The Realities of Burning Out
Written by Lauren Jones
Growing up, I wanted to be a movie star (I was voted class actress in kindergarten), a princess, a singer and an author. While the first two were a bit far-fetched for my young mind to comprehend at the time, writing stuck out to me early on as something that I was good at, something that allowed my imagination to run wild, something that rattled me awake in the middle of the night as inspiration poured in. I clearly remember sitting down on a Christmas morning one year with my aunt—I was probably 5 or 6 at the time— and writing a short story. In the 20+ years it’s been since that chilly day in December, I no longer remember what the story was about, where I even got my ideas from or why I boldly announced that I wanted to write. But I will never forget that feeling I felt when my pen hit the paper.
Flash forward to me now, age 26, an Austin resident for two years, writing for a living. Is it my dream job? You bet! But does it come with more challenges than I expected? Also, yes. I’m a perfectionist by nature, something I feel that exists at the heart of every writer, but in the last three years since I graduated college, I have hit my breaking point more times than I care to admit working full-time and also hustling as a freelancer. Working in the creative industry, especially in Austin, is absolutely amazing. There are so many people that are on the same track as you, that can relate to those middle-of-the-night writing sessions and the flurries of racing thoughts, but it’s also highly competitive by nature (because, c’mon who doesn’t want to live and work in Austin?) and freelancing for a living is hard.
As a creative and self-diagnosed perfectionist, I am working each day to balance my creative projects with self-care. This is not just a lesson that only writers can relate to, but one that everyone can. Is it possible to be hard-working, love your work, stay passionate and take care of yourself? Absolutely, but it takes setting limits, knowing your boundaries and most importantly knowing yourself. So, how can prevent burnout?
Set up weekly coffee dates or brainstorm sessions with other creatives. No matter how overwhelmed you are, there is always a solution to any problem you face, and most likely, your friends and those in the industry will get it. Choose a cute spot like the South Congress Hotel lobby or my favorite, Opa! on South Lamar, and share how you’re feeling, talk about your career goals or even make a mood board for when you’re in a creative rut.
Recognize when stress hits and choose to face it head-on. Stress is natural. It’s our body’s natural way to protect us in those fight-or-flight moments...but sometimes it causes us to get sick, break down or hit a wall. When things start to become a bit too much, take a break. Take five minutes to step away from the laptop and give your eyes a break from all that blue light, breathe deep, listen to your favorite song or make time to call your parents. Once you’re able to recognize stress, you can tackle it. Plan self-care nights and leave work at work to start living a more balanced life.
Just say no. Create and Cultivate is one of my favorite blogs and I was recently struck by one of their posts all about the power of no. No is a complete sentence so use it, embrace it and feel empowered by it. Use your no when you’re tempted to stay up until midnight working (yes, late nights happen in all jobs but don’t overdo it) or when you notice your letting a negative coworker fog your vibe. Good vibes only, people!
If you’re really burnt out, it may be time to consider looking for a new job. Only work for companies that respect you and support your professional growth. I’ve been so lucky to have some amazing jobs in the past but when the burnout is real, figure out what you need to do. It may mean leaving that toxic job for a better one or shutting off your computer at the end of the work day.
In the end, we all have different ways we cope with stress, career uncertainty and burnout. So, what I have learned? Self-care is No. 1, feeling a bit all over the place, especially at my age, is perfectly OK and only I have the power to write my own story. What will your story say?
Lauren’s passion for writing started early on and now she’s thrilled to be doing what she loves for a living. Her work has been featured in Austin Woman magazine, Tribeza, The Austin-American Statesman and more. You can find her sipping on a mocktail poolside at her South Austin apartment, hanging out with her dogs at the Greenbelt or singing at an open mic night in town.