Right now it's a bright, sunny day here in San Diego; it's kind of an amazing place to live. Those who don't live here love to vacation on our coast, and those who do live here feel like we're constantly on vacation (except when we're in traffic). But no matter where we live and how amazing the place may be, the stress just gets to us. Despite the ocean, despite the moderate year-round temperatures, the laid back environment, and the mostly chill people, stress creeps in.
Stress always creeps in, and we allow it.
There are certain things that are unavoidable: family emergencies, a pet with a dislocated toe (that one hits home right now), a busy season at work, etc... But there is a point where stress becomes less seasonal and more our new normal. When that happens, it's often too late. In order for us to move forward and be happy and healthy humans, we need to learn how to recognize the signs of burnout and reach toward solutions that bring us life.
Five Signs of Burnout
Along the way, I have seen myself land on every single one of these signs of burnout. Like you, I am not perfect and I am constantly learning new things about myself. As you read these signs, ask yourself if you relate, and what's causing you to feel the pressure of burnout.
- You have no idea what to do. You sit at your desk and stare at the screen all day long. You know you have a schedule to keep and tasks to manage, but you just can't seem to get this thing going.
- Your creativity can't get started... or finish. Your brain had an idea, but as soon as your coffee finished brewing, you lost it... and it never came back. You're a creative at heart, but these days you are just flailing away.
- You dread tomorrow. Not because you're depressed or not looking forward to it, you just dread it because you know you will be endlessly stuck doing the same thing over and over again, which just may mean you're doing nothing.
- Your focus is failing. Totally not the same as ADD or ADHD, but your focus is just not with you these days. You bounce from project to project, and while this is fine for most creative types, you're doing it because you lack the clarity of vision you once had.
- You no longer have any energy. You are constantly putting yourself out there for others, but nothing is bringing you joy or filling up your tank. Your energy lacks in the morning and it's maniacal by evening. You just need a break, but can't notice it.
Five Solutions to Burnout
Before you read five possible solutions to burnout, I just want to let you know that I have started using Analog by my friend Jeff at Ugmonk. It's kind of like organizing tasks on post-its, but more strategic and fun to use. I have not given up Evernote, Apple Reminders or my calendar, but it helps to keep it in front of my when I am in the studio. Plus, I like things that I can touch and feel; helps me to remember and engage.
- Get out of the office and go for a long walk. For me, I live in a pretty amazing place with a canyon behind my house and a three mile loop within our neighborhood. Sometimes when I get stuck, I pull myself out of my office chair and get outside. Sometimes it's a short time outside with the dog, sometimes it's a walk around the block, and when I need it most, my wife pulls me to the beach for a walk or to a trail for a hike.
- Pick up the phone and talk to a friend. It's easy to experience the problem of the echo chamber online, but did you know you can experience it alone? All day long you attempt to focus on your projects, and you just need to get out of your head. Your friends and family may know what you need, and you will never know relief until you open yourself up to others. Not to mention, who you spend time with greatly determines who you are becoming.
- Enjoy a hobby that you know–and if you don't have one–get one. My son just picked up whittling, but he's always loved football. We have a large football net for throwing in our backyard and he can spend hours out there perfectly his accuracy. He plays football, practices football, and dives into fantasy football every season. He's getting good at it and it's fun to him. It's his hobby, and something that brings life to him.
- Learn something new. The growth of a human is largely determined by the knowledge they learn along the way. What are you reading, listening to, doing with your hands, that is new to you? I am not talking about a side hustle, but rather something that you are learning and enjoying that is helping you smile every day. Oddly enough, I am diving deeper into crypto, not because I am a crazy, but because I want to learn a space that is rapidly evolving and distributing around the world.
- Break up with the comparison trap. You do you, right? People are constantly trying to rise to their potential when they should be focusing on their calling. If you are good at something, enjoy it, and you are helping others with your work, then lean into it. If you are constantly trying to reach a new standard, the bar will always move. Stay focused on your calling and let the god of potential and comparison die.
The number one solution to burnout is a two letter word.
In order to stop burnout and prevent it from happening in the future, you need to learn how to say no to things and people. I learned the power of no early on in college, when my mentor and friend pulled me aside and said I need to stop saying yes to everything and everyone, and start saying yes to me. The only way I could do that was to start saying no... a lot. To this day, I say no more than I say yes. And you know what? I think my kids are getting it too, because they are learning how to better care for themselves, and thus, our family.