I remember it well. The stress. My stomach in knots over the next presentation. The next meeting. The next project.
When I worked as a graphic designer for a big digital agency, I was living the dream. Or so I thought.
While I made a decent salary and worked on awesome brands, I didn’t enjoy it.
Because at this level, there is an incredible amount of pressure on you to be creative on demand.
Imagine working on 5-6 different client projects at once, and you need to come up with multiple concepts for each one.
By the way, they’re all due on the same day.
I dreamt about work, felt anxious, and constantly thought about failure.
The pace was killing me. My mental and physical health suffered. Relationships with family, friends, and yes, coworkers became rocky.
I hated what my life had become.
One day, I reached the point where I got a new project and literally could not come up with any ideas. My brain said, “Pfft, I give up.” and konked out.
So I had a decision to make.
I could either:
a) Keep going and have a nervous breakdown.
b) Leave my dream job and take care of myself.
Guess which one I went with.
Venturing out on my own wasn’t easy. Nor has it been without moments of deep soul-searching. But now that I’m running my own business, I realize there is a choice in how I show up in it each day.
I no longer feel the desperation of being creative because I invest time in self-care. And yes, it’s a process. One that didn’t happen overnight.
Here is what I do now to keep myself from becoming overwhelmed. You can incorporate one or all of these methods to not experience burnout in your business.
Work Out Stress By Journaling
Journaling has been essential on my journey of self-care. The act of sitting down and writing down everything swirling around in your head is so freeing.
The magic of journaling is that it’s a non-judgemental way to release and process your thoughts.
I go old-school with pen and paper, but others, like my husband, use an app.
It doesn’t matter what you use though. What matters is getting it out of your head and onto paper. Or an app.
You don’t even need to do it every day unless you want to. I usually journal about once or twice a month.
When I do though, I’m able to clear my mind of negative or unproductive thoughts and work my stuff out.
Get Focused Through Meditation
Now meditation is one thing I make sure to incorporate into my daily routine. I start the day off with a 10-minute video from Positive Magazine on YouTube.
This helps me to begin my day with a calm mind and a fresh perspective.
When I don’t make meditation a priority, it’s noticeable in how the rest of my day goes. More anxiety and negativity. It’s mental crud that hangs over me.
So I make it a point to carve out time for this mental exercise. It’s done wonders for my productivity and focus.
This is a tough one. If I’m in the zone, it’s so hard to consciously stop what I’m doing and go outside. Especially in Hamburg where it’s cold, cloudy, and rainy. So very, very rainy.
So I make it a habit to go outside before starting work.
A quick walk through the park to watch the dogs play or going to the grocery store gives me “permission” to work the rest of the day without interruption.
For the days when I can’t go out (because again, Hamburg weather), I’ll pop open the windows and let in some fresh air.
If you work in an office, it might be more difficult to break away. But I encourage you to make this a priority.
Back when I worked for an agency, I would eat lunch outside or go to a cafe with outdoor seating. I made sure to get out of the building to clear my head for a few precious minutes.
Make the conscious decision to take a few minutes each day to clear your head and get your second (or first) wind.
Volunteer Your Time to Help Others
There is truly something to giving without any expectation and receiving so much more in return.
When I still lived in the US, I volunteered with an organization teaching English to new immigrants and helping them integrate into society.
Focusing on others gave me the clarity to put my troubles in perspective. Any problems I was experiencing were so small compared to what my students faced.
This experience helped me to step outside of myself and discover a new creative outlet.
Take Up a Hobby Unrelated to Your Business
Here is my favorite way to help keep myself from burning out, which means that it’s confession time. Ready?
I’m a foodie. A food-a-holic. Dang it, I LOVE food.
I spend hours reading about it, thinking about it, and I especially enjoy making it.
This is where I can completely turn my brain off and “just be.” Cooking recharges my batteries and lets me be creative in a delicious different way.
Being in the kitchen might not be your thing though. That’s cool. But there is something out there that does bring you joy and is utterly unrelated to your business.
One of the best lessons I’ve learned while diving into a hobby is that it opens up a well of ideas. Who knew playing chef could be so inspiring?
Those were a few ways I keep myself from burning out while running my business. It all boils down to putting yourself first.
And yes, you might feel like this is selfish. It’s not.
You aren’t useful to anyone—especially your customers—if you’re stressed out and struggling to create. So take the time to take care of yourself and notice how your creativity increases.
How do you decompress and recharge?