it happens to the best of us
We work and work and work, until one day our minds and bodies just can't function anymore. The days get long, and there seems to be no time to rest. Your job is just a job, you go into autopilot, and you can't find the time to do the things you love. Sound familiar?
Burnout can happen to literally everyone. It happened all the time to me while I was working two jobs as a full-time student, and it still happens when I'm working my dream job and doing what I love. It creeps up on you. Sometimes you're not even aware of it until you're in the thick of it.
what is burnout and how can you avoid it?
Burnout is a state of physical and mental exhaustion brought on by prolonged stress that leaves you feeling drained and overwhelmed. With the prevalence of "hustle culture," this is pretty much inevitable for anyone, no matter the job, background, or status. But is it avoidable? Can we have a good work ethic or move up in our career without it?
Of course we can! Having a healthy work life will only take you further. Now I don't speak from a place of expertise. I come from a place of constantly learning, and lots of experience with burnout. I just want to share some things that have helped me cope with burnout and things that I try to implement in order to avoid.
Everyone is different. It's important to understand that we each have different needs, levels of energy, and priorities. There's no cookie-cutter plan to help everyone, so it can take a lot of trial and error to get to a place of balance.
I'll go first
As a wedding photographer traveling around Los Angeles and Orange County (often times way further), I've come to learn how burnout has affected me, my business, and my relationships. I became a full time wedding and portrait photographer in October of last year, so I've been working very hard just to get it started. I've always had a really good work ethic, but sometimes it would just take over until I broke down from exhaustion. I'd sit alone at home and edit or write for hours with no break, sometimes no food, and no time spent outside. Sounds depressing right? Well, it is lol. I'd get so focused on trying to build a successful business, brainstorming my brand, and creating beautiful images that I just forgot to take care of myself. A lot of this was rooted in fear that I might fail as a business woman, but I already touched on that in a previous blog post.
Then at the end of the day or week, when all of this build up of prolonged stress came bubbling over, my family or partner would have to deal with an overworked Breanna. (An overworked Breanna is not someone you wanna be around, she's not very fun). I become irritable, sad, and frustrated. Now, this wasn't new for me. I've experienced burnout plenty in college, but I hated how this was a pattern in my life.
I've started implementing certain things in my daily life that have helped me a lot. Not to say that I never get stressed from working so much, but my quality of life and perspective on my business is much healthier.
Here are some things that have helped me cope with and avoid burnout:
- Take a break. You can answer that email in 15 minutes, it'll still be there. Remember to stretch your legs, take your eyes off of screens for a bit, take a nap, eat. Personally, I like to exercise during my lunch break. It helps break up my day since I work from home. I could go on and on about how exercise is beneficial, but I'm pretty sure we all get it. If you don't have time for an intense workout, going for a walk is also effective. And every once in a while, take a long weekend or go on a retreat. An intentional brain break to spend time with yourself, your family, or friends makes all the difference in the world.
- Be in nature. Nature has a powerful way of grounding us. I'm always cooped up in my home staring at my computer for hours and hours, but going outside energizes me and gives me another chance to take a break. Even stepping outside for just a few minutes without your phone can give you the reset you need.
- Get creative. As a photographer, I can get burnout from only doing client work. Doing creative projects is probably the only thing that keeps me going as an artist. It gives me the freedom and control to express myself and to bring visions to life. Luckily, I have friends that like to support me with my photo shoot ideas. I recently did a shoot with a friend of mine, which we've been talking about for doing for a year. Creative projects don't have to be super elaborate- they can just be you and maybe a friend coming together to create something cool. Creative photoshoots helps me get excited about photography and reminds me why I love photography so much. Find a hobby that refreshes and energizes you. Baking is a hobby of mine and I like to bake quite often. It requires a lot of focus so it helps me get my mind off of things that might bring stress.
- Establish healthy habits. Drink your water! I swear water is always like the first thing that will help you feel better no matter what. Food also has a major role in avoiding burnout. Not just the quality, but also how frequent and the amount. Look at your normal eating habits and ask yourself if the food you're eating is supporting your body for what it needs to do.
- Know your limits. This comes with a deep understanding of yourself and establishing boundaries that work for you. Boundaries are so important not just for yourself, but also for the people closest to you in your life. Set a timer for your screen time on your social media apps, have your email on your computer- not your phone, answer work calls only during office hours, and establish boundaries with your coworkers or clients. Saying no means you're saying yes to something else. Saying no to working late means saying yes to eating dinner with your family. Saying no to emailing after office hours means saying yes to being present at home. I could go on, but setting boundaries is one of the healthiest ways to take care of yourself. The more self-discipline you have with boundaries, the easier it gets.
I hope these tips help you in some way. If not, at least check out some of the photos from my latest creative shoot! My friend and I did a little morning shoot with a bunch of citrus fruits. I was inspired by different photographers using fruits in an editorial style. It was nice to take a break from client work and create something on my own terms, without any expectations. I was going for the picnic that dreams are made of. Soft, hazy, colorful. Don't be like me and wait a year to do this, haha. I kept putting this off but I'm so glad I finally did it!