How to deal with creative burnout

How to deal with creative burnout

By Kerry-anne Wright


Creative burnout can happen at any time and impacts both your personal and professional life. Kerry-anne Wright, from award-winning SEO agency, Reboot, gives tips on how to recognise the signs that something is up, how to deal with the main effects and how to regain your drive and creativity.  

The creative industry is one of the most exciting and rewarding fields to work in. It offers a chance to work on new ideas, innovate, be independent, and create things you’re truly proud of. But this near-constant need for creativity can lead to major blocks and even creative burnout. 

With studies showing that 42% of people experiencing burnout or imposter syndrome, it’s never been more important to know the signs of creative burnout, how to avoid it and how to deal with the effects if you’re already feeling it. 

What is creative burnout?

Creative burnout is a form of occupational stress that occurs when people push themselves too hard, causing them to become physically and mentally exhausted. The symptoms of creative burnout include fatigue, irritability and feelings of being overwhelmed or inadequate.

An illustration of a woman unravelling string from the top of a dissected, giant head

  Image by Rosy from Pixabay

Creative burnout isn't just for artists and writers. It can happen to anyone who works in the creative industries, from product designers to team managers.

Burnout can be caused by long hours, deadlines and unrealistic expectations — all common problems for people working in the creative industries. Worse than writer’s block, creative burnout can make you feel like you’ve been completely drained of all of your ideas and exhausted to the point where you feel like you’ll never have a spark of creativity again. 

Differences between creative blocks and burnout

Creative blocks are a common issue for people in all creative fields, from writing to artistry and music production. But there's a difference between creative blocks and burnout.

Creative block can be caused by a variety of factors: anxiety, stress, and even boredom. Whatever the source, it can result in feelings of frustration and despair when things don't go according to plan.

On the other hand, burnout is more severe. It's an actual physical condition that results from overworking or overextending yourself in your work or personal life — so much so that it impacts your health and well being.

How burnout kills creativity

A silhouette of a figure sat with head in knees

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay


It’s completely natural for your creativity to ebb and flow throughout your life. Sometimes, you can be bursting with innovative ideas or new ways to approach tasks, and other times nothing new comes to you. 

The problem lies when creativity is at the heart of your day-to-day job. And you’re expected to have these moments of inspiration during a normal working day. 

Burnout is a serious problem for many people in the creative professions. We all know it's bad for our health, but why does it hurt our work so much?

There are three main reasons why burnout kills creativity:

  1. The first is that burnout makes us less able to deal with the difficulties and challenges we face while doing our work. We become less resilient, less able to bounce back from setbacks and criticism, and more fragile in general.
  2. The second reason is that creative burnout isolates us socially — it can make us feel like our friends and colleagues don't understand what we're going through because they haven't been through it themselves (and even if they have been through it, they may not be able to relate). This isolation can make us feel like we're alone in our suffering, which only makes things worse.
  3. The third reason is that burnout makes us more likely to give up on projects or relationships that are important to us — either because we just don't care anymore or because we don't see any way out of the situation we're in.

Signs of creative burnout 

If you work in an office as part of a team, your boss might notice that you're not as productive as usual and ask if everything's OK. But if you work from home or on your own, it can be harder for others to notice when things start going wrong.

Signs of creative burnout include:

1. Lack of motivation

Perhaps the biggest indicator that you’re heading towards burnout is a lack of motivation to engage with the tasks or elements of your job that you once enjoyed. You find yourself putting off tasks and avoiding anything that requires creativity or effort.

2. Physical fatigue

Creative burnout doesn’t just affect your mental well being, it can also result in physical fatigue. The feeling of sluggishness and tiredness can engulf you as you head towards your creative limit.

3. Loss of interest in other areas of your life

Even if the source of your creative burnout is your job, it doesn’t mean you’ll just feel the effects while at work. You can start to lose interest in your hobbies, meeting up with friends, going out, or exercising — things you once enjoyed.

4. Dreading work

If you’re feeling tired, unmotivated, and anxious about your performance in your job then it makes sense that you would start dreading it. Creative burnout can take a role that you once loved and make it so you’re fearful of what the next day will bring.

5. Increased self-doubt 

When you have no problem with being innovative in your role in the creative industry, you can sometimes feel like you’re flying with your job, but when burnout hits the self-doubt can start to creep in. 

You could start telling yourself “I’m not good enough to do this”, “I’m an imposter at work” or even “I will lose my job soon”. 

How to avoid burnout as a creative worker

6 match sticks. % have been struck and burned down to various lengths.

Image by Thomas Ulrich from Pixabay


If you’re not quite at the stage of creative burnout, but want to avoid it (for obvious reasons), then try following these steps:

Take a break from work

If you’re feeling like you’re approaching your limit then one of the most effective ways to avoid creative burnout is to take a break. You might not be able to take extended time off, but even an hour or two away from your computer can help you clear your head, recharge, and refocus when you return to work.


Exercise is often prescribed to help with all manner of things. But it’s for a good reason. Exercising releases endorphins that make us happier and more energised all throughout the day — not just the hour afterwards! A brisk walk outside of your office, time taken for yourself in the morning to do a few stretches, or following a routine on YouTube can help towards avoiding burnout. 


Meditation helps us focus our attention on one thing at a time and ignore distractions — just like we need to do when we work on creative projects! The more skilled we are at

meditation, the more focused our minds become over time. It also gives you a getaway from your current worries and helps to clear your mind of the things worrying you. 

Know your limitations 

Knowing when to say no can be key to not getting burnt out. If you already have a heaping of creative projects on your plate and your boss asks you to add another, it’s best to have a frank conversation about your workload and explain that to do every project justice you need some breathing space. 

How to deal with the effects of creative burnout

Take some time off

Perhaps the most obvious, and most effective, way of overcoming creative burnout is to take some time off work. More than just a break, getting yourself away from the subject of the burnout will allow you to reconnect with the things you enjoy and find practical ways to support your mental health

Find fulfilment outside of work

This can be difficult when you’re in the depths of a creative burnout, but having hobbies and ways to feel fulfilled outside of work can help to take the pressure of having to rely on professional feedback for your self-worth. 

Get enough sleep

Sleep deprivation can lead to fatigue and anxiety, which will negatively affect your creativity and productivity. Try getting seven or eight hours of sleep every night and make sure you remove distractions from your bedroom so it's easier to fall asleep quickly after lights out.

Try a different creative outlet

Having a creative job doesn’t mean that should be your only outlet for creativity. If you work as a graphic designer, why not try a spot of writing in your spare time? If you’re a writer, you may find comfort in painting in your spare time. 

The ability to be creative without any time constraints or guidelines could be just what you need. 

Now you know the signs of creative burnout, how to avoid it and ways to overcome it, you can make sure you’re prepared if ever the feeling does hit.

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Kerry-anne Wright




Resource type: Articles | Published: 2023