As you might have noticed, the fashion week season is in full blossom, yet I am hanging around in my comfy home in sunny Barcelona. In case you might wonder why: for the past few weeks – or even months – I’ve been under a lot of pressure and I decided to take it easy this season. I’ve been doing some research and I came to the conclusion that I’m on the edge of a burnout due to an overload of expectations, workload, pressure and perfectionism.
“But you’ve been doing great! What happened?” Exactly, I’ve been doing more than great all these weeks. In fact, I’ve been doing SO great that my current workload is around 75 hours a week, not counting the other hours I spend thinking about work on the side (I’m not even joking, I’ve been keeping track of my hours). It would be lovely to already earn enough money to hire people to take on a part of that workload, but as long as I’m not there yet, I’m on my own. And since I want my work to be top quality, I will not stop working until it’s perfect. Competition is though, can you blame me?
I was doubting whether I should write about this, or even let anyone know that I might have issues since the world of social media is supposed to be perfect. I neither wanted to give the idea that I’m trying to get compliments or attention with this: I simply figured that since my blog is supposed to be about me helping people with my personal experiences, it would be hypocrite of me to leave out the negative things. And who knows, maybe I can actually help someone by talking about my own experience. Especially in the world of creative freelancers I am sure there are more of you out there that are on the edge of a burnout, since we never seem to be able to stop working. So this one is for you: let’s get better together! In the video I talk about everything you need to know, but in case you want to read more details, check out the text below:
First of all, it’s important to know which factors are likely to contribute to a burnout:
- Poor work/life balance
- Lack of resources, training or support needed to do your job
- Stressful workplace dynamics
- Being engaged in work that you don’t find meaningful or important
- Failing to implement proper self-care (exercise, eating well, etc.)
- Perfectionistic tendencies
Secondly, we have to find the indicators of a burnout in order to recognize whether we are dealing with one, so I did some research and made a list of the 10 most common symptoms.
1. Inability to stop thinking about work
Obviously it’s normal to think about work in your free time, but as soon as it becomes obsessive you might want to consider taking a couple of deep breaths and CHILL.
2. Constant exhaustion
Waking up exhausted every day, no matter how many hours you sleep? Do you feel constantly like you are at the end of your resources, emotionally as well as physically? Besides the fact that this is a symptom for a burnout, it also is for other health problems… so get yourself checked!
3. Poor job performance
Even though you always used to rock your job, now you are feeling too tired and can’t seem to concentrate on your tasks anymore. You’re procrastinating and secretly hoping someone else will fix the mess.
Even though you’re constantly (obsessively) working, you still can’t seem to get it right. The load is too heavy or you can’t concentrate… anyway: you feel guilty for not being able to complete your work. Which often leads to working even more. Are we sensing a pattern here…?
5. Mood changes, irritation and cynicism
Burnouts cause emotional exhaustion and a loss of a sense of personal accomplishment, which makes the emotional state unstable. If you’re feeling out of control, it’s easy to take those feelings out on those around you. You may be so overwhelmed by your own issues and exhaustion that minor annoyances lead to intense feelings of anger and irritability. At work you might become cynic and pessimistic, which is characterized by frequent isolation. In short: you are NOT in your happy place.
6. Social Isolation
The combination of exhaustion, depression, guilt and a feeling of failure can lead us to isolate ourselves from others. You start feeling ashamed about your work and you prefer to don’t be around people all too much. I mean… not everyone has to know you are a failure, so it’s better if they don’t see it right?
7. Unhealthy lifestyle choices
You are already exhausted and depressed, who has time or energy for cooking a healthy meal and going to the gym? You might be eating too much (or too little), choose unhealthy foods and stop exercising. You also might be drinking more alcohol than you used to, in order to escape the anxious or depressive feelings. Did I hear anyone say happy hour?
8. Loss of enjoyment in daily activities
Since you are obsessed with your work and performance, you don’t feel like you can really enjoy your daily activities anymore… not like you used to at least. You no longer feel satisfied with your personal life, you might even feel apathetic or fearful… is that the guilt speaking.
9. Difficulty sleeping
Frequently being unable to fall or stay asleep – particularly if accompanied by thoughts of work – can be a symptom of a burnout. You are feeling too anxious to sleep, which makes you even more tired during the day and perform worse at work… and the vicious circle continuous.
10. Stress-Related health problems
People suffering from burnout often experience health issues commonly associated with depression and anxiety. These can include gastrointestinal problems, back pain, frequent headaches and low energy levels. Make sure that the doctor is up to date about your physical, as well as mental state!
So… in case you might feel like you can relate to one of these ten symptoms: you might have a burnout, or at least be headed towards one. So keep reading! It’s time for the most important part: how to deal with a burn out:
1. Reduce known stressors at work
Analyze what are the things stressing you out most about your work. Are they really worth stressing about that much?
2. Make healthy lifestyle choices
Even though you might not feel like it, keep taking care of yourself! Eat well and keep exercising: it won’t be a magic cure-all for a burnout, but it will definitely improve your energy levels and help you cope with stress.
3. Speak with your working environment
Since your burnout is impacting your work performance, it’s important to speak to your boss or the people you collaborate with. Discuss your ideas on decreasing your stress levels as well as increasing the work performance. Don’t forget to be clear about what you need, and how these strategies will improve your effectiveness at work!
4. Take a leave of absence
In case you really can’t handle your work anymore, you should definitely consider taking a break to give your mind and body a chance to relax. If you don’t take time for yourself you will only make it worse, no one will be happy with that!
5. Use your free time for anything other than work
It is typical for people who are on the edge of a burnout to use their free time to get ahead on work, hoping that this will reduce their stress levles during the workday. Research shows, however, that spending your off-hours doing non work-related social and physical activities really help you prevent – or recover from – a burnout
6. Set Boundaries
Be strict to yourself by making sure you won’t take on too much work or spend your free time working. Give yourself rules such as “weekends are free” or “after 20.00 I have to stop working”, and learn how to say ‘no’ to projects which might not be that interesting for you, in order to reduce your workload.
7. Make Changes if necessary
Obviously something is not working the way it should, so try to figure out what it is. Reorganize yourself and your work: compare the concept of your brand/company to your current projects, make a structurized weekplanning to create a better overview and start prioritizing!
8. Learn to Switch off
Sometimes it’s very tempting to ‘just quickly finish this task’, and then new things keep popping up so you completely forgot you were in your ‘off time’. Don’t worry: tomorrow is another day, answering that mail can wait eight extra hours! Be strict to yourself and try to truly enjoy your free time.
9. Ditch the Technology
Okay, I know this is a though one! Especially for the bloggers out there… our phones and laptops are our spirit animals. But at least try this: take – at least – 30 minutes to check your phone after waking up: drink a cup of tea, do some stretching, enjoy a beauty routine, have breakfast… whatever you do, just do NOT touch your phone while doing so! The same counts the 30 minutes before going to bed. It’s not good to have an endless working cycle, it gives so much more stress.
10. Start a new Hobby
A hobby is a great way to get your ‘me-time’ and having fun! It’s the best way to swtich off and to even work on your healhier lifestyle (sporting, dancing, walking, everything counts!). Is there something you’ve been wanting to do forever but never took the time? This is your chance
11. Find support
Avoid social isolation by talking to your friends and family about your current dip. Trust me, they will be more than happy to help you! Let them take you out for a cup of tea, a nice dinner, the cinema, whatever! Any distraction counts. It will feel great to have their support and love around you, I promise.
I hope with this article I was able to help some of you overachieving creatives out there! From now on I will definitely start working on myself: this month I will be posting a bit less, but I will be sharing blogposts on how to make your life easier with tips on organizing yourself, improving your Instagram skills, photography skills and more!
Lots of Love,
P.s. For more reading on Burnouts you can check out these sources: