I vividly remember the morning this year that I woke up and I said out loud “I don’t think I want to be a photographer anymore. I think I should be done and do ___.“ Saying those words out loud terrified me and confused a lot of people. But I felt defeated, heard by few, misunderstood by many. Ultimately, I was burnt out.
It took months of being honest with myself and wrestling with my mind. Reflecting and asking the hard questions. What is my worth. Why did I start. The world is so much bigger. I have a heck of a lot to offer. Do the things that I do truly serve other people best?
I experienced a level of anxiety like I’ve never had before and my doctor, during a wellness checkup, suggested medication and therapy as answer without truly understanding my situation. I don’t think that’s the only way to truly heal or grow or overcome. Thankfully, I’m in a much better place now. But it took a lot of work. It took a lot of learning what self-love truly is, re-patterning my thought process, saying no and stepping back, trusting myself, speaking and reading truth, a lot of prayer, and a few other things that you might not expect.
Below are a few ways that helped me get through my season of burnout:
1: Take yourself out on dates alone
As an entrepreneur, you give so much of yourself to serving others, answering to others, putting yourself out there in front of others, and it’s really easy to feel like you aren’t yourself anymore. Being deliberate and taking the time to be alone at a restaurant to think and recharge was something that I did probably once a week. This is when I could get real with myself, work through the hard questions, and also treat myself to the self-care I needed.
2: Go out and talk to people outside of the industry that you’re in or who have changed their careers in a similar fashion
When I was in the season of life, the only way that I knew how to cope with this was by going to people and asking them about their stories and hearing their thought process. I asked about how they reached the point where they realize that they needed to take a step back and how they were able to work through it themselves. I think that approaching it this way, rather than trying to share my of the story helped me understand my own thoughts and convictions about what I should do, better.
From there, talk to those who know you best and who’ve seen you in different phases of life over the years. They will be able to tell you if you are acting out of character, and truly see and understand you. They have your best interest at heart.
3: Spend your time doing something else
I needed a way to do something with my time that wasn’t related to my business, while also feeding my desire to use my hands and be creative. For me, this meant going back to the piano and playing, picking up a pencil to draw and sketch, and going as far to update my resume and apply for other jobs for the sake of it.
The last thing might sound a little strange, but being able to devote my time and my energy to feeling like I was pursuing something else was the thing that I needed to do to realize that perhaps it’s not my time yet.
4: Be thankful for the bills + realize that no time or money is ever truly wasted
For me personally, one of the hardest things I have always had to work through and one of the biggest things that I dislike is the feeling of wasting time and wasting money.
In my case, one of the biggest stressors of this season was due to me feeling like I was not producing enough. It can be scary because as an entrepreneur and as a student in business. You’re taught that a lot of businesses go out of business within the first five years due to declaring bankruptcy and other financial issues.
I had to actively work on realizing that bills are a blessing, and that expenses are not necessarily my downfall. I had to realize that my ability to have expenses associated with my business means that I am making money, and it also means that I am fortunate enough to have the money to pay them. The investments that I’ve made over this last year, while perhaps not reimbursed by new clients, are such a small amount to pay in terms of my entire lifespan. Even if I decided to take a step back, I could say that I had a business that was successful.
In these dark months, I thought that if I were to take a step back, that I would’ve wasted the last five years of my life pursuing something that would mean nothing.
I had to retrain my thoughts and realize that I have a lot to offer, and a lot to give, and I am good at what I do. I had to really preach to myself that I am valuable, and that I am capable, and that if this chapter were to close that it wouldn’t mean that I’m a failure or that I would lose my identity but rather, it would mean that my path is just different from what it once was and that my direction would be to serve a greater purpose than I thought possible.
When your heart and mind are in other places, it’s best to outsource the little tasks so that you can focus on yourself and your own wellbeing and healing. If you’re burnt out, you need less time being attached to your business! Even outsourcing little things like e-mails or editing serves you so well.
6: Practice Generosity + Gratitude
In a season of life where I felt like I was lacking and not myself, I made it a point to combat that and try and be as generous as possible and focus on others. With my time, with my resources, and with my love. I made it a point to focus on the little things to be grateful for, down to the tiniest of details- if the person at the restaurant got my order correct, if the birds were singing, if there was sunlight streamlining into my room…it’s the little things.
Not only was this the way to take the focus off of myself + my situation and serve others, but it was also one of the biggest ways for me to realize that life is so much bigger and they’re so much joy even when it can be super confusing and discouraging.
I went out of my way to serve my family better and help at church. I made time investing in my friendships that I had. I said no to the things that drained me and stopped doing projects and work that I wasn’t excited about.
In a season where I did not feel like I was personally abundant, I had to practice abundance and realize that there is always enough, and that I have enough. I had to practice gratitude
7: Place your emotional and spiritual health first, above all else
I feel like there should be something that should be a no-brainer, but it was definitely something that fell to the wayside for me when the pressure came. I was not actively taking steps to preach truth to myself and pray often because I felt like I had to put my business first.
Here’s the thing: the emails can wait until tomorrow, and you’ll still be able to serve your clients well. You’ll Still be able to meet the deadlines that are upon you. If you don’t place these in the highest priority then not only will your business suffer but so will your relationships with your friends and your loved ones.
You need to be reading and dwelling on truth (like, that you are good at what you do) – going over them in your mind and re-shaping your thought patterns. Pray more than you work and give yourself grace for this season you’re in.
Headshot provided by: Eve Yarbrough