How to Stop Burnout Before It Starts

I recently read this article from Forbes, “How To Prevent Burnout - 13 Signs You're On The Edge,” and a majority of the warning signs listed sounded eerily familiar. I suppose I had always thought of being burned out as a way of saying you’re drained from a strenuous work schedule and just need a break. But it’s really much more than that. Working in the fast-paced industry of publishing, I’ve caught myself teetering on the edge of burnout without being fully aware of how or when it happened. It’s easy for burnout to sneak up on you when you’re caught up in the frantic pace of deadlines, endless to do lists and shuffling around priorities based on which project is the most urgent. If I’ve felt this way, then I’m sure there are other creatives out there who have felt this way too. I hope this post helps a few of you fight back against getting burned out. 

Stop Creative Burnout Before It Starts. Blog post on GillianTracey.com

What is burn out?

According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, burn out is,

“Physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.”

Yikes. It sounds serious because it is. And while you may not have experienced a full on collapse, the road leading there is a difficult one to journey down. If things like anxiety, cynicism, inadequate sleep, low energy, and self-criticism sound familiar, then you may be headed down that road. 


How can you fix it?

1. RECOGNIZE PATTERNS
Besides being able to recognize the symptoms at the start of burnout, how can you foresee the collapse before it begins to happen? If you’ve experienced burnout at work before, think of the situations that caused it to happen. I know I experience burnout when I don’t have an opportunity to reenergize after the stress of getting a magazine designed and sent to the printer by deadline. There have been points when I go from one production cycle to the next with hardly enough time to come up for air, and that’s when burnout can start to set in. Once you start pinpointing when more stressful times are going to happen, you can better prepare for them. 

2. TAKE A STEP BACK
Take the time to relax, rest and rejuvenate without feeling bad about it. Taking a step back can mean small breaks during the day in between tasks or clearing your schedule in the evenings when you're workday is finished. Sometimes it can be a challenge to truly relax because it’s hard to put aside the to-do list. Don’t beat yourself up for taking a break! That break isn’t setting you behind; if anything it’s helping you be more productive in the long run. It’s all about pacing yourself! Trust me. The time I take to hit the refresh button helps me build up my reservoir of creativity, which makes problem-solving and originality in my work much easier, not to mention a lot more fun!

3. REST UP
Sleep is so important, especially when it comes to energy levels, mental and physical well-being, and the ability to be creative. Being a night owl, I can attest to the importance of sleep because most mornings I wake up wishing I hadn’t stayed up so late perusing Pinterest. I’m realizing more and more that sleep is a big factor in keeping my stress levels in check, so when I’ve got a hectic week coming up I try to stick to an earlier bedtime.

4. ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING
Negativity is a tell-tale sign that you're at the beginning of burnout. While it can be hard to keep a positive outlook while you're overwhelmed with work, it's even harder to accomplish your tasks with a negative light shining on everything you do. There's always a silver lining! 

5. TREAT YOURSELF
Like I said earlier, it can be hard to take a step back from your to-do list. However, if you have something fun planned, especially if it’s a change of pace from what you normally do, it’ll help keep your mind from wandering and thinking, “I could be using this time to work on ___.” Having something to look forward to can be your silver lining! Think of it like this, your hard work deserves a reward of some sort. Go do something fun, whether it’s making dinner with friends, taking an art class, volunteering or playing outside, and rejuvenate your creative spirit!


Friends, as creative people it’s important for us to maintain balance so that we can thrive and use our talents to their greatest potential. Busy times will come, but don’t underestimate the importance of self-compassion and rest. Burnout is not a fun place to be in, so if you’re feeling stressed from a hectic schedule, I encourage you to be kind to yourself!