As a creative, you’ve likely been there. Days to weeks to years of grinding. Late nights and early mornings. Throwing 110% of yourself into your work. All resulting in that more and more familiar concept: burnout. Burnout is loosely defined as physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress. And If you’ve been in it for a while, maybe it’s time to take a look at some things you can do to prevent it, beat it, or revamp from it!
1. Try New Things
I know, the last thing you want is someone telling you to try something new. New means change, new is scary, new means learning and growing. Which are all great things, but not in the middle of burnout. But, hear me out. If you’re drained of creativity and passion, try trying something new. I’m not saying go out and pick up roller skating or piano when you’ve never done it before! Start small. Maybe you only shoot on a 50mm prime lens. Try something new! Go for something shorter like a 24 or a 35mm lens, and force yourself to see new perspectives. Maybe you shoot in a studio with strobes and softboxes and solid backdrops. Try something new! Go outside, see what you can make with only the light around you, or with a more complex backdrop than that gray sheet. I could go on- try a new camera, a new focal length, a new lighting setup, new subjects, new editing styles.
Trying new things probably sounds exhausting. It probably will be at first. But it might just be the little spark you need to refresh your vision and get you back on your feet if you’re feeling uninspired.
2. Limit Yourself
This is something I learned in college and has been transformative in my creative life. One assignment was, create a short film using no dialogue. The only sound had to be a song of our choice that was released 1980-1990. Another assignment was to tell a story using only 20 still photos. Each project throughout the semester required some sort of limitation. Out of all the work I did in college and beyond, these were some of my favorites, the ones I was most proud of.
Why? Because I felt challenged, and I felt creative. By setting a limitation, it forced me to look for something else to do or a new way to solve the problem. With no audio, the film had to be shot and framed more intentionally to drive the story. 20 still photos had to tell a story without motion or movement from the subjects, and no words.
I realize those were college assignments, not real life things. But, where you are able to, limit yourself and see what happens. Only bring one lens to a shoot. Don’t use slow motion B-roll to fill the gaps in your film. We are often more creative when we have less to work with because we have to be.
3. Get Outside
For 5 minutes. Take a short walk. Open a window. Take a deep breath. Fresh air is never a bad idea, and sunshine is never in short supply (weather permitting). I’m not going to get all self-help-guru on you and suggest you meditate or hug a tree, but most science points to getting outside is a good idea. Set an alarm on your phone to walk around the block a few times per day. Open the window in your office if it’s nice out. These things can help clear your head, shake off the dust, and reset if you’ve been glued to a computer all night and day.
4. Listen and Learn
I was listening to a podcast recently and the host (Jenna Kutcher) strongly recommended that everyone starting a business should set aside a portion of their profits to invest in their own education. I think when we’re hustling hard, it’s hard to justify taking a break just to learn about the things you’re already working hard at. But there’s 2 reasons why I think this is really important.
First, you don’t know everything. There are always new things to learn, especially in the photo/video industry (hello, new tech?!). Between changing technology, social media platforms, and just the busyness of life happening in the midst of everything, you will always have something to learn, and luckily, there will always be someone out there who can teach it to you. Reason two is, taking some time to learn and listen can be a time of revitalization. For example, all over the world, there are retreats and summits and gatherings for creative people to learn and connect with others. These events are not just a time to learn from someone else, but to meet others in your field, make friends, and hopefully take some time to be present.
Start small: download a podcast, get a book from the library, or watch a documentary. If you’re in a place to invest a little more time and money, look for a workshop or retreat relevant to your field, and sign up!
Here are some of my favorite ways to educate myself, especially when I’m short on time or money:
- Podcasts (The Goal Digger Podcast has been a favorite lately)
- Audiobooks (I use Audible! Currently listening to this book)
- Youtube (SO many DIY’s and tutorials)
- My coworkers! (LensProToGo is staffed by all pro shooters- I love learning from them when I have questions or want to try something new)
5. Take A Break
Maybe this is a “duh” moment. But if you’re experiencing burnout, try this: take a break. This is certainly easier said than done, and for some not always feasible. You don’t need to go on a tropical vacation, or an off grid camping trip with no cell service (although, more power to you if you can!). Look at your schedule and see where you could take an hour, or maybe a day off, once in a while. Then, do something energizing for yourself. You know what that is better than anyone, but here are some ideas:
- clean your house
- watch a movie (or a whole Netflix series)
- get outside! (go to the beach, on a hike, on a bike ride)
- move- take a workout class, go for a walk
- sleep in, or take a nap
- treat yo’ self (get a fancy coffee, bring a book, hang out there)
- make plans with friends (maybe ones you haven’t seen in awhile)
What are some ways you avoid burnout? Leave a comment and let us know!
header image credit Carl Heyerdahl