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Is Creative Burnout Getting Between You and Your Best Work?

Whether or not you consider yourself to be a ‘creative’, if you work in marketing, social media, or something along those lines, you’ll likely use creative thinking at some point or another every day. However, there might be a day, some days, or even a few weeks in a row where the good ideas aren’t flowing. Last week, you were the belle of the boardroom ball, and everyone was chanting your name, probably. And now here you are. Zero ideas. Nothing! Not only is this problematic in the face of a looming deadline, but now you’re starting to spiral a bit. How do we fix that?

Being creative to the exact same level of consistency, day in, and day out, just isn’t possible. We know this. But we also know we have a job to do, and this deck isn’t going to make itself. So, what can you do to put yourself in a better frame of mind and get yourself back into a creative mental space? How can you get the work done while still taking care of yourself? 

How to know when you're experiencing burnout

Before going any further, it’s important to acknowledge when your brain needs a time-out to recalibrate. Creative block is a common symptom, but there are several others. If it feels like you could sleep until next year, or you notice that you’re scrolling more than usual, avoiding tasks, or your usual routine is out of whack, these are all signs you might need a break. 

As obvious as these symptoms sound, you’ll be surprised how quickly we deprioritise our well-being, but this lack of mindfulness and inability to see beyond the next day can seriously inhibit our general welfare and in turn our creative capacity. 

Take an actual break

We have a finite amount of resources to get through socialising, work commitments, extra-curricular creativity, exercising, making dinner, whatever it might be. Like a bank account, our usual activities are inhibited when we’ve overdrawn, so sometimes there’s nothing for it but hitting the breaks and chilling out a bit. 

This may look like any of the things listed above, but the main aim is taking some time away from the things causing you difficulty. Whether for a few hours in the evening, a day or two, or a week if you can manage, being selfish and letting you catch up with yourself is an important part of remedying burnout. Probably leave your phone in the other room while you’re at it. 

Practice intentional productivity and relaxation & mindfulness

We’ve officially hit buzzword territory: let’s break down what these things mean in practice. Intentional activity, whatever it may be, is to be deliberate with how you use your time and remain aware of your emotions and mental state as you do so.

Whatever your ideal day looks like, be sure to intentionally make space for each routine or ritual, even to indulge in more selfish activities, like relaxing. Intentional relaxation is what it sounds like – deliberately carving out time for whatever ‘relaxing’ means to you. It means giving your brain space to process the day, but also -and this is crucial – to be bored and to let your mind wander. 

Whether you’re taking yourself for a walk and gently taking in the world around you, cooking a meal, or reading a book (intentional entertainment like this is far more effective than dopamine IV drips like Instagram and TikTok!), these kinds of activities are a key part of the creative process, as you allow outside influences into your mind, interpreted without expectation.

A curious mind unburdened by the heaviness of the day will be able to use these influences to their advantage and channel them into creative projects. You never know where you might find your next great idea! 

Be a bit nicer to yourself

Managing your time more reasonably is one way to induce creativity, but after a dry spell of ideas, you might feel a little unsure of how to proceed, or if you’re even capable. Part of practicing mindfulness is accepting that all emotions are temporary; so too are creative boons and dry spells i.e. reminding yourself that you’ve had moments of creative brilliance before, and you will again! 

Take a look at some of the work you’ve done in the past, or ask a friend or colleague, who will be more than happy to remind you of this. That said, you’re the only one who can truly affirm yourself, and this is what it means to take a creative leap of faith. You might not fully believe in your abilities in every single moment, but you did at one point or another, so trust in that memory and trust yourself to go ahead and do it.

You can’t always count on a moment of inspiration to carry you over the line, but you can always rely on yourself to make a start, no matter the mood. 

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