Is This What They Call Burnout?

Lately I’ve been shuddering when a new work email lands in my inbox.

And it’s tough, because I feel so grateful to be “successful” in work, but on the other hand, I’m tired. And I can’t truly even name why. Some days, all I want to do is lie on my couch and watch Love It Or List It, but then I feel guilty for not working. So I sit on my laptop at my kitchen island, browsing websites, blogs and searching Kijiji for random furniture I don’t need to buy just to feel busy.

I used to wake up craving work and wanting nothing more than to churn it out, 24/7. But now I question whether my drive was fuelled by something else. And then I begin to wonder if I’ll ever want to work again.

I usually leave these days feeling silly because I know the answer is ‘yes’… I guess it’s just hard to accept that I need time off. From 2012 until 2014, I worked non-stop. I don’t recall taking more than a few days off, once a season. Giving myself permission to relax and watch TV after 7pm for even two nights a week in a row is hard for me.

Is this what they call burnout? Or am I now just accepting that work-life balance is important?

I’m not sure which answer is the right one, or if maybe it’s really a bit of both, but one thing I do know is that my career path has never been a linear or singularly-focused one. I’ve done everything from illustrating plants to creating cartoonish vector illustrations, to branding companies, to designing Emoticons, to UI design for x-rated Apps, to working in tech, to blogging and writing for various publications, to photography and social media management, to consulting. And maybe wading all of this water is a bit tiring, but if that’s the case, I haven’t learned my lessons at all, because I’m adding more water to my pond with teaching! So maybe I’m self-diagnosing here as stretched-thin, and am slowly realizing the need to take a chill pill for a few days or ease up on a certain avenue of offerings.

In thinking about this over the past few weeks, I’ve been wondering what’s working and why, and what’s not and why. In any case, I’m going to try to be mindful of “checking out” and shutting my brain down for the rest of the month, and while I can’t take whole weeks off, I’m going to try to at least give myself weekends and evenings while still finishing up ongoing obligations I have. If you’re reading this, nodding along, I know it’s hard for me to give myself the go-ahead to take a no-brain day, so I’m giving you permission right now!

Chin up, buttercups. We’ve got this, we just need a minute.

5 comments
  1. This is the best post I have read in a while!! Very good and I can connect to your thoughts very well because I experienced the same when feeling “comfortable” in life. But I also experienced this phase as a period of life when I have the energy and motivation to improve my skills and bad habits which made me unsatisfied before. I dont know if this makes any sense but thats how I feel about my “comfortable” life phase.
    Keep up the good work!! I like your blog (especially your playlist so please keep doing them ;))

  2. I’ve suffered pretty bad with depression and anxiety for the last 2 years, so I have to be wary of how much work I put on myself. It doesn’t stop me from doing it though and there’s been two separate occasions now, where I’ve had to spend a whole day in bed as I’ve had no energy to do anything. Once I’ve taken that time though, I’m always ready to go another round and work my ass off again. It is hard though, trying to do what you love but at a normal human pace 🙁

  3. Thanks for your honesty. It is great to read and learn from people who have been successful as Creative Independents. Although many would aspire to similar success, reading that you work that many hours, feel guilty if you kick back and watch TV for 2 nights and took only a couple of days off a month till 2014….No wonder you are feeling out of balance.
    I have loved my job for years but am now stressed by things that once would have been minor annoyances leaving me with a feeling of anxiety that I haven,t been able to shake off for the past month. In Australia we have great employment conditions. We all get 4 weeks paid leave a year, which I will take from this Wednesday to bring back some balance for myself. I cannot imagine working the hours you have put in so far and remaining healthy. Take Care.

  4. I could definitely relate to this a lot. I went through a similar period of working non-stop and then burning out, feeling unmotivated and low energy for weeks on end. Fortunately I slowed down on the work and became much happier. It’s important to do other things to refresh yourself, and I found the quality of my designs improved intensely after I began pursuing other things in my spare time.

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