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Sink or Swim: How to Deal with a Wave of Creative Burnout

By Vivian Gao, Creative Director, Spring 2021


We tend to show our successes and hide our failures, but let’s be honest here: burnout happens to everyone at one point or another. Sometimes it’s easy to overcome, other times, it hits you like an iceberg, and you sink lower into the abyss.

Don’t lose hope yet – just keep swimming. If that wave of creative burnout does hit you, here are some tips and tricks you can use to work through it.

Find the Root of the Problem.

Is there a certain reason why you’re feeling this way? Is your workload getting too much? Are you under too much pressure? Are you not feeling inspired anymore?

Dive in and ask yourself these questions. Once you find the problem, you can start looking for a solution. Maybe it’ll help to just dump all your thoughts and worries into a journal or a sketchbook, or maybe you can talk it out with a friend. Whatever you’re feeling, don’t be afraid to express it.


There’s No Shame in Failing.

For designers, the strongest critic is often ourselves. We take pride as creatives – it’s who we are, yet we think that if we cannot produce work that is up-to-par, we are failing. It can cause our self-confidence to diminish.


It’s not the end of the world. Change your perspective. Instead of moving forward, take a couple steps back. Don’t force yourself to produce something daily. Sometimes all you need is a break. Perhaps you’ve overworked your creative muscles and need to give them a rest. Use that time for some self-care or to hunt for some inspiration.

Stop putting yourself down because that negativity can manifest itself into a black hole and cloud your judgment. Look for that light at the end of the tunnel.


Bring Back that Newcomer Mindset.

Remember why you started. Reignite your passion by looking at your past work. Reminisce on your accomplishments and find some pick-me-ups when you’re down-in-the-dumps. Once you focus on all the positives, that initial drive and sense of purpose you had can be easier to find.


There won’t always be a life raft handy to save you when you sink, so it’s important that you learn how to swim. Better yet, learn how to surf, so you can ride that burnout wave all the way back to shore.

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