Heed the Whispering Warnings of Creative Burn-Out

heed the warnings of creative burn-out | Marketing Creativity

I love to “cleanse” – that’s what I call taking a break from anything that might not be serving my best intentions. I frequently challenge myself to 30-day cleanses from Facebook, alcohol, drama, etc. Whenever I question something’s value in my life, I abstain from it. I even cleansed myself of food for three days at the start of the year. (Surprisingly, it was a wonderful experience … more on that in a minute.)

In the last month or so, I have become too attached to email. To keep the computers in the house off for a week sounds like a vacation in Fiji to me. To not have to answer and check and find out and check and send a message and check … In other words, to just be in my quiet home with the day ahead of me sounds as peaceful and inviting as warm white sands and crystal clear waters.

Burn-out. Even with four-hour workdays, it caught up with me. I felt it at the end of February, and I knew I should take some time to unplug and recharge.

Digital burn-out

I refused to heed burnout’s whispers of warning; I didn’t listen. In all honesty, I thought I had outsmarted the system with my four-hour workdays. I thought I’d tapped into an unlimited flow of creative energy simply because I was working less.

Even though I recognized the symptoms of burn-out last month, there was very little to be done about it. In fact, I flat-out lied to myself and scheduled a week-long digital cleanse at the end of March – a promise I knew I could not keep before I penned it into my planner.

The spring session of Build a Better Creative Business launched on March 10, and because of the customer service and coursework, a digital break is way off on the horizon for me. The fact that I needed a break and couldn’t find a real space for it killed my productivity in March.

Furthermore, I don’t like to admit that I need a break from my amazing work-at-home career doing what I love. That sounds silly and selfish to me, yet it’s true.

I need time to be gentle with myself.

When I did that 3-day food cleanse I mentioned earlier, I was in a state of euphoria the whole time. Because I wasn’t going to eat food, my husband and I anticipated some moodiness and made arrangements for it. We have four children to think of, and neither of us wanted them to encounter my “hanger” (hungry anger). I’m prone to terrible hanger when I’m hungry!

During the cleanse, my mood shifted dramatically, but for the better! In fact, I’ve never been in such a consistent good mood for three days as I was during that master cleanse. A calm and gentle aura washed over my being, and rather than the children avoiding me, they were drawn to me. They’d come home from school, gather round and just sit near me. I’ve never gotten so many impromptu hugs and kisses! They found me very snuggly and irresistible, and I loved it.

When I started the master cleanse, I took inventory of my day … there was still work to be done and a family to take care of. I did the most important things first, and then as the day wore on and my energy dropped, I’d ease up. I’d sip my master cleanse concoction and play my favorite iPad game or nap. I napped a lot.

My goal for all three days was simply to complete the master cleanse. I considered anything beyond that (work, tasks and chores) an amazing accomplishment, and I was still getting a lot done. I was proud of myself and gentle on the expectations. I nurtured myself, and isn’t it neat that my self-care made my children feel such a loving connection with me? I think so.

My inner-gentleness cast a spell on everyone around me.

A creative career is demanding.

Yes, I’m typing to you in my pajamas under a blanket on my couch with a cup of decaf vanilla chai tea beside me (pictured above). The irony is not lost on me. But, I’ll say it again: a creative career is demanding.

I make it all up as I go along! I don’t know where next month’s paycheck is going to come from; I’ll figure it out next month. I don’t know what’s going to sell or what’s going to fail.  I don’t know if I’ll get paid for the forty hours I’ve already invested into my next project. It could be all for naught.

I’m always creating my next move, and my inner-dialogue sometimes feels as frantic and high-pressure as a stock exchange trading floor. My family comes home from work and school, and sometimes I’m present, but other times I’m still mentally lost in the frenzy.

You know they feel that, don’t you? They know when you’re present, and they know when you’re more focused on what’s behind your eyes than what’s in front of them.

A digital cleanse helps clear the frenzy away. It helps me to be present. I instantly release all of my made-up demands; I let gentleness wash over me. But sadly, I didn’t listen to burn-out’s whispers of warning.

When I didn’t take the break, the break took me. I got the flu. Boo. I got the flu, boo. That’s simply not the same as a vacation. Wish I’d listened.

Is burn-out whispering at you?


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  • Lisa! I love your words…especially “they know when you’re more focused on what’s behind your eyes than what’s in front of them.” I couldn’t agree with that statement more! My husband (and even dogs) always know when I’m in my head and not really listening…It makes me sad. Why do we do this? You’ve inspired me to NOT pick up my phone in the evenings when it’s “family time”. Thank you!

  • Thank you for writing this. Since fall I have been in burn out mode and just pushing through it. A break is overdue and I’m going to take it. Your article really hit home.

  • Yep, burnout hit me, too! Lisa, you know me from the fall BaBBC, and you know I was just starting out with a few pillowcases and a grand idea and absolutely no idea what I was getting into! Since then I’ve set up shop on Etsy, started a blog (which I’ll be converting to a website soon), a mailing list, and umpteen other things associated with an online creative business. And I’ve loved every minute of it. But alas, I also teach full time and was spending literally every minute that I wasn’t sleeping working on Joyful Linens. After the week end of figuring out how to set up a mailing list and a few other “can’t wait” tasks, I crashed. I’m nowhere near where I need to be to make this business successful and the list of things I need to do is just as long, but I’ve realized that I have to rest sometime, I can’t work 24/7. And like you, I really need to get away from this danged computer and find some balance in my life. I’ve decided to stop being so hard on myself and look more frequently at the list of all the things I’ve accomplished instead of focusing entirely on the list of what still needs to be done. And I’m more accepting of the fact that this is a process, especially because I have to learn every bit of it from scratch. Your post here is like a breath of fresh air for me. (By the way, I can’t figure out why one of my pillowcases is listed below this comment; yet another example of all I have to learn!)

  • I loved this post. I have been struggling with this same thing-especially the “being present” part. I am working on streamlining my work in such a way that my kids (especially) will not be so affected, and don’t start to hate the smartphone. :-/

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