To Burn Out, is Not To Fade Away

“Burnout is about resentment. You can beat it by knowing what you’re giving up that makes you resentful.” – Marissa Mayer, American Businesswoman

Have you ever been preparing or working on a big project that consumes your time to the point where, by the time you near the end, you just feel completely exhausted or drained?

Then you’ve probably experienced “burnout,” that feeling we all get when we go from working furiously, like we’re on fire, to hitting a wall at full-speed, feeling like we’re completely burning out.

For creative people, it sometimes feels even more subjective and personal, often taking more time that others to recover. But, knowing ways to manage burnout can be a huge help in getting past it and, in many cases, preventing it before there’s any interference or problem.


First, it’s important to note that there are three types of “burnout,” according to The Association for Psychological Science, each requiring a unique approach to managing:

1. Overload:
When people work too frenetically toward success at work or school, and then have a need to vent and complain about the workload, the teachers, the company or co-workers, suggesting they are interfering or getting in the way will lead to stress that can collapse them and force them to give up or quit. 

 2. Lack of Development:
When a student or employee is under-challenged, under-utilized, or under-valued, they often distance themselves from the job, schooling, or co-workers, going toward more negative and cynical outlets to be challenged, which can eventually lead to quitting or dropping out. 

3. Neglect:
Some people work exhaustively - to a point. And once they reach that point, they tend to give up. Thought they want to succeed, their motivation plummets and the desire to keep climbing or moving forward stops and they give up. 

Understanding these three types of burnout can help in utilizing one of these ways to aid in managing burnout, either before it happens or while in the midst of it.


1. Take a Step Back & Reflect - Taking a step back from whatever you’re in the middle of can help assess your current status and evaluate your goals, what’s going on your life, and your expectations. I am a constant self-evaluator, and even if I don’t always follow my own advice, I’m at least aware of what’s going on.

2. Monotony
Doing the same thing, whether at work or at home, like laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, or even homework, school, or practice can seem more like a chore. Breaking up the monotony by doing things differently can be a good motivator. For example, sometimes I’ll go to another town and sit in a coffee shop to work or find a new grocery store 

3. Change Your Oxygen
 Sitting in the same cubicle, day after day, for hours and hours sometimes makes me realize I’m breathing in an entire sea of air being used by a hundred other people. So, whenever time permits, I like to change the air I’m breathing. Whether just getting up and going for a walk to the cafeteria, the rest room to wash up, or even outside for fresh air. I firmly believe that the air we breath can dramatically affect how we feel. More intensely, I really love to get to places where the air is of an extreme change, like the woods, the beach, or even the mountains. Of course, going to farm country or even the city can provide an invigorating charge to those burnt out olfactory senses. 

4. Exercise
Finding time to get to the gym and doing a spin class would be terrific, but for many of us it’s just not realistic. So, exercise can be as simple as a light jog up the street and back. It can be a good healthy stretch in the stairwell at work. Or, maybe just dancing in the bedroom or kitchen for a song or two. Anything to get that body moving! 

5. Technology Break - I’ve written before about the tight hold technology holds over us, these day. More than ever before. So, whether it’s the internet, social media, or even Netflix, it’s wise to reduce stress by also reducing the amount of time spent frivolously indulging in technology. From XBox to iPhones, it’s everywhere. Of course, if I’m feeling a bit on the burned out side, I find it useful to periodically check in to my social media accounts – but with limited exposure. That way, I’m still up on what’s going on, but I’m also not sucked into the technology fray, away from what’s important.

6. Change Your Diet
For me, when I start feeling that pull of stress or burnout, I turn to juicing for a few days to get my body back on track. It’s a great boost and the change in eating habits is fantastic. But, it can even be more simple than that. Changing the kind of food we eat can bring real excitement and daring to our palettes. If you’ve never tried Thai or Brazilian food, then it’s an amazing experience that will leave you wanting more. Cooking and preparing meals we’ve never had before is also a great way to stir creativity and help distract from burnout.

7. Explore New Visuals
- Again, sitting in the same surroundings, like school, work, or home, can become dulling and even suffocating sometimes. Exploring new visuals, be them at a coffee shop, local gallery, or museum is a fantastic way to expose yourself to how others are using their creativity. For me, I went to a show this weekend and was both inspired by some work, yet unimpressed with other work. Either way, it was a great way to explore something new to get me motivated.

8. Read
If you’re not a big reader, then perhaps it’s just the thing to distract you from what may be burning you out. An easy read to quickly get through can help, like a children’s book or teen novel. For those that are avid readers, choosing something in an unlikely genre can be a great way to step out of the box of routine and try something new. 

9. Sleep
Sleep is the number one thing most of use relate our problems with. “I’m so tired,” “I would but I’m really tired,” and “I didn’t sleep well last night” are common utterances. Everyone’s sleep is ruled by their Circadian Rhythms, a balance wave of up & down cycles which our sleep patterns are based on. Going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every day keeps those cycles in check. However, pull an all-nighter just one time and your Circadian Rhythms will be knocked out of whack. Getting proper sleep is maybe one of the most important things to a healthy lifestyle and productive routine. 

 10. Organize Your Space & Clean Your Closets! - Whenever burnout strikes or if we can sense it coming, cleaning up the house, the cube, the locker, desk or workspace is a fulfilling way to spend a short amount of time. Getting things in order, putting things in their place. The same with cleaning out drawers, closets, and storage areas to get rid of unwanted things and make room for new. 

11. Give (Volunteer or Charity) - Time is the most precious commodity we have and giving it to others, willingly, to help benefit a cause or charity, is a selfless act that can help release stress and tension and feel great. And while you’re cleaning out your closets, donating unwanted clothing, accessories, and even art supplies is a great way to get rid of excess and help others who may need it.  

12. Assess the Unnecessary
Do you spend too much time lingering in the kitchen, poking through the cabinets, rummaging in the fridge? Do you often wander the halls at work at school during downtime? Identifying where we spend time on unnecessary things can remind us to get back to spending that time on things that matter. 

13. Manage Your Time
 Time management is always tough for everyone. Planning out an hour, day, week, or month can take a lot of foresight and communication. For me, I use my phone’s Calendar, Reminders and Alarm Clock features to help. Even for simple tasks or quick reminders, it’s great to have a little assistant nearby to tell me to get ready for an event or a meeting. And with voice-assistants, it’s easy to set them with minimal effort.

14. Reconnect with Old Friends
Running a home with family obligations, rushing to and from work and staying late or working on weekends, or just keeping up with the daily routine of life can take us miles away from friendships that we once had easy access to, but because our friends are in the same situations, it’s difficult to reconnect. But, simply planning a date and getting together can provide much needed stress relief, humor, and companionship that is far outside the routine of daily life, and an opportunity to share the burnout you may be experiencing.

15. Saying “NO
 It’s easy: whenever we say “yes” to someone else’s project or work, we’re saying “no” to our own. Giving away our energy to someone else’s project or task, often energizes them and gets them closer to their goals. Now, you can’t say no to your boss, but if someone in your life is putting demands on you that contribute to burnout, then maybe it’s time to politely say “no,” and bring the importance of your tasks from the back burner to the front. 

16. Stop Striving for Perfectionism
For many creatives, it’s hard not to strive for perfectionism, but if we know one thing from the old quote, “the devil is in the details,” is that it’s far too easy to overwork a project and spend more time than is required trying to get things perfect or “right.” It’s important to understand when something is “done” and time to let it go. Not easy, of course, but letting go of perfectionism can help us progress toward accomplishing more. 

17. Establishing Self-Boundaries
 Getting your priorities straight can help keep us focused and on track to the basics in life. 1. Health, 2. Well-being & mental health, 3. Relationships (family), 4. Work and/or school, and 5. Social connections (friends) are the most important things in everyone’s life. Anything else comes after and is less important. When we burnout, one or all of these become affected and addressing them can seriously help alleviate issues from growing and becoming problematic. 

18. List it Out!
So many times I think of things I need to do and that I’ll remember it later. Of course, I forget and the thought is lost. Keeping a list of important tasks, appointments, and dates is a great way to reduce stress, prevent burnout due to overload, and feel more confident going into those tasks. Another great way to keep lists is to use that smartphone, again. My phone has a Notes app that I can access using voice-commands and which I can dictate a list of to-dos, events, etc. It’s a huge help for me.

19. Write a Letter to Yourself - Something that I do, maybe once or twice a year, or when I feel the need, is I write a letter to myself. I write letters to loved ones, too, but for myself, it’s usually a letter that outlines my current status with my life, thoughts and opinions, praise for things I’m doing well, and indication on what may need improvement. And, once it’s sent, it’s akin to putting something out the universe, where it will come back in time to reveal certain truths. After sending the letter via the mail, it will arrive in a few days. For me, while I clearly remember writing the letter, it’s amazing how much is not freshly remembered. I become dispossessed from writing it, and it’s as if it were sent by someone else, yet the words are direct. It’s like a small treat that still, everytime, makes me smile when I find it in the mailbox.

20. Reduce Life into Fun Sizes
 Let’s face it, life is huge and with all the things we have going on in our lives, it’s easy to feel that overload. It’s easy for a lack of development to set in, and it’s easy to neglect the things that should be most important. One helpful way to approach things is to slim tasks down and break lengthy chores into smaller ones… “Fun sized” ones. For example, if you’re trying to prepare for exams in three different classes in one night, laying out all the material will surely overwhelm. However, committing to spending one hour per subject, and then spending 15 minutes checking social media as a reward is a great approach. I try to do  with many household chores and work tasks to make like a little easier to work through and have rewards along with my expectations, as well.

Experiencing “burnout” is common for everyone, but some are able to manage it better and recover more quickly. Creatives tend to burnout fast, due to the high demand on creative thought process or performance. But, regardless of profession, schooling, or background, burnout can be managed and worked through. And while chances are it will eventually come back at some point, knowing how to handle it before it does can help prevent it from interfering too much and causing lasting issues or concerns.

I hope this month’s article was helpful in some way for you and if you’re experiencing artist burnout - or any other kind of burnout - try leveraging one or more of these ideas and see it may work for you.

Thank you for your time in reading and stay well in all your endeavors!