There are times in life when a person feels like nothing they put effort into is good enough, or that they don’t have much left to give. It’s a mental type of anguish, and it feels like no matter what you do or how hard you try, you’re not getting anywhere. There’s this feeling of constantly spinning one’s wheels to no avail, and the person experiencing this feels weighted by their own lack of energy and self-esteem. Not only is the exhaustion mental, it can manifest physically as well. While it’s true that people of all backgrounds experience this type of hopelessness, it’s especially prevalent among artists and people who create things for a living. Whether you’re a writer, filmmaker, painter, or marketer, creative ruts and burn outs are a guaranteed source of stress. It can not only be a sign of underlying mental health issues but can actually exacerbate any that are already diagnosed. With this being a reality, how do artistically inclined individuals navigate burn out? Is it avoidable altogether?
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. While much easier said than done, the number one way to prevent a burn out is to manage stress. However, with work, school, and other life commitments, this is the biggest challenge for most. Stress management includes exercise, a balanced diet, quality sleep, and seeking help when it’s needed. How do we accomplish these things without interfering with work and other obligations? Lifestyle changes don’t have to be drastic. Something as simple as taking a walk on your lunch break or substituting junk food for fresh fruit or foods rich in omega-3s (such as chia seeds) can make a difference. Additionally, powering down electronics at night and honoring your body’s need to rest is essential for maintaining energy and cognition levels.
However, what happens when you’ve made all the recommended lifestyle changes and it still doesn’t feel like enough? As difficult as it is, it’s important to remember that every effort you make – big or small – counts and is to your betterment and not your detriment. Dealing with creative burnout is a unique type of pain, because so much of our self-esteem as artists is dependent upon our output. If we’re not creating what we want they way that we want, it feels like a personal failure. And when you go weeks, months, or even years not feeling like you’re giving your best, it weighs on you heavily. It’s important to remember that most of our negative self-talk isn’t based in reality, and that we’re capable of delivering quality work no matter the circumstances. It’s also important to remember that there’s options – whether it’s seeking professional help, adapting mindfulness practices, or all of the above. There’s always a way to pick yourself up out of a rut and prosper.
When stuck in a prolonged creative block, it’s important to assess all other aspects of your life and examine where that block is mirrored. Is it in your relationship with others? Is it in how you treat yourself? Incidents related to our well-being are rarely isolated, and as artists it’s important for us to step back and make an honest assessment when things within us don’t seem to be going right. This ability to see things clearly and translate it into our work is what makes art so profound and it’s how we connect with others and express our humanity. Consequently, anyone facing the challenge of a burnout has the potential to come out on the other side of it stronger, not only as an artist but also as a person.