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Contrary to popular belief, freelancers work hard.
Sure, we may never get out of our pajamas. And we’re often found doing anything but working in the middle of the day — perhaps working out at the gym, attending a child’s school event, or shopping.
But that’s only because we’ve been up working when everyone else was asleep. And, while our employed contemporaries are commuting to work, we’re actually getting most of our work done. Plus, we’re often found working even on holidays and weekends.
No wonder freelancers can be prone to burnout.
What’s Burnout Anyway?
The simplest way to put it is this: Burnout is exhaustion.
In your body. In your mind. In your emotions.
It’s a state of always being tired. Of working. Of breathing. Of daily life.
It’s feeling like what the name says, “burnt out.” You feel like an ember that’s got nothing more to give. The flame is dying inside you.
Are You Burnt Out?
Let’s break down what being tired possibly looks like, to see if you’re experiencing freelancer burnout.
- tired all the time – heck, you wake up tired
- no energy – not even to go get a cup of coffee
- frequent aches and pains – constant headaches, backaches and unexplained muscle pain (meaning, your muscles hurt even if you haven’t been working out at all)
- frequent infections – you always have a cold or tummy troubles
- changes in appetite – either you’re suddenly eating more than you ever did before, or you don’t have any appetite at all when you used to be a hefty eater
- changes in sleeping – can’t sleep straight through the night anymore, or suddenly sleeping a lot more than you used to (and you’re not pregnant)
- inability to concentrate – you’ve become unable to comprehend a paragraph without reading it over and over again
- mental fatigue or fog – the days seem to blur together, you can’t get a handle on things
- forgetfulness – you’re always misplacing things or forgetting appointments
- defeated attitude – you feel like a failure, even when you actually accomplish goals
- hopeless, helpless – you don’t see things getting better in the future
- detached, alone – you feel like nobody understands you
- unmotivated – nothing’s exciting or interesting anymore
- dissatisfied – nothing gives you pleasure or satisfaction
The symptoms described above can lead you to adopt the following behaviors:
- procrastinating on work – putting things off and missing deadlines
- lashing out on others – snapping at innocent children and old ladies who happen to drive too slowly
- isolation – you’ve stopped socializing with friends and family
- turning to food, drugs, alcohol to cope
What If You Are Burnt Out?
What if some or most of the symptoms above apply to you?
I guess that means it’s pretty clear you’re burnt out, baby!
Even though it may feel like things are hopeless right now, they aren’t. You can overcome burnout.
Let me keep things simple by summarizing what everyone else says into one word: REST.
Since burnout is exhaustion then the antidote is rest.
Rest your body. Rest your mind. Rest your soul.
- Get enough sleep.
- Go back to exercising.
- Stop working so darn much.
- Got hobbies? Do them again.
- Discover a new hobby.
- Eat right.
- Meditate, if that’s your thing.
- Talk to people who make you feel good about yourself.
- Rethink your goals. Maybe the ones you set aren’t what you really want.
- Watch a funny movie.
- Get outdoors when it’s warm.
- Get some sun (North Americans are too afraid of the sun!)
- Take up something totally new. And totally silly. Like ballroom dancing.
And if nothing you do seems to make things better, get some help. Talk to your family doctor. Talk to your pastor. Okay, talk to your therapist if you have one. You don’t have to go it alone.
Freelancing burnout will affect the amount of work you get done, the quality of your work, and your happiness. Don’t take it lightly. And don’t ignore it.
Have you ever experienced burnout before? How did you overcome it?
Share your tips in the comments below, and help another freelancer out. Thank you!
photo credit: melanieburger