If you’ve ever had burnout, you know how much it sucks! It’s one of the scariest things any artist can go through. It feels like you’ll NEVER love making art ever again. Trust me, I know, I’ve been there for almost TWO YEARS. If you’ve never been there, you might be terrified of getting burned out. But the good news is it does pass and there are things you can do to avoid it. Whether you have it now or are afraid to get it, I’m going to share my story so you can learn from my mistakes, learn the tell-tale warning signs, and speed up the healing process if you’re recovering.
My big case of burnout started around 3 and a half years ago. It happened because I was making Skillshare classes non-stop. Why? At first, I found my calling/passion and I was sooo excited! I just felt this tremendous creative energy and it was just so easy to make class after class. I felt more passion than I’ve ever felt for any other project in my life. This was it. How could I stop? I made FIFTEEN classes in ONE YEAR! Sure, they were mostly on the shorter side, but still, 15!?! Looking back I have no idea how I made so many! The problem wasn’t that I made so many, it was that when a little voice inside me said I need to stop, I need a break, I am tired; I ignored it. I thought how could I stop? I have finally found what I am meant to do. Everyone else is super productive, right? If they can do it, so should I. I FORCED myself to keep going for another year. I did this to myself.
One day I saw my desk, my art supplies, and just the thought of picking up my brush made me nauseous.
I just couldn’t do it anymore. I knew I had gone too far. I was burned out. I completely stopped doing anything art-related. Then the depression set in. I was terrified the feeling would never pass. For a whole month and a half, I did nothing. I just read books, played video games, and cooked new recipes, and stayed in bed crying. Then, I had a dream of what to teach next. That’s when I knew I was ok again. Or was I? I tiptoed my way into my studio and looked at my art supplies. Yes, I felt resistance. Yes, the passion was diluted. But I also felt the spark to create, but it was faint. Little did I know, I wasn’t fully healed yet. But the idea of creating again and the pressure I put on myself was too strong. So, I made another class. I continued trickling out classes and making art. But it wasn’t the same. It felt difficult, more forced. Deep down I knew I was still burned out. So, I took my time this time. I made art more slowly, and classes more slowly. Took month-long breaks in between classes, and took my time in making the classes. But I was still not my old self.
It took time to heal. Two years. I can’t pinpoint exactly when I got my old self back, and I’m not sure I did entirely. I used to be so hard on myself, telling myself I was being lazy if I wanted an extended break. But now I see it as what it really is, A NEED, not a want. I am not an endless source of creativity. I am a person. I am not lazy for being human. We have unrealistic expectations for ourselves in this crazy society that is always going and never stopping. I see lots of artists push on the gas pedal and do millions of projects at once. It makes me feel like there is something wrong with me for not being like them. But there isn’t. We are all unique and have different needs and tolerance levels. For example, my whole life I’ve suffered from fatigue and depression. You don’t know other people’s stories or what they’re coping with. All you can do is learn to listen to your own inner voice and know when to stop. You have to treat yourself gently. You have to. Let my two-year burnout story be your warning.
Even writing this today I feel a tinge of shame for being this way. For needing lots of breaks. This is part of the brainwashing of our society. Research backs up my experience. Some studies show that creative people shouldn’t work more than 4 hours a day. Our world is the norm but it’s NOT normal!
I want to be the voice reminding you that it’s important to take care of yourself.
I wish I had someone tell me that. In a world of go, go, go. My message to you is to sit with yourself and listen. To meditate. Pray. Take walks in nature. Nurture your creativity slowly. Let it unfold like a flower.
After all, how can you give from an empty cup?
Nowadays, because I listen to my inner voice. I enjoy being creative again. I’m excited to grow and I’m careful not to force anything. I learned my lessons and I hope you don’t repeat my mistakes!
If you are currently in the dark pit of burnout, here is the advice I have for healing:
- Take a long break if you can. Say no to new projects. Say yes to self-care. It’s ok to completely step away from everything to do with creativity for a little bit. Think of your brain as a sore muscle that just needs rest.
- Spend time in nature. I always feel so refreshed after sitting by a stream or just going on a hike. Putting bare feet on the Earth, or grounding, really helps too. Nature is so healing!
- EXERCISE. This is a biggie. I think another part of burnout is the mind and body being out of balance. If you exercise the body and become stronger, you’ll have more energy for the mind.
- Have other hobbies. If art is your career it can be really easy to have your whole identity and life wrapped up in it. We aren’t meant to function focusing on just one thing. Try cooking, yoga, reading, playing an instrument, gardening, and so forth. Find joy outside of your work!
- Try to reduce stress in any way you can. Meditation is a huge one for this. It has sooo many benefits! But the ideas are endless: taking hot baths, journaling, therapy, sleeping in, etc.
- GET INSPIRED! Instead of giving, take time to receive. Take online classes. Admire beautiful art. Go to an art gallery. Spend time with flowers. Whatever you need to re-fill your creative well.
- REST! This is the most important one. Take a vacation from what you do as long as you need to. Of course, this isn’t always a choice and sometimes all you can do is cut back. Do what you can.
- That’s where my last tip comes in… If you’re a professional artist, plan ahead and start making PASSIVE INCOME! I have this with my online classes, and it gives me the freedom to take as many breaks as I need. Making classes on how to make money has never been my thing BUT there are a lot of awesome resources out there from many different artists that show what you can do. Oh, and also being thrifty and saving as much as you can helps you not to have the stress of not being able to pay your bills! Less stress equals less pushing yourself, which equals less burnout. I also know of some artists that have art as their part-time thing and don’t care about making money, they have a different career to pay the bills and they seem to be happier for it. So, it’s really up to you but at the end of the day go easy on yourself and realize you are doing your best! 🙂
I hope my story helps you with your journey and reminds you how important it is to honor and listen to what your mind, body, and spirit need! You are a beautiful human being and not a lifeless machine. Creativity is organic and cannot be forced. There are natural cycles and seasons. It’s ok to not always want to make something. Love yourself and your creative journey anyway!
I actually took a little break myself for the past month since I just made a new Skillshare class. I needed it and I’m so glad I took it! I feel refreshed and ready to create! 🙂
Wishing you all the best on your journey, take care!!!