• Health

3 symptoms of freelance burnout

Has your work become a bit of a slog? Maybe that project has lost its savor or you just can’t seem to focus!

It’s normal to and ups-and-downs, and even minor ruts now and then, but what you really have to watch out for is freelance burn out.

Freelancers are more vulnerable to burn out because - you guessed it - we tend to work all the time! Many of us can’t tell where work ends and life begins, and that overlap is part of what makes freelancing great, but sometimes, it can go too far.

Check out these three signs of impending burnout… and if they sound familiar, consider taking action:

Blocked mental routes

A little bit of mental resistance and reluctance is normal. You will inevitably run up against challenges and difficult tasks in any line of work.

Inspiration, in particular, can be a tricky fish to catch; it’s perfectly reasonable to spend inordinate amounts of time staring blankly at walls.

But if MOST aspects of your formerly-lovely workflow are suddenly daunting, highly dread-able obstacles, let me suggest that the common factor is you.

If you constantly find yourself dreading minor tasks like emailing, making calls, or even sitting at your desk… chances are you need a break.

Odds are that these things have not suddenly become terrible overnight. Your overtired brain is rebelling.

Before you set fire to all of your work-related equipment, consider taking time to disconnect entirely and recharge.

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Physical symptoms

It can be easy to completely disconnect from our body’s signals, or power through trouble physical symptoms, in an effort to “stay strong.”

But our bodies are highly-evolved machines, which sometimes malfunction in order to tell us that something is wrong.

If you find yourself suffering chronic physical symptoms of distress, pay attention. Your body may be SCREAMING for a break.

An extremely informal and unscientific survey of freelance friends suggests that common physical symptoms of burnout include: extreme back pain, stomach upset, stress headaches, nausea, dizzy spells, absolute fatigue, etc.

Don’t ignore your body. It’s the only one you’ve got!

If you’ve eliminated illness as a possibility and are still evincing signs of burnout – particularly when associated with work – it’s time to make a workflow adjustment.

Extreme passivity / procrastination

Again, some level of procrastination is normal! I myself can become downright listless when contemplating a completely new project.

But if every task seems pointless and hollow, if you’re finding very little fulfillment in your work, if you feel actively drained most of the time… you’re probably struggling with minor burnout, at least.

The problem with this kind of hollowness is that it can easily build and grow, infecting other aspects of your life.

Work, for many of us, is what we spend the majority of our waking time doing; if it constantly feels pointless and arbitrary, it can undermine our energy in our personal lives.

Pushing through minor burnout can all-too-easily lead to major burnout down the road; instead, it’s important to step away from the stressor for a bit.

If this list seems all-too-familiar, consider taking some time off from your freelance work; it doesn’t have to be a long break!

Often, even an unplugged day or weekend off can help. Even building in breaks during your regular working hours can fend off burnout.

In next week’s post, I’ll address what to DO about burnout… and how to tell if it’s symptomatic of a bigger issue.

Kate Hamill lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.