I had a very cute little London Fashion Week SS17 trend recap lined up, complete with top looks and all, in order to continue my fashion month recap. Then, after spending 12+ hours a day on working on the blog, planning, brand relationship management, campaigns, social media, content creation, photo editing, emails, etc all in the last few days, I decided a piece on blogger burnout would be more appropriate. Especially after fashion month is finally over.
It’s common to mistake burnout with exhaustion. Burnout is NOT just your regular day to day exhaustion. Burnout is a really debilitating state that will suck the light out of you. I used to think that I was actually entering severe depression periods.
And get the hell outta here (I did some research just now)! Guess what? There are now research papers coming out pointing to evidence that burnouts are clinically similar to depression.
I want to speak about what my burnouts look like (yes, I’ve had multiple ones, and they’re slightly embarrassing), how to spot if you’re heading toward blogger burnout, and how to prevent them. Preventing a burnout is key to keeping consistent and steadily growing your blog!
What My Blogger Burnout Looks Like
It’s REALLY hard to pinpoint my quick descent into burnout sometimes. I basically start off with a two page task list. I typically have a running to-do of tasks that not only repeat but also unique one off tasks. After spending a solid 12+ hour day of just sitting in front of the laptop and working straight through the day, I go to sleep in a body full of pent up anxiety.
I think that’s my first tell-tale sign: the anxiety. I get pangs of it in my stomach every time I look at my task list. If I’m particularly exhausted and skip on doing a recurring task, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night thinking about how much I have to do. I have trouble falling asleep, and when I do sleep, I don’t really wake up refreshed.
When I’m REALLY busy and going from one task to another plus running around town, I bury the anxiety away until it surfaces when I have a minute to breathe. Toward the end of fashion week I had a complete breakdown.
I was running a campaign for NYC Style Collective, trying to keep up with communication with 20 girls and the PR company. On top of it, I was going to at least 3 events and runway shows a day, doing street style photography, writing articles for the blog, doing social media management, planning out promotional schedule for the blog posts and still e-mailing with regular brand campaigns and partnerships.
By the end of the week, I was sore, tired, and the smallest of things could’ve set me off. I’m lucky I had gel nail polish on my nails, otherwise I would’ve gnawed them off.
Anyway, something or other happened (small thing that I could’ve handled under more normal circumstances). I lost it. The world ended as I knew it. I couldn’t deal with ANYTHING. I broke down, I told people I’m quitting and asked who wants my second company. I started hyperventilating. I’m almost 30, but I started bawling. Like, not just a tear shed, full on bawling.
Suddenly, I couldn’t handle writing. I couldn’t handle interacting with another human. I hated the idea of social media and being tied to it. I wanted it all to just spontaneously combust. I started dreaming of getting out of the city ASAP and just leaving everything behind.
And this isn’t the first time something like this happened. I typically stand up and start pacing, chewing on my nails and looking for a corner where I can crumple and cry. I sometimes have a panic attack. My husband keeps a Xanax handy and immediately breaks off a piece to administer a dose and calm me down.
The Constant Battle
So yeah, there it is. This is my reality. I have moments where I run through and tick off “to do” boxes like a magical fairy, before I realize that it’s not sustainable to wake up in the morning, work nonstop until the evening, and expect to do it again with no discernible stopping point.
I fool myself into thinking I’m OK when I’m energized and ready to work. So when I’m inspired, I don’t bother with walking away from the screen. Basically, working for myself/blogging full time has been the toughest job I’ve ever had (and I’ve had many jobs). It has produced the biggest amount of breakdowns (especially after fashion week).
So where do these breakdowns leave me? Well, I turn into a vegetable for the next several days. I wake up groggy and with no motivation to do anything. I binge watch Netflix and eat crap. Sometimes I drink wine and pretend it’s all OK and I’m just on vacation (I’m not, I’m just trying to catch up on a break I should’ve been giving myself all along).
I have no motivation creatively, so my content creation takes a break. Sometimes I’ll crank out a few uninspired pieces, but ultimately my content schedule suffers from a hiccup. I’ll reply to a few emails (ones that I can manage) and leave the others for a better day. I basically go missing from social media. And then, all the while, I wake up in the middle of the night from all the anxiety because of all the work that’s piling up.
It’s not sustainable. I’m learning how to give myself breaks and keep a burnout at bay, so this article is as much for me as it is for you.
Identify The Burnout
Step 1: Stay Aware and do Mental Checks
I did a mental check as I was writing this article. Turns out, I was at my computer working since 9AM today. It’s now 6:20PM. The only breaks I took were for the potty. I also got up to get leftover pizza from the fridge (slice one was breakfast, slice two was lunch).
Clearly, today’s schedule is not something that’s setting me up for success for the rest of the week. My day yesterday looked something similar to today except I worked until 11PM. The day before was a little more forgiving and I took a 1 hour video game break.
If I didn’t do that mental check, I wouldn’t be conscious of the fact that I need to be strict about taking a break the rest of my evening and scheduling in several breaks tomorrow.
Step Two: Take note of any compulsion when trying to “reach for the stars”
I think #girlboss is one of the worst things to happen to us in the recent years. This notion that we should be doing everything and anything and never stop is ridiculous. At the end of the day, we can’t just jump into a profession and start comparing ourselves to the rest of the flock.
This is what often happens to fashion bloggers. There’s always someone bigger, better and with more fame and experience under their belt. Those people usually have teams.
In the meantime, we set grandiose goals and start expecting more of ourselves. This “excessive ambition” leads us to compulsions and doing tasks even when we can’t afford the time or spare the capacity.
Step Three: When’s the last time you’ve eaten or had fun?
It’s common to start neglecting needs in the first stages of burnout. You’ll start forgetting to eat as you obsessively focus on tasks. Fun time will seem frivolous and you’ll never have time for it as the work consumes you.
Step Four: Pay attention to your mood
You’ll start snapping. Just saying’.
Step Five: Things are now starting to look bleak and the task list is never-ending.
Ok this is like…the end. You need to come to grips with things and WALK THE F AWAY FROM THE SCREEN. I know you’re in denial right now. That’s one of the symptoms. You’re in denial. Stop. I know you want a drink right now. You’re starting to feel like nothing more than a mechanical being and you don’t even know why you’re doing this anymore!
Step Six: Your Toast is Burnt
You’re overworked and overdone. You’re probably depressed by now and nothing brings you joy. Life doesn’t seem fun and happy anymore and you really don’t care about blogging. 🙁
Prevent The Burnout
Step 1: Set work time boundaries
This one’s easier said than done, but it’s very necessary. Write down how much time each task on your to-do list takes, and then schedule it in your calendar while leaving breaks. If you find it takes more time, simply move it over to day two. Have a consistent time when your work day is over, like in any “normal” job. Also, plan a vacation! Just plan more vacations. They don’t have to be extravagant, but do a getaway once in a while
Step 2: Incorporate stress reduction techniques into your day
Whether it’s yoga, a fitness class or meditation, its important to have some stress-reducing activity in your day. There are plenty of apps to help with that. You need to take “you” time very seriously.
Step 3: Identify what overworks you
Now offload it or change how you deal with the task. If needed, reorganize and reprioritize that task’s importance in your life.
Step 4: Keep track of your daily achievements
Keeping a journal or a log of things you achieved that day will help you keep focused and inspired. You’ll notice that you’re actually making progress and you’re not just a hamster spinning the wheel.