What is Burnout, and How Can I Prevent It? | Dear Devlin

Dear Devlin.

First of all, I wanted to say thanks for writing these articles. I feel like of all the people in the UK running workshops, you are the most supportive one. I’ve read all of the previous questions and found that the advice was sound, so now I hope that you can help me. Here’s my question. What is burnout and how can I prevent it?

It’s been a rollercoaster for me like I’m sure it has for everyone these last few years. I was really hoping that this was the year for both recovery and rejuvenation in my business but as we’ve now passed the halfway point, I’m running out of hope.

I am far below my target for this year and bookings for next year are pathetic, yet I feel like I’m working nonstop trying to keep up with editing and showing up on social media. I haven’t blogged in months and I haven’t had a decent enquiry for weeks now. (yes I know these two things are probably related)

Each week, I start out feeling like I am going to turn things around but by midway through the week, I am back to being exhausted and overwhelmed. I am worried that I am beyond help but if you have any words of wisdom for me, please let me know.

Burnt Out From Bromley

Image of a female model inspired by David Bowie. Just her head is visible and she is leaning backwards on a yellow background. It is illustrating and article on What Is Burnout.

Hi there Burnt Out From Bromley,

Thank you for your super kind words, and I’m glad you’ve found the advice in my articles helpful. I understand the challenges you’re facing, and I’m here to help. First of all, please know that you are far from the only one. There are many photographers feeling exactly the same as you and others that have already given up and sold their kit.

Let’s start by addressing your question about burnout – it has always been a very real issue in our industry but especially so in post-pandemic times.

What Is Burnout?

Burnout can be defined as a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by prolonged stress, often resulting from work-related pressures. If you feel overwhelmed on a daily basis, you are burning out.

Here are some other signs that you may be experiencing it:

  • Exhaustion: Feeling constantly tired, both physically and emotionally, regardless of how much rest you get.
  • Lack of Motivation: Losing interest or motivation in your work and feeling detached from the joy and satisfaction it once brought you.
  • Decreased Productivity: Experiencing a decline in your ability to focus, concentrate, and be productive.
  • Emotional Strain: Feeling irritable, frustrated, or cynical about your work.
  • Neglected Self-Care: Neglecting your own well-being, such as poor sleep, unhealthy eating habits, or lack of exercise.
  • Detachment: Withdrawing socially, both personally and professionally, and feeling a sense of isolation.
  • Increased Negativity: Adopting a negative outlook towards your business, feeling hopeless, or doubting your abilities.

I recently read an article on Creative Burnout in particular. Because being an artist-entrepreneur means that your passion is your work, it’s sometimes hard to switch off. There is a state of mental and emotional exhaustion that uniquely affects artists and creators, hindering their ability to generate new ideas and leading to a lack of inspiration, motivation, and enjoyment in the work.

Image of a model inspired by David Bowie. It is shot through a prism so that her appearance is fractured and it is on a yellow background. It is illustrating and article on What Is Burnout.

How To Prevent Burnout as a Wedding Photographer

To prevent reaching the point of total burnout, I suggest giving yourself an intervention.

  • Prioritise Self-Care: Take care of your physical and mental well-being. Prioritise sufficient sleep, exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, and make time for activities that rejuvenate you. I know this is easy to say but bodies are like cars – they run better when they are maintained and have been fueled up.
  • Set Boundaries: Establish clear lines between work and personal life. Create designated time for relaxation, spending time with your loved ones, and doing the things that you enjoy away from work. I try to ensure that I still have two complete days off a week.
  • Delegate and Outsource: If possible, delegate tasks that are not your strengths or that can be handled by others. Consider outsourcing certain aspects of your business, such as editing or social media management, to alleviate your workload. Doing this was one of my best business decisions ever.
  • Revise Your Workflow: Assess your current workflow and identify areas where you can streamline processes, improve efficiency, and reduce unnecessary tasks. There’s so much help around now, invest in yourself and use it.
  • Seek Support: Reach out to fellow photographers or join supportive communities (like our Facebook Group) to connect with others who understand your challenges. Sharing experiences, advice, and support can make a difference.
  • Take Breaks and Holidays: Schedule regular breaks – even just 10 minutes in your local park can boost your Vitamin D, sit in your garden, or do anything to just get away from your screens when you can. Also, make plans for holidays when you do have time for them. Picturing myself with a gelato in hand, somewhere nice sure does disconnect me from work-related stressors.
  • Reflect and Realign: Take some time to reflect on your business goals and strategies. Consider whether adjustments or changes are needed, such as updating your portfolio, refreshing your marketing approach, or targeting different clients. If you need help with all of this, maybe it’s time to join my Mentoring Programme where we can really dig into what is leading to the overwhelm.
  • Seek Inspiration: Explore sources of inspiration outside of your social media. Engage in creative activities, explore different art forms, or attend workshops and conferences to rejuvenate your creativity.

Burnout is a real concern, but implementing at least some of these strategies can help you regain balance, prevent getting to the point of total burnout, and revive your enthusiasm for your photography business.

I hope these suggestions provide you with some guidance and support during this challenging time. If you have any further questions or concerns, feel free to come back to me.