MULTI-PASSIONATE CREATIVE’S GUIDE TO OVERCOMING BURNOUT | JOI KNOWS HOW |
The thing about creative exhaustion is this: we don’t see it coming until it’s too late. Often the very commitments that create a sense of overwhelm are the same ones we were buzzing with excitement about only weeks before. The projects we love begin to feel like a burden. That’s what happened to me.
Much like indulging in bottomless mimosas during brunch without considering the consequences, I woke up with a commitment hangover that was impossible to ignore. I felt anxious all the time, exhausted no matter how much rest I got, and my inbox felt like a holding cell.
The good news is, I made it through and now that I’m not completely overwhelmed by the idea of writing a new blog post, I want to make sure you know the signs of burnout so that you don’t end up having the same experience I did.
Let’s explore the 4 signs you’re on the verge of creative exhaustion and what to do about it.
Much like burnout, creative exhaustion is an unshakable feeling of overwhelm and anxiety that occurs from committing to too many creative projects at one time. These commitments can be your personal projects, collaborations, client work, or a mix of all of the above.
Creative exhaustion is common for multi-passionate entrepreneurs who show up across various platforms and are balancing nearly every aspect of their business on their own.
Okay, now that you know what creative exhaustion is, let’s get to the good stuff.
You feel constantly overwhelmed no matter how much planning you do in advance. You’re anxious all the time.
Many of us deal with some level of anxiety on a daily basis, but this is different. When creative exhaustion hits, you can barely pick up your paintbrush or open your laptop without anxious energy flooding your fingertips.
Instead of your passion project being an outlet that inspires you, it becomes yet another source of overwhelm.
Do a brain dump and priority session.
Doing a brain dump is one of the easiest ways to overcome overwhelm and avoid creative burnout.
Take all the looming tasks, upcoming dates, and new ideas floating around in your mind and dump them onto a page. It doesn’t need to be pretty. Get those swirling thoughts out of your head and onto paper and you will feel immediate relief. This is sometimes called “offloading.”
Next, look over your brain dump page and highlight everything with a due date. Put those items in chronological order. Ah, so much better already!
Here’s my favorite part. Take the items on your list (whether they have a due date or not) and sort them into these categories adapted from Eisenhower’s productivity method:
To simplify this process, I created a free printable brain dump + prioritize worksheet set that has these categories already outlined for you in an easy to follow grid. Grab them below!
From there, you can start crafting a “plan and do” list that supports items that are either urgent or important on your list. Knowing what you actually need to be doing and what needs planning is a game changer. Buh-bye overwhelm!
Next, set dates for the remaining tasks on the “plan” side and remember to schedule buffer days throughout in case you need time to catch up.
Doing a brain dump +prioritize session will leave you feeling organized, calm and clear about where to put your energy.
Grab my free worksheet bundle you’ll get a brain dump page, the priorities grid, and a “do/plan” page to get you started.
You’re overbooked and can barely keep track of all your collaborations
Multi-passionate creatives love to collaborate. We’re curious about the way fellow creative entrepreneurs approach their work and are eager to make magic with others.
However, over-committing to collab after collab is one of the quickest ways to experience creative exhaustion. This is my Kryptonite, ya’ll. I love connecting with creatives and if I’m not careful, I’ll be left spinning with too much collab and not enough time to rest and reset.
If you’re a collab-o-holic like I am, you may be tempted to say yes to any and all collaborative opportunities that come your way (including those that you initiate). Then, before you know it, you’ll feel like your time is no longer you’re own. That’s when you know that burnout is on the horizon.
Practice saying no
Lacking a sense of control over your schedule creates burnout, anxiety, and you guessed it, creative exhaustion.
It’s time to reclaim your right to say “no.”
Now you might be thinking: So many ideas sound good to me! How do I know what to say no to?
Read on, I got you.
To get clear on when to say no, set aside time to identify your three largest goals for your next 90 days. Once you have your goals clearly defined, reserve your “yes” for opportunities that serve those goals. Everything else gets a “no.” Period.
Do you struggle with saying no to people when you’re put on the spot? (I can feel you nodding your head.) Read on, I’ve got a solution for that too!
Create templates for saying no while you’re feeling relaxed and calm. This way, when you find yourself put on the spot, you’ll have a quick response you can refer to.
Write out a few creative ways to say no and keep your templates saved as a note in your phone so that you can easily copy/paste into a text or email when you feel put on the spot.
You avoid following up with people about the commitments you’ve made to them
When I first recognized the paralyzing mental fatigue that creative exhaustion was having on me, I wanted to:
It’s tempting to completely ignore the plans you made when you were in a better headspace, but doing so could damage any chance at future collaborations and opportunities. We don’t want that.
Instead of ghosting, reach out and be honest about what you’re going through
Chances are whoever you’re contacting will have experienced creative exhaustion or burnout at some point and will totally understand. The fact that you need to take a step back from your work while you practice self-care might even inspire your fellow creative friend to do the same.
When creative burnout showed up in my life, I also happened to be going through a breakup from a 3-year relationship (worst timing ever).
One day, minutes before I was supposed to hop on a call with a fellow creative entrepreneur to do an interview, I found myself crying uncontrollably. I could not get my sh*t together.
Shaking, I typed a quick email, apologizing and admitting that I was going through a rough time and needed to reschedule so that I could focus on my mental wellness.
Do you know what happened next?
She replied with a video wishing me well, sending me love, and telling me that she would be ready to connect when I was feeling better.
I sobbed as I watched. The grace she offered at that moment was a true gift, and I was so thankful that I reached out instead of blowing her off.
Moral of the story: People are nicer than you think.
Even if you’re feeling overwhelmed, reach out and be honest about what you’re going through.
Although you love your work, you feel unmotivated to continue. Maybe you should just give up.
This was by far the scariest part of experiencing creative burnout. I got to the point where I felt like maybe I needed to give up on my business entirely. Here’s a peek inside of my head at that time:
Why can’t I stay motivated?
Why am I uninterested in the work that I was on fire about months ago?
Maybe I’m not cut out for this.
This is too much for me.
On and on it went.
I was moments away from abandoning my mission of inspiring you to live a life full of creative abundance. Can you believe that?! Luckily, I snapped out it. (phew!)
If you’re reading this and you feel like perhaps you should give up on your passion project because you’re overwhelmed, don’t. There’s a far better option.
Take a break for as long as you need to. Now you might be thinking:
WHAT?! Take a BREAK?! For as long as I NEED? HA! My entire business would crumble! My Instagram followers would abandon me and my blog readers would move on to the next best thing. I CANNOT take a break, Joi!
Guess what, my love? Freeling like if you take a break from your work everything will crumble is exactly why you need a break. That’s a lot of pressure and it’s going to cause creative exhaustion like you wouldn’t believe.
This is my first blog post in over two months. Yep, two entire months. I needed a break, I took one, I came back feeling more focused and creative than ever, the world did not end.
I also took two full weeks off of social media (honestly, it felt like two months), and I came back with MORE followers than when I left and a ton of support.
So, if you’re serious about prioritizing your mental health as an entrepreneur, be brave enough to take a break.
Here are a few ways you can take a break:
1. Do a social media cleanse. (I suggest at least two weeks.) During this time do not even OPEN the app you’re taking a break from. Delete the app from your phone if you need to. You’ll be shocked to see how much wellbeing arises when you’re not putting energy into social media.
2. Take a break from creating any new content. No new blog posts, emails, or anything that feels like a stretch. Put. It. All. Down. I promise you the world won’t end.
3. During this time, explore another passion that you’ve set to the side ( I played my ukulele a lot during my break and it was so therapeutic).
I can tell you’re still cringing at the idea of taking a break, but I’m speaking from personal experience. If I would not have taken a two-month hiatus from creating content, blogging, serving my email list, and being on social media, you would not be reading this blog post because I would STILL be spiraling in a perpetual state of anxiety.
I had to step away from my work until I felt bored. That boredom created the mental capacity I needed to start believing in myself again. To start dreaming again, and to return to my work feeling refreshed and inspired.
Here’s a bonus tip: During your break, spend time meditating on how you want your ideal life to feel. You can be as general or as specific as feels good. The point is to allow yourself to dream. You’d be surprised how often we turn this part of our imagination off when we’re busy “hustling” our way to success.
I sincerely hope that you found something on this list of 4 signs of creative exhaustion that can serve you should you ever feel it on the horizon. I have tears in my eyes as I complete this post, because I know how scary, lonely, and frustrating it can feel. Please know that you’re not alone, you’re not incompetent, and that you WILL get through it.
Experiencing creative exhaustion was not a pleasant experience. It was terrifying to feel like the business I’d been working so hard to build was causing me mental harm. Luckily, I found my way, and now you have a resource you can return to anytime you feel burnout lurking in the shadows.
Pin this post for later so you can come back to it and don’t forget to grab my free Brain Dump and Prioritize Worksheets. You got this.
Thank you for reading and please feel free to leave a comment with which step you found to be most helpful!