

What causes burnout?

Overwork, an unhealthy work-life balance, unachievable expectations set by peers, frustrating back-and-forths with clients, not enough sleep and monotonous or unchallenging work… The list is extensive and all can be responsible for the state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion known as burnout. Reflect on what may cause burnout and whether that may be work-related, lifestyle choices or your personality (being a perfectionist or overly controlling). I explore this further in my article:  

Are you burnt out? 

As a creative, you may be familiar with burnout or have experienced it without realising it. It is very common to push away symptoms of burnout because you are so focused on achieving whatever you have set your mind to, realising too late that you've hit a slump. As well as the negative impacts on yourself, it can also affect those around you. Therefore it's crucial to look out for these signs and symptoms in your daily life as it looks different for every person.

Image from 'this is fine' comic by KC Green

Signs and symptoms of burnout may include:

Physical

  • Headaches
  • Stomachaches/intestinal issues
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent illness
  • Changes in appetite/sleep.

Emotional

  • Helplessness
  • Cynicism
  • Sense of failure or self-doubt
  • Decreased satisfaction
  • Feeling detached or alone in the world
  • Loss of motivation.

Behavioural

  • Reduced performance in everyday tasks
  • Withdrawal or isolation
  • Procrastination
  • Outbursts
  • Using substances to cope.

What's the best way to prevent burnout?

We often refer to our brains as sponges, however, we can't just keep squeezing our brains in an attempt to extract the last drop of creative juices. If you don't make time to let your brain replenish then you'll just have a dried-out sponge. That's burnout. 

Your mind needs rest. It needs care and support. It's time to pause and change course by learning how to support your own burnout recovery. Find strategies to reclaim a sense of well-being if you notice some of these warning signals beginning to appear in your life or may already be there.

Take a break

Feeling burnt out comes from an overflow of work and emotions. Thus giving yourself more time and space to digest these solicitations is key to preventing the exhaustion they can cause. It may seem difficult to just stand back but some distance from the source of your stress can help you recenter, recharge and approach potential issues with a fresh perspective.

Turn to other people for support

There's no shame in asking for support, more time or information. There's also no shame in saying no from time to time especially when you are beginning to notice the signs of burnout. Trying to solve everything by yourself will only add to your mental load and stress. 

Whatever the cause of your stress it is important to set boundaries with yourself or with others. Asking for more time or training from managers if the tasks you are receiving are beyond your skill set or simply saying "no" when you don't have the energy.

Too much on your plate

Multitasking isn't for everyone and taking the first step to developing a positive connection with your work and creativity is realising that you can't do everything. Ask yourself what matters most to you, and focus on that. You will most likely be doing your creative career a favour.

Take control

A creative career needs to be stimulating so don't be afraid to reframe the way you look at work or your home life by finding value, meaning and balance or renourishing your creativity by doing something interesting and different. You ultimately have control of your creative flow, so ride the waves whichever way you want. Take a break from your work to recharge and enjoy other art and get inspired.

Learn from it

In an era that glorifies over-achievement and overwork without showing the mountain of negative side effects. Many may feel guilty, burnt out and like they're never doing enough is normal, but it shouldn't be. It's time to take a step back, rest and produce work that you are actually happy with, without sacrificing your body and soul. 

* DISCLAIMER: I am not a healthcare professional please seek out professional help if you need

 * All images and illustrations belong to me unless stated otherwise.

anxietyadvice

About the author

K. Ross

I write articles about human experiences with a keen interest in art, psychology and society. I post about once a month.

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

  1. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  2. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  3. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

  4. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  5. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

Add your insights

Comments (20)

Sign in to comment
  • Peter Majar6 days ago

    Thanks for the perspective - well framed.

  • This is a lucid, concise and persuasive article. Much obliged! If academic burnout, especially thanks to "pandemic pedagogy" is of interest to you, I would be very glad to read a specific article about said topic.

  • Carol Townend21 days ago

    I often burn myself out without meaning to, and even though I have a certificate in it; I find it hard to recognize myself. I am a carer who isn't just 'caring' but is also supporting a young person with two young children living with me. I'm also doing housework, writing, and studying. I usually write a lot, but since things changed, I have had to force myself to slow otherwise I tend to over-work and then burn out.

  • Annelise Lords24 days ago

    No problem. I can relate.

  • Annelise Lords25 days ago

    Take a break from your work to recharge, enjoy other art, and get inspired. Oh, yea.

  • Annelise Lords25 days ago

    Multitasking isn't for everyone and taking the first step to developing a positive connection with your work and creativity is realizing that you can't do everything. I use to be damn good at it. Now, I must stop.

  • Annelise Lords25 days ago

    Take a break from your work to recharge and enjoy other art and get inspired. I am learning to do this.

  • Annelise Lords25 days ago

    Feeling burnt out comes from an overflow of work and emotions.

  • Annelise Lords25 days ago

    There's no shame in asking for support. I agree.

  • Annelise Lords25 days ago

    If you don't make time to let your brain replenish then you'll just have a dried-out sponge. That's burnout. Well, put and straight to the point.

  • Annelise Lords25 days ago

    Therefore it's crucial to look out for these signs and symptoms in your daily life as it looks different for every person. Oh yes.

  • Annelise Lords25 days ago

    'not enough sleep' This is the most dangerous of them.

  • Annelise Lords25 days ago

    Creative burnout may be present if you dread starting work, feel exhausted and anxious all the time or believe you will never be able to produce quality work again. Been here. Didn't stay.

  • Annelise Lords25 days ago

    It can be experienced by anyone with prolonged levels of chronic stress and pressure, causing people to become overwhelmed by work or home demands. Damn, life is never without problems.

  • Lyndsay Ryor26 days ago

    I just wrote a piece for the first time since I completed my MFA in 2017. Burnout is an understatement... the real bitch is when you are a creative who is forced to pay the bills in a less-than-creative career. Not to say I can't apply some creativity to my career, but that's not the same as being paid to create.

  • James david29 days ago

    nice content

  • Excellence. Keep up the great work. I suffer from the worst burn out all of the time, I am so depressed, I just want to feel bliss most of the time but I don't. Good day.

  • AJ Birtabout a month ago

    Fantastic piece, really well-formatted. I loved the use of images throughout. Also, a poignant piece, especially as we approach winter; Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder impacts creatives a lot, so ensuring that one isn't both burnt out and suffering from mental health issues is something that should be at the forefront of all of our minds. I also really liked the conceptualisation of the brain as a sponge, and how one needs to let it resoak every once in a while or you literally wring it dry. Very good metaphor, I might steal that for my next therapy session :D

  • Steven Goundenabout a month ago

    Interesting and valid in today's society of instantaneous gratification.

  • Oakley about a month ago

    Great read! I have experienced burnout many times and I think it’s a normal part of being a professional creative. Constantly squeezing out creativity just leaves me with a headache every time I want to start up again.

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2022 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.