Creative burnout is real, as I discussed on a recent podcast. But there’s a glimmer of hope, too: ‘creative triage’ to the rescue!
I was interviewed by journalist and creativity-fanatic, Suzy Bashford, for her April Big Juicy Creative podcast series. The idea is to share advice to help people ‘spring back’ creatively after this crappy old year.
But as I confessed to Suzy, trying to sound like I have all the answers just didn’t feel right when I’ve had my own struggles (creative and otherwise) this year as a working mum and small business owner. What follows is an edit of our conversation and the resulting idea of a creative triage – a process to help you get your mojo back – that was born on the podcast!
From client calls and creativity workshops to a barrage of ‘mummy’s
A typical pre-Covid working week for me would consist of client calls, writing, prepping and running day-long innovation and creativity workshops. Cut to Covid – and trying to run the business and be creative for myself and my clients amidst a pandemic. Whilst simultaneously being “mummy-d” a hundred times an hour. And worrying about whether I’d have a business month by month.
I took one Zoom call with my child literally sat on my head (unsurprisingly not a new business win, despite assurances it was ‘fine’.) It really wasn’t.
Then it’s March 8th, 2021, my son is back to school and there’s a collective exhalation of relief from parents. Then a descending sense of, ‘Oh, now, it’s time to get back to work.’
Some of my girlfriends were on the floor, literally tearing their hair out that week (well, they would have if they’d had the energy). They had at least six months of work to ‘catch up’ on and employers demanding status updates, plans and timelines.
Overnight, there was an expectation that we’re all ready to get back to work and into creative action. And be all Tigger-ish. But I was definitely feeling way more Eeyore. We’re collectively knackered – or dare I say it, burnt out. Physical burnout? Yes. Creative burnout? Absolutely.
What are burnout symptoms?
If you find yourself relating to some of the following symptoms or statements, then you may be experiencing burnout*. Maybe you:
- Are feeling permanently overworked
- Are exhausted
- Feel stressed and unable to cope
- Feel under the weather and just can’t shake it off
- Feel as though you are looking after others’ needs at a cost to yourself
- Have been neglecting your mental health
- Are suffering from anxiety
*Burnout and depression can look similar but need different approaches – there’s a comprehensive article with more information here. Please seek professional help if you think you need it.
I’ve experienced burnout myself pre-Covid. And after a truly horrible and difficult year, I found myself there again during the third hard lockdown at the start of this year. Feeling like the flattest of batteries and with nothing left in the tank for myself or anyone else.
The feeling of a sort of daily slippage, of not being able to catch up with myself – getting worse as the pandemic has gone on. Feeling frustrated that I’ve achieved nothing in a given day, and then guilty that I’m not moving the business forward. And then being angry about it. Then a bit sad. Still very Eeyore. Not very Tigger.
There’s this phrase flying around – the idea of ‘bouncing back.’ But I’ve been thinking again about the importance of having some kind of reset. Some ‘fallow’ time to recover and replenish (as necessary for people as for pasture, I would argue.)
The phrase ‘bounce back’ indicates the down before you get the energy to go up again.
Suzy and I talk about this on the podcast. Suzy said:
“Don’t expect to necessarily reinvent yourself, bounce back into Tigger, no matter what the narrative in society is saying. With the pressure on us to get back on it, on our A game. For many of us mums, we can’t, unfortunately, take a mini sabbatical and go off and watch the Northern lights as much as we’d like.”
The answer? A creative ‘triage’!
On the podcast you’ll hear about the idea of a ‘creative triage.’ A way to actively reset, carve out a bit of time for ourselves and really consider what will help us get back on track and hopefully more Tigger-like.
I’ve also been inspired to create a shiny new e-learning module called ‘Great State to Create’ to give you some ideas and options to top up your creative stores.
This module invites you to take some time out for yourself, to get away from your desk, get outside or get a change of scene. This might be to take a mental break between endless meetings, or to get yourself in a great frame of mind to facilitate a creative session.
Whatever your need, we’ve got 10 options for you ranging in time from two minutes to up to an hour. You’ll have the opportunity to dip into our favourite workshop energisers and breaks for headspace and reflection.
One of the exercises is to get away from your desk, head out and take a photo safari – to try and photograph the obvious, mundane or overlooked from a different angle. And to use the images as metaphors and random stimulus for any creative challenges you may have. Suzy has kicked this off today – head to Instagram @nowgocreate @bigjuicycreativeliving and share your shots if you’re so inspired.
Suzy asks each of her guests to finish the sentence: “Go wild and ….” So, here’s mine:
“Go wild and lie down.”
I’ll leave you with the wise words of writer Anne Lamott:
“Almost everything will work again. If you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
Claire’s podcast is on Suzy’s Big Juicy Creative Podcast now. If you’d like to find out more about our new e-learning or any of our other courses please get in touch.