Burn Out | Identifying the Problem

Burn out comes in many shapes and forms. Sometimes it's a meltdown, a panic attack, a sudden apathy for everything related to our business, or an out-of-nowhere break in the malaise that has us completely redoing our website for no reason and restructuring our pricing. Whatever form your burn out takes, it happens to all of us, but I truly believe there are ways of avoiding it.

This month, I'm going to tackle the subject of burn out. How to identify it, face it, and avoid it. I'm also going to be sharing stories from others who have faced it and what they were able to do to tackle it now and moving forward.

For now, we'll talk about how to identify the reason for your burn out. I'm going to be specifically talking about the self-employed, but I know many others face the same season of life and there could be helpful tips for you.

Many people say their burn out comes every year during or at the end of their highest season. They've worked and worked and gotten to the end and their body relaxes but their 'relaxation' actually manifests in one of the above ways. Saying your burn out happens just because you've been super busy for several months isn't specific enough. 

To identify where your burn out came from, we have to trace it back. 

When did you first notice you were burnt out? What was the feeling that finally tipped you over the edge? Was there a trigger? 

I'm going to give you an example from my own life to help you. 

My burn out came (and still comes) in the form of extreme apathy. I didn't care about my own work, and I especially didn't care about anyone else's. I basically went through social media in a daze, not liking anyone's work, not stopping to really look at anyone's work. I felt like everything--including my own stuff--looked all the same. I actually felt like I could care less one way or another whether my business did well. 

A friend said 'you're just burnt out, you'll come around again.' 

But I didn't want to experience it every year, and I wanted to figure out what had specifically caused it so that I could avoid it altogether.

I started by thinking back to my wedding season. Where did I experience stress? 

- My husband and I had tried to have him edit instead of me, but with him as a slight procrastinator and not working on my timeline for projects, it caused me a lot of anxiety. I ended up having to come in and finish projects myself. This also caused tension between him and me.

- I felt underpaid for my work--at the time I was charging under market average but producing work I was proud of. 

- On social media, I felt less-creative, less-involved, less-everything.

- In my personal life, I did not like where I lived. 

- I was saying yes too often. 


If you're interested, take a moment and write down all the things that made you stressed before you burned out. 


Once all this was realized, I needed to pinpoint what really tipped me over the edge into a burned out stage. Because, the truth is, if you're running your own business, you're going to get stressed, you're going to feel anxiety, but I firmly believe that doesn't have to lead to actually burning out to the point where you want to quit or end up having a panic attack. 

- Although the editing thing was a stressor, I ended up managing it and was able to deliver everything on time after confronting the issue. 

- I raised my prices. 

- I decided to move.

- I started saying 'no'. 

So, really, it came down to social media, and my interaction with other creatives that kicked me over the edge into extreme apathy. 


 Take a moment now and go through your initial list and identify which things you were able to handle and move forward from, and which ones really got you stuck, or stuck with you as you carried on.  


Most people who don't identify their problem and face it, end up coming out of their burn out with it still weighing on them. The reason they're able to come out of the burn out stage with it still hanging on is they've eliminated other things they THOUGHT where the problem, or they're just really resilient and are actually just faking it. 

Once you've narrowed it down to one or a couple things, you're ready to do some self-examination. Because before you come up with a solution, you need to know why something caused you to burn out.

I figured out the comparison game and social media were my tipping points, but I needed to dive deeper and figure out what it was about them and specifically ME that caused this unfortunate result. 

This will be different for every person. The social media pressure is easily shrugged off by some people. So why did it affect me so badly? 

We talk about the 'comparison game' but never really define what that means. The truth is, we're constantly comparing ourselves to others ALL THE TIME. So, what was it about social media that made it burn-out worthy? 

The comparison game is not just comparing yourself to someone else, it's comparing your authentic self, the self YOU know, the self YOU see in the mirror, the WHOLE galleries you've created to everyone else's FAVORITE PICTURES. The comparison game is looking through your feed and seeing the same edit, the same pose, the same genders, the same heterosexual couples, the same races, the same emotions from everyone. I realized I was burned out because social media made the world seem small, exclusive, and frankly, a little boring. There's only so many boho dresses on top of mountain tops before they all look the same. 

Again, this was JUST ME. This is what burned me out! 

What caused your burn out? 

Next week, I'll talk further about burn out. Now that we've identified the problem, it's time to know how to combat it in the short term.