Creatives working in creative roles tend to be incredibly passionate about what they do. I know this from first-hand experience working in film, radio, marketing, and the design industry but also psychology tells us that this is the case as well. There is a well-known psychologist, one of the founders of positive psychology, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who spent his life trying to seek the understanding of happiness. He spent decades of his life travelling the world interviewing and researching creative people such as chefs, artists, and musicians. He wanted to understand why these people dedicated their lives to their art even though they may never receive much recognition or indeed earn much money. What he uncovered was something called “flow”; that feeling you get when you're so absorbed in your activity that you completely lose track of time and awareness of an external world. Csikszentmihalyi believed that when we are in that state of flow we are actually at the peak of our happiness, and it is in fact the reason why creatives dedicate their lives to being creative because it brings them so much happiness at a cellular level.
There is one problem with being so passionate about your work and that is the overwhelming ease at which you can give too much of yourself and burn yourself out. Burnout leaves our tanks empty; no more emotional, physical, cognitive energy left. That’s a problem as creativity requires a lot of those energy sources! So, what can we do to ensure that we keep our tanks full and an abundance of creative energy? Well, it’s nothing new, you just have to do it!
- You must have an outlet beyond your work – if you’re running low on energy you must expend energy, not stop using any (sitting in bed all day watching tv for example). But use your energy in a different direction. For example, a journalist may be burning out at work but finds writing a novel in her spare time actually gives her energy. A coder may be exhausted and feel empty from work projects but building a website for their own personal projects can fill that tank back up.
- Set and maintain boundaries – having worked in the creative world, I know how clients and different teams of colleagues don’t understand how long things take to create. It may be worth trying to push back and talking people through processes of creation, so they understand more clearly that good things take time! Overwhelm can burn creativity and our energy levels.
- Create an environment of acknowledgment and appreciation – it’s so easy to critique but how often do we give and receive appreciation? This can burn a creatives’ battery low. So, if you’re in an unacknowledging environment, don’t be afraid to be the change. Show your thanks and appreciation and see how others start to onboard those thanks and share them with others. And don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, the good and the bad!
Everyone has their own way of battling burnout; you must invest in yourself to be your best self. Start committing to a well life for yourself with experimentation and creativity!