Tackling Depression, Burnout, and Overwhelm as a Creative Entrepreneur

Let’s take a minute to talk about depression and overwhelm as a business owner. It’s something always looming in the distance, especially when the projects pile up and the cash flow stops. Sometimes I don’t get paid until a project is finished (yes I collect a deposit), and when all the projects on your plate somehow line up in such a way that you’re working and working and working but not seeing any revenue, it’s hard. It’s easy to say that it all comes down to better planning, but sometimes life just happens. And you have to deal with it. ⠀

Here’s a few things I do to help tackle burnout and overwhelm:

Starting my days slow – I’m lucky to live the life I have…I never wake up earlier than 9am, I usually don’t start my work day till noon, but I still work long days (and often evenings) in my office, thriving on the idea that if I can help at least one other person reach their goals and pursue their dreams in the same way I’m able to, then I’m doing it right. Sometimes it’s the only way to calm the chaos. “Abundance without busy, happiness without hustle”- words crafted by the glorious Beth Kirby but a motto I live by every day.

Breaking things down into small, manageable tasks – I have an ongoing to-do list for each client I’m currently working with. Midway through the day, and then again at the end of the day, I revisit that list and cross off what I’ve completed and add the next few items I still need to tackle. When the overwhelm hits, rather than run away from my computer or distract myself with Facebook, I refer to that list and usually get back on track within a few minutes. ⠀

Celebrating my wins – In 2013 when I booked my first wedding (yes, I started my entrepreneurial journey as a wedding photographer) I celebrated by buying myself an expensive handbag. Probably a little more than I should have spent, but I felt satisfied, accomplished, and like I had finally taken a step in the right direction towards the life I wanted (the handbag was also part of that vision, haha.) I booked three more weddings that year, and I celebrated each of those. Slightly smaller victories (and purchases), but I still made a point to pat myself on the back each time. Somewhere along the way I stopped celebrating. My wins started feeling less like accomplishments and more like a burden – more work, more responsibility, and more overwhelm. Recently I’ve started treating myself when I book a big project. Yes, a glass of wine or an expensive meal is nice, but when the overwhelm comes back, having something tangible that I can pick up and look at reminds me of the time I’ve put in and the joy that hard work can bring me.

Take a break – Stepping away when I need to. Eating lunch. Watering the garden. Switching the laundry. I’m not saying go to the mall and go shopping for the afternoon…but doing a simple 5-10 minute task that distracts my mind will often help me reset.

Eating a low sugar, high protein breakfast (on days when I’m working) – I know this sounds silly, but I picked up this tip from another business owner on Instagram. As soon as I tried it, I saw a huge difference. After keeping it up for about a month I went out for breakfast with a friend and had a crepe filled with sugar (we’re talking chocolate, peanut butter syrup, etc). I was antsy, anxious, stressed, and could not focus for the rest of the day.

Cutting back on caffeine and alcohol – earlier this year I cut back on both by about 95% for an entire month, and every aspect of my life improved. We’re talking less stress, and better sleep, energy, focus, mood, motivation, etc. Your bank account will also thank you.

Treating myself with kindness – not every day is going to be perfect. Some days I still don’t change out of my pajamas (today I even changed OUT of pajamas and back INTO them ten minutes later). But as long as you can look at the bigger picture, and not over analyze the day to day, you’ll see that you are moving in the right direction. Everyone’s pace and progress is different, and that’s something that should be celebrated, not criticized (especially when YOU are the one doing the criticizing). Would you talk to your friends that way?

How do you cope with depression, burnout, and overwhelm as a business owner? Asking for a friend…😉

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  1. […] from the stress, the anxiety, the overwhelm, and completely decompress (more on this can be found here). I’ve spent more time with my family, more time creating personal work, more time outdoors, […]

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