After sharing my experience with burnout, I thought it might be wise to talk about the more common symptoms and how they manifest in most people. Again, symptoms are always unique for each of us. But having said that, there are some signs we need to watch for. Especially those of us who are in the trenches working with our creative juices and still trying to meet all the other demands on us: families, work, craft, responsibilities, and isolation.
When we are working as hard as we can, but not making noticeable progress, we are susceptible to burnout. How many of you have submitted and submitted and submitted without landing an agent or a deal? How many times has your agent submitted without landing a contract? How many times have your kids, spouse, or family asked you to do something but you’ve declined because you have to write (paint, draw, model etc etc). And still you are not seeing the external rewards of your effort.
How many times have you tweeted, facebooked (is that a word?) or blogged with no change in sales? Are you an introvert but forcing yourself to participate in a group: online, face to face or at conference.
When we work in an environment where we have little control, we are at risk for burnout. Are any of you free of this risk? Are you blogging with limited reach?
Are you working too much and too hard with too little time away?
Are you the victim of others’ high expectations of you?
Are you shorting yourself on sleep?
How many close, supportive, understanding relationships do you have? This can be critical if your closest relationships don’t ‘get’ the creative life.
On a personal level, do you tend to be a perfectionist, always striving for more?
Do you see the world and your role in it as half-full or half-empty?
Are you willing to hire the help you need, accepting you can’t do it all?
Have your activities lost the fun they once provided?
Physically, common symptoms include exhaustion, and anger (whether expressed or not) at those who are making demands on your time. When you meet those demands, do you criticize yourself? Are you irritable? (I call it itchy, twitchy and bitchy). How about headaches and tummy problems that are relatively new. Have you gained or lost weight recently without the decision or action to make that happen? Are you more susceptible to colds, the flu, or headaches?
The list is long and it’s easy to ignore several of these signs, because we’re busy, loving what we do and involved in life. But I can’t encourage you enough to give burnout the respect it deserves. I was lucky. Six weeks away gave me the time I needed to figure out what was going on, to replenish my energy and to consciously plan how to manage my life when I got back in the saddle.
My work isn’t going to change for a while. My family is unchanged. My staff and I seem to have come to terms with our loss. I have made some firm decisions about what I can and cannot do and when I will do it. Most of all, I’ve recognized that just because I’m single; just because I live alone, just because my life is good doesn’t mean I can live like Lucy in the cartoon.
It will if I push…is a fallacy and one that takes a toll on all of us.
If you have a chronic health problem, you’re at even greater risk for burnout to happen even sooner.
What are you willing to change to ensure you don’t burn out? What relationships need to be nurtured and which ones need to be curtailed? What about your activities? Step up and let us know how you’re doing. I know we can learn from each other and I’m looking forward to it.