Blake Michael is an entrepreneur, creator and Chief Evangelist at Lumanu, the company simplifying business for the creator economy.
Burnout can happen to anyone, including creators. There’s a misconception that burnout is a passing phase and that it only affects those who are working too hard or not taking enough breaks. But burnout is a real condition that can affect creators just as much as people in any other kind of job, even though most people don’t know about it until they experience symptoms themselves.
Creators have been fighting hard to make sure their voices are heard in all facets of life, from politics to entertainment and beyond, but we need to start talking about mental health in the same way. It’s time for us all—especially creators—to stand together against the silent killers: burnout, depression and anxiety disorders.
Creators experience burnout from wearing so many hats.
The title of “creator” is deceptively succinct and intentionally vague. Creators do a wide variety of jobs and wear many hats in the process of creating content. Whereas corporations have entire departments dedicated to social media content creation and monitoring, creators often do this work all on their own.
Creators do market research and analyze insights to brainstorm content targeted to their audience. They’re photographers and videographers, capturing the visual assets themselves. They’re editors, precisely splicing together clips to execute their creative vision. They’re writers, creating the perfect caption to engage their audience and elicit a response. Creators are producers, designers, business managers and bookkeepers, and the list goes on.
The constant grind of coming up with new video and content concepts, managing brand deals, engaging with your audience and staying on top of the latest trends is more than a full-time job. If you’re not careful to create boundaries, manage your time and schedule relaxation, you can fall victim to burnout—an issue that negatively affects both the creator and their followers.
Creators don’t have set work hours.
More than 90% of people use their phones at bedtime, with 80.5% of those using them for social media. Social media is one of the most common ways to unwind and enjoy your free time—but what do you do if social media is your job? This is the struggle that many creators endure and one that leads to burnout at an unparalleled rate.
Whereas the average person works set hours each day doing assigned tasks, creators essentially work for themselves. While this is an empowering opportunity, it also creates a blurry line between where—or, rather, when—work starts and stops.
The lack of defined hours and the seamless transition between work and play makes creating strict work boundaries difficult. It’s all too easy to get sucked into the work that you do, especially when you’re passionate about it, resulting in far longer than eight-hour workdays. While each day individually may not feel like a chore, the overexertion can quickly cause physical, mental and emotional side effects brought on by burnout.
Hard work for its own sake isn’t a noble or good thing.
I think it’s important to remember that, while we owe our fans as much as possible in terms of output, there’s nothing wrong with taking breaks when you feel overwhelmed by stressors in your life. Simply resting on something that works well enough already can allow you to recharge before tackling another project with renewed vigor later on down the road.
You should have time for things besides your job.
There’s pressure today among Millennials and Gen Z to monetize their hobbies. People, especially creators, are being encouraged to earn income from whatever creative endeavors they can. While there are many benefits to this, it can lead to pressure to overcommit and work almost relentlessly, turning every moment of free time into a work task.
Creators can be notoriously overcommitted, and when you’re working as hard as most of us do to keep up with the demands of your career, it’s easy to feel like there’s never enough time. But you know what? You don’t have to work all the time. In fact, it’s a good idea not to!
Let’s be clear: I’m not saying that creators should take their foot off the gas pedal. But we do need some time off from work—whether to take care of our bodies or just relax and recharge in general—in order for us to be able to produce our best work without burning out in the process.
There are steps you can take to prevent or treat burnout as a creator.
You may be thinking, “I’m doing fine! I get enough sleep, and I don’t have any problems with my mental health. I just want to work hard, create great content and make a living doing so.” But it’s possible that your work is getting in the way of enjoying other parts of life, which is never good for anyone’s mental health.
Here are some ways you can prevent burnout from happening and treat it if it does:
• Take care of yourself by taking breaks when needed and scheduling time for self-care activities each week (like exercising).
• Make sure you have time for hobbies and non-work responsibilities at least once per week. This will help keep your life balanced around all aspects—not just one passion or job title!
• Create designated work hours that give you a clear idea of when to be working and when to be off the clock. Those hours don’t have to be the traditional 9-to-5. Some do their best work in the afternoon, and others do their best work in the middle of the night. Just carve out a time when you know you’re the most inspired and productive, and save some hours of your day for “you time.”