9 Tips on How to Deal with Burnout (and Prevent It)
Confessions of a Work-a-holic:
When I first started this blog, I was cranking out blog post content as if I was in overdrive. I never would have expected I would have to learn how to deal with burnout as a blogger. As I continued to work in overdrive mode, the stress and overwhelm began to sink in and interfere with my creativity. At first, I wasn’t aware that I was feeling overwhelmed with life as a blogger. Why? Because in my head I was superwoman. I was so used to taking on tough challenges, but this was new territory. I figured it was me trying to slack off, but I was just misinterpreting the signs of burnout.
Inability to concentrate, feeling stagnated, lack of inspiration, fatigue, decrease in motivation, and just an overall sense that something wasn’t right. Challenges seemed harder to overcome and my patience was thin. I began posting behind schedule, maintaining my Pinterest account had become challenging and my numbers started to take a hit, work began demanding more of my time, and my MacBook Pro kicked the bucket. My laptop burning out on me was the last straw, and I took it as a sign that I needed to take some time to step away from everything instead of forcing things to happen.
“When things aren’t going right, then you must be doing something wrong.”
It’s a mantra that I go back to when things just aren’t working out the way I expect them to go. Not that it applies to every situation, but it’s a way of putting myself in check. A way for me to re-evaluate my perspective and most importantly….my actions. Learning how to deal with burnout isn’t easy if you pride yourself on your ability to get shit done. As a recovering work-a-holic, I had a hard time shifting into taking it easy. Eventually, it became easier and surprisingly therapeutic. After spending more time with friends and going on vacation, I felt my creativity slowly coming back and a growing urge to blog again. To celebrate the renewal of my creativity, I felt it was time to use my free hotel stay voucher from Tidbits Front Row to merge business with pleasure. A staycation and a office away from home.
My first impression, shocking to say the least. And I don’t mean that in a good way. The customer service experience with the reservation agent who booked my stay was unpleasant and it concerned me enough to reach out to management about it. Given that I was staying on a free voucher, I was not expecting someone to reach out to me about the situation. Not only did they reach out me, but they did so in a timely fashion. The General Manager, Mr. Flores, called to let me know he received my message and looked into the situation. He apologized for the experience and continued on to let me know that he would be upgrading me from the deluxe king room to a junior suite overlooking the front plaza. Now, what happened to the unpleasant reservation agent? I don’t know, but that’s none of my business. Yet, he reassured me that this would not be happening again. The call ended with me feeling reassured and back to looking forward to my stay at Hotel Sorella.
It was to my surprise that I arrived to my suite with a bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries awaiting me. Chocolate covered strawberries? Well done, Mr. Flores. Well. Done. The modern design set the vibe just right, the view was lovely (especially at night), easy access to various dining options in City Centre, and it was peaceful. Peaceful enough to get some work done in comfort without being disturbed. In short, I enjoyed my stay and look forward to going back. But, enough about that, here are...
9 Tips on How to Deal with Burnout (and Prevent It):
1. Pace yourself.
It’s that straight forward. But, if you want this to sink in, do the following experiment. Get a timer and go running. Time yourself for two different rounds. One to see how long you last when you run as fast and hard as you can. The second to see how long you last when you pace yourself at a steady, consistent rate. Which round lasted the longest? Once you get that answer, then pace yourself accordingly. I can’t tell you what pace is best to work at given we all work at a different pace. 😏 But, what I can tell you is…
2. It's okay to take a break.
Picture this, whenever you’re working out, your body needs to take some time to rest before you are good to go again. There will be times when you are feeling uninspired and overwhelmed. And to get your head back in the game and feeling fresh again, you’ll need a break from whatever you’re working on. But, you actually have to take a break though! It doesn’t count if you sneak and try do a lil’ somethin’ to make you feel productive. Plus, breaks can be productive. Going back to the workout metaphor, your muscles need time to heal to make gains. To grow big and strong. So, take a damn break. Regardless if its ten minute incremental breaks during many hours of working or some time off after a long haul. But, make sure you also…
3. Know the difference between comfort and numbing.
Whenever we are feeling overwhelmed by something (consciously or unconsciously), we seek out some form of comfort to help ease the stress. There are two key things you should know about yourself. First, define what ‘comfort' and ‘numbing' look like for you. For me, comfort is just a little something to help take the edge off and numbing is a way for me to straight up escape something. The second thing you should figure out about yourself is where you fall on that continuum during any moment you engage in one of your vices. For instance, after a mentally and emotionally draining day at my day job, I like to kick back with a mixed alcoholic drink (s/o to my Malibu Rum and Cranberry Juice) to help settle me down and shift mindsets to focus on my own venture. That’s a comfort drink. But, if it’s half the bottle of Malibu Rum, four or five episodes of Archer, and about an hour of scrolling through Instagram later…then that’s numbing. A sign that I need to check myself (before I wrecks thou self) and see what’s going on. It also helps to…
4. Allow yourself to be okay with what you can do in a certain period of time.
Give yourself permission to either… work harder than you ever have and be okay with it or to take it easy. If your schedule only allows for so much, then accept that. If this is an intensive phase where you need to be in overdrive, then accept that. If not, then you're going to have to make some changes and sacrifices. Some months may not be as productive, while others are surprisingly fruitful. But, know that it’s cyclical thing. Accept where you’re at in that period and just keep it movin’. This tip is a perfect pre-cursor for you to…
5. Set realistic goals for yourself.
This major key when it comes to learning how to deal with burnout. It’s easy to get burnt out and overwhelmed when you feel as if you aren’t making progress. When goals are being set and not met, we either beat ourselves up about it or we begin to question “what am I doing wrong?” To get a better view of what you’re spending your time on, track your daily activities for about a week or two. Then gauge the importance of all those activities, eliminate (or add) some activities, and then see how much time you can realistically allocate to your side hustle. Use your findings to develop realistic goals based on what you can achieve at that point in time. You can always revisit your goals when things change. It may also be helpful to set a little time aside once a month for a goals check-in. Use that time to see if you met the goals you set last month, key lessons from that month, and setting new and improved goals based on those lessons for the next month. I have a notebook where I keep all this information as way of holding myself accountable and keeping track of my progress. Which comes in handy when you need to. . .
6. Celebrate your successes (small or big) and milestones. 🎉
It’s important, ya know? It is the cherry on top of the 'progress sundae'. It helps when you don’t feel like you're making progress, when you experience self-doubt, and it even makes you feel good about yourself. But, you need to put the work in, which is easier to do when you…
7. Know your working style(s).
What I mean by that is, what environment or factors contribute to you doing your best work? What makes you extra productive? Do you write best in the morning or at night? Do your creative ideas flow more freely at night or when you’re driving? Are you able to concentrate best in a secluded area without much distractions? Are you more productive when you have a buddy who is working on their own stuff with you? Do you know when you're procrastinating and trying to sidetrack yourself from getting the job done? Do you know what kind of activities you need to engage in when you’re suffering a creative block? Does electronic dance music make you too hype to focus? Or does rap music make you crunk enough to get to work? Take note of what these things look like for you and incorporate them into your work flow to increase your engagement. I’m curious to know, what is your working style? Leave it in the comments section below.
8. Accept the creative process.
Whenever we’re working on a project idea, it’s a completely normal feeling to experience “this ain't shit” or “I am shit”. Shortly after, you'll find yourself thinking, “damn this is good”. Google it. This was surprising to me to find out what I was going through was completely normal for the creative process. There’s a strange comfort that comes with knowing this experience is just a part of the nature of creating something. Normalizing it makes it easier to feel more in control and to push through to the end.
9. Remember WHY you got started in the first place.
When we hit the ground running hard on something, we can easily tire of it. When we are deep in comparison with other people and their achievements, we lose connection with what makes us unique (as cliché as it sounds). My self-talk would not let me live during certain moments of turmoil! So many conflicting messages, as if there were two different people in my head boxing it out. Things like, “you just got started and you're already taking a break” versus "we need to re-evaluate our strategy and do it right”. Or my all-time favorite, “you need to constantly be cranking out blog content to be keeping up with other bloggers and to gain more traction in search engine results” versus “it’s all about quality and not quantity in my book”. Having a solid grounding on why you’re doing something is key for when you have such moments. Re-visit it when necessary.
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The irony of this whole situation is that I used to roll my eyes when I came across articles like “How to Maintain When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed with Life”, “How to Feel Less Stressed”, or “Six Ways I Learned How to Deal with Burnout”. But, here I am, writing an article about how to deal with burnout (and prevent it). 🙄 Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Hopefully, you can learn something from my experience and prevent yourself from burning both ends of the candle stick unnecessarily. I am curious, have you ever experienced burnout? If so, what was your experience like? Or is that word just not in your vocabulary? Let me know below in the comments!