I’ve written about what I’ve learned about burnout from living in France on Prêt à Voyager, but I find that stress and burnout are two topics that come up repeatedly. And as much as I can warn friends and encourage them to slow down, it takes self awareness to know when to say STOP. The reality is that you can’t do your best work if you’re not at your best.
Here’s an incomplete list of things to consider when you start to feel stress and the pressure of life:
Stop comparing yourself to others. Social media is a façade, and rarely the full story. Talk to people in real life and then some more of the story starts to come out.
Stop trying to copy and paste the “formula” that works for someone else’s endeavors. Of course let yourself be inspired by what others are doing, but do the work to figure out your priorities and what you need to be doing and how you should be spending your time.
Do the (hard) work early on to save you time and stress later. Keep referring back to what you know.
Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know everything. I empower you to be curious and learn something new.
Build time into your schedule for things to go wrong. Just because there’s a break in your calendar doesn’t mean you have to fill it.
Surround yourself with amazing friends who support you and cheer you on.
Make friends in the industry (or even outside) who you can be transparent with, honest about your struggles, and talk openly about business. It may take time to build these relationships, so put in the time before you need them. It’s not a competition—the more we support each other, the more we all win.
Know when you need to hit pause and step back.
Step away from your computer. Go for a walk. Read a book. Your brain needs time to percolate and process. If you’re feeling stuck, trying to “work harder” isn’t necessarily going to solve the problem.
Go for a long walk. Look for details. Let the world around you inspire you.
Get up from your desk. It’s not good for your body if you sit all day in front of your computer, which is not good for your health, which is not good for yours
Take a hot shower — I have great ideas come here. It’s also a great way to reduce stress and anxiety.
Learn where your best ideas come. Mine come from walking, making connections in the metro, or swimming.
Listen to a podcast. There’s one on every subject. I listen better while I’m walking than sitting at my desk easily distracted.
Try something new: doodle, sketch, take a picture, pick up a coloring book, etc. Figure out what inspires you, not what the industry tells you to do.
Don’t do anything. We have a tendency to always to be doing something. Always listening to a podcast or music while we walk. Always watching something in the background. Make sure you schedule some time to just be.
Try meditating. I know so many people who this has helped. It keeps you grounded. And for the record, it’s supposed to be hard—hence we need it in our lives. Start with short meditations and make it a happen. (I’ve tried Headspace, and I also love the design of the app).
Start your day without your phone. (I wrote this post before even checking my email or social media). Once we start, it’s harder to pull away.
Attend (and prioritize) going to events or workshops that you know will inspire you. Make them a priority. If you’re making the excuse “I’m too busy” then that may be the perfect indicator you really should go. The right subject may even carve tons of time off that very thing you’re stuck on.
Go to the gym. Make it part of your routine. (I go 3x a week — typically a mix of low impact BodyBalance or aqua gym, a strength training, and a cardio dance class). Pick classes that work for you and make you excited to get up and go.
Hire a coach or creative consultant — sometimes we need an outsider to help push us through to the next level. It doesn’t show you’re weak, it shows that you’re willing to invest in yourself and grow in ways you may not even know yet.
Revisit this list whenever you feel the stress creeping in. Stop the burnout before it happens. Keep in mind stressful days are also a natural part of business and growth. Some stress is good—it means you’re taking risks and helping push yourself to the next level.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Here are some more resources that have inspired me recently:
Check out episode 19 of Letters from a Hopeful Creative: Let’s talk about running a business when you live with a chronic illness. Hearing Jen Carrington and Sara Tasker talk about how they run their (very successful) businesses while also both managing chronic illness was very inspiring. It means they prioritize self care and work smarter in their businesses. I’m constantly pondering how I can work less, but make a bigger impact.
Marie Forleo has an entire episode of MarieTV devoted to how our bodies aren’t designed to work non stop. Check out 5 ways to beat burnout and increase productivity.
Every week my newsletter explores some aspect of the intersection of travel, design, and creative entrepreneurship. You can also find me online @pretavoyager on Twitter and Instagram, where I share stories.