Are you feeling burnt out or uninspired with your work? Are you on the verge of wanting to quit? That’s a super common issue with those of us who own creative businesses, especially when it requires serving other people. With the fall season quickly approaching, I thought it would be a good time to discuss not only how to prevent burnt out, but how to recover from it. If you’re already experiencing it, even just a tiny bit, it’s going to become amplified as you take on more work. As family photographers we’re generally the most busy in the fall season. So, before it escalates, take a little break. Now, before you implode, let’s dive into how to take a break without losing momentum.
So how do you know you’re experiencing burnout? Do the things that once fueled your creativity feel draining? Now you may feel bored, a lack of creativity, or no desire to improve your images. You may feel cynical, like you’ll never improve, and you’re going to be stuck where you are forever. You may have no sense of productivity. The harder you feel like you’re trying with the less progress you’re making, you may feel like you’re spinning your wheels and that you’re getting nowhere. Here’s the five alarm for me. You’re mentally and physically exhausted. This is more than just feeling tired.
One day it’s being exhausted day in and day out without reprieve; even the smallest of tasks can feel overwhelming. During this exhaustion, you may even have a weakened immune system. From the Mayo clinic website, it says “cortisol, the primary stress hormone increases glucose in the bloodstream enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substance that repair tissues, cortisol also curbs functions that would be non-essential or harmful in a fight or flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and the growth processes.” This means that stress can literally affect your body from head to toe.
The physical health of your body and the mental health of your body are directly related. You might start to feel signs of burnout gradually over time or all at once. Like you don’t know where it came from, just outta the blue.
So why should you take a break? Just like your camera you need to recharge your batteries. A break gives you a chance to reflect on your why. As a photographer, ask God to guide you to his purpose and I guarantee you, it will be greater than yours. You can get clarity in your direction without the noise of everything else that you have to do in your business. When you take a break, you’ll prevent bigger burnout later by taking smaller breaks, sooner. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
A few things I do to help prevent a large burnout for my health is:
Now, to clarify on the whole foods being a priority, this doesn’t mean I only eat whole foods. I love pizza and tacos just as much the next person, but I try to make it my number one priority whenever I’m planning my meals. I know that this is really hard and a lot of people struggle with their diets, but I just feel like this is a really important topic that gets overlooked. Whenever you’re thinking about stress, you don’t really think about your physical health impacting your mental health and how stressed you are. So if you make this a priority and you take care of yourself, your health and your body first; you’re gonna be less likely to have a burnout as well.
Have you ever felt really stressed out and you just took a little walk and then immediately felt better. There’s something about being in nature that really, really connects you and just helps you reduce your stress in my business.
I automate my booking and my pre-session emails. If there’s a task that I repeat frequently; I automate it. Invoices, client prep, guides, client style guides, session reminders, everything is automated. I also have a booking calendar. This helps eliminate the back and forth of what dates we are both available. Essentially, I can be totally hands off for the client communication until the session starts, unless an additional question pops up and then I’ll answer it. I try not to shoot on Sundays so I can have one day a week to spend exclusively with my family without distraction guys, even God rested on the seventh day.
So it’s okay if we take a break! I like to delete my social media over the weekends, usually a Friday afternoon to Monday morning, and it’s so refreshing and I come back Monday ready to rock and roll. It also frees up a lot of extra time, rather than sitting down to scroll on social media and getting stuck there for 30 minutes or more I can read, draw, play with the kids, or do some overdue laundry.
I also tend to leave my camera at home on vacations. I use my cell phone to capture moments of the kids and this just releases so much added pressure. In my mind, my camera is my job and unfortunately that means I don’t get as many pretty photos of my kids, but it really helps my mental state when we’re on vacation. Occasionally I’ll bring it, but I weigh the pros and the cons before I do. I also like to limit the time that I respond to emails.
When it comes to stopping work for the day, my goal is to not respond to emails after eight and I turn off my apps at 8:00 PM. On my iPhone, I like that you can set a screen time so that your apps will shut off. Along with emails, I don’t edit after 8:00 PM either. I’ve been putting habits and routines into place so that I don’t feel overwhelmed with everything else in my life.
I’ve been exploring ways to ease stress in my personal life as well. At night I’ll throw in a load of laundry into the dryer, I’ll run the dishwasher, I’ll pick up toys around the house and I’ll have the kids help us. I run the robo vacuum around 8:00 PM. Once everything’s cleaned up in the morning I listen to my Bible podcast while I make coffee, make breakfast for the kids, prep lunches, I’ll also unload the dishwasher, and fold the laundry that I dried the night before. I’ll throw a new load in the wash. Having a tidy house helps me focus a bit better and doing a little bit at a time keeps it from becoming overwhelming
I’ve been using Asana to organize my tasks. I think I’ll do an entire podcast episode on this because wow, the changes I’ve seen in my life are astronomical. I’m generally a type B kind of person. I’m very disorganized and if it’s not written down, it is not happening. So having Asana to kind of put systems and lists in my life has been so amazing. All of these things, just take for granted that during the summer, these routines are largely out of the window and I just kind of have to take what I can get where I can because during the day I’m on the mom grind.
That’s why I didn’t take very many sessions this summer so that I could focus on being a mom and not feel overwhelmed by everything else that I had to do. I’ll take a planned break between early December and mid-January after the big surge of fall, which is typically a lot busier than any other season. And I also took a light break earlier this summer. I didn’t fully take a break, but I limited the number of sessions that I took. So I still took newborn and maternity and I did a couple of mini sessions, but that was pretty much all I did at the end of the spring.
I was feeling really burnt out and just overwhelmed. Like I wasn’t spending enough time with my kids and I think we were all just kind of feeling the work that I was doing. So, I just took a break and it was really nice to not have to worry about anything other than getting kids to sports and just hanging out during the day. Then of course I had an ankle surgery, so I was definitely put in a timeout from shooting. I had about three solid weeks of no photos, which was kind of a forced break.
The break that I took at the beginning of summer, that was, that was God led. He told me he, he brought me to my knees one day and said, you need to stop and listen, just reflect on what you want to do and where you’re gonna go. And actually next week’s podcast is gonna be all about obedience. So we’ll go into that a little bit deeper.
How do you go about taking a break?
Step one, you’re gonna determine how long of a break you need. Do you need a short week? Or a longer break like a month, a whole summer, a season? Either is fine because it’s your business. You can do whatever you need to do.
Step two, batch whatever work you can ahead of time. If you’re taking a three month break, you’re probably not gonna be able to batch a lot of work ahead of time because that’s a lot of batching, but if it’s a week or a month, you could probably batch a whole lot. Before you go on that break you can:
Basically, make sure whatever you can automate is automated. If you want help automating your business, setting up a booking calendar or learning how to batch content, I can help you sign up for a one-on-one coaching call and we can get it done! You’re gonna be shocked at the time that you get back and how much responsibility is taken off of your plate. If you take a break from Instagram, won’t your engagement tank? Yes, yes it will. And that is okay. You don’t need to be a slave to the algorithm! Take the break and build the engagement back up again when you’re ready to come back. SEO on your website and Google business will serve you well during your break. They’re going to keep working for you even when you’re not working
Step three, outsource whatever you can. If you’re not good at something or you don’t enjoy it and you can afford to outsource it, do it. I outsource my Pinterest account, Google business and my blog, and I am so much happier for it.
Before you come back make a plan to take regular breaks to prevent further burnout. You can say no to the things that don’t fuel you. That is where picking a niche comes into play. Remember, the hustle is not glamorous. Staying up all night editing isn’t cool. Being so overworked that you’re doing nothing but photography is not the dream. Take the break.