I wish burnout weren’t the normal thing these days but due to the Capitalist hellscape we mostly all live in… burnout is almost like the common cold. You’re going to get there at some point. And I’m talking small, not all the way broke down burnout. When you recognize that you’re sliding into something troubling and you mitigate as much of the effect as you can. Because no one wants to completely break down.
So in 2023 I had two chunks of shows – a spring set and a fall set – and then the regular challenges of self-employed life and personal life and just life life. And I definitely over committed to too many tasks and did not plan well enough. And other items I did not plan for came up, as they always do. So I started the slide into burnout in the late winter and early spring and then continued skipping merrily through a low level of it until now.
If you work in retail or seasonal based service of any sort – and I totally do – fall is where I do a solid chunk of my selling for art but ALSO where I do a solid chunk of helping with my partner’s business which is DEFINITELY a fourth quarter business. And we both rolled in solidly burnt out. Or, at least, a little numb.
If you’re not sure what burnout is… the symptoms vary. And some of them are the same as other mental health troubles like depression, anxiety, and stress disorders. General physical ones include extra servings of headaches, fatigue, upset stomach, minor aches and pains, high blood pressure, and other stress indicators. Mental ones are pretty straightforward: lack of concentration, fatigue, forgetfulness, withdrawal, irritation, poor mood control, increased anxiety. Basically all the signs that something is going wrong without any one big causal event. It’s a series of things adding up.
My go-to solution, once I’m at a (borrowing games terminology here) save point, is to slow the heck down if at all possible. To stop digging the hole deeper. Since burnout for me seems to often go with Too Much Work and Not Enough Life I try to limit new work taken on, catch up on sleep, stock back up on the real food, make some time to visit with the folks I’ve probably been ignoring or snarling at. To see if I can make some adjustments so this doesn’t happen again or as often. Play a lot more string chasing games with my cats. Touch grass, to borrow a current internet-ism.
Due to the previously mentioned Capitalism Hell and being self-employed I don’t really get to take extra days off or stop making art stuff – and usually I don’t want to anyways, I like this stuff, mostly – but I make some time to try a few other things when I’m burnt out. If I’ve been over-doing it, I change to some nice slow paced stuff. If I’ve been doing not enough art and too much admin… easy fix: pull out some clay and go make something ridiculous.
I’m starting to feel a little better after a couple weeks of no shows and finishing up orders before the last minute. I’ve started poking at other projects again and I may have FINALLY caught up on the sleep. So here’s hoping I can hold off on the next burnout merry-go-round for a while!
Do you guys ever feel burntout? Or even uppercase BURNTOUT? How do you handle that along with all the regular life responsibilities?