Traveling 12 times a year seems like fun, and looks like I’m on vacation all the time, but being a content creator, blogger and freelance marketeer specialized in tourism, and mainly working in the travel industry means that this is actually my job. And even though fun, it's also hard work.
I get that this may sound like a dream and it has actually been dream of mine for a long time, but it can be exhausting as well. Combining travel with work is quite hectic, you have to be flexible, improvise when things go wrong, like delays etc. You're commuting a lot, have to cope with time differences and prepare and organize everything well to be able to work from anywhere around the world.
Content creation drains
Also being a content creator means you are creative throughout the day, which I like, but costs a lot of energy and can be draining, especially with social media that goes on day and night!
I love to create content in the form of photography, styling and text, it takes focus, time and effort, but luckily comes quite naturally to me. That's why I started to turn this hobby into my job. But next to that I also have my own PR & Marketing agency since 3 years, which means that when I’m exploring a destination and am creating that travel content, I also have to answer a lot of e-mails, run other people’s social media accounts at the same time, and make sure I'm always reachable for my clients.
Oh yes, the struggle is real and often underestimated:) Don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining, but decided to write this blog not only for you, but moreover for myself because I needed it!
About to burn out
Lately I felt quite drained and noticed the following, which seemed strange to me, since everything in my life and business is actually running well and smoothly:
I often woke up tired without motivation to do anything at all.
I sometimes feel a bit depressed or have the urge to cry for no reason.
I feel pressured having to perform all the time, even though I'm my own boss and can set my own deadlines.
Things take longer than usual, and some days it feels like I hardly get anything done.
What I used to enjoy, feels less nice, or makes me feel even more tired.
During my last trips, in which I added a few days for holiday, I was hardly able to relax and enjoy my well-deserved rest.
Those things were troubling me and when I looked it up they seemed to be early burnout signs!
I know that some people think that a burnout is kind of a ‘luxury problem‘ or ‘society created overreaction’, but studies have proven that this truly is a serious physical problem!
It's literally defined as; 'exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation, usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.'
Freelancer burnout trap
Especially for freelancers, (fulltime (travel)) bloggers or content creators it's hard, because many people kind of look down on social media and think traveling and creating content as a job is always fun and perceive it as a hobby, so they don’t take it seriously.
And because you do what you love, it’s hard to restrain yourself, so you often keep going.
It is however essential to find a balance, because at some point your body is going to say no!
Also when you start creating content for others, it can become a harder task because you lose the drive that you had when creating for yourself. This can really reduce your motivation level for something you used to love doing.
I’ve always been a hard worker, I’m not one to complain easily, certainly not an oversensitive person, and am used to a lot of pressure from my past 20 years of professional working experiences at large companies!
But take in account character trades like mine, which are:
High-achieving, type A personality,
The need to be in control, which is impossible with social media which is totally unpredictable with changing algorithms all the time,
Reluctance to manage others, delegate or hire staff,
Along with being my own boss, with the insecurity of varying projects from month to month, without anyone limiting my working hours. And also a big passion for travel, creates a burnout waiting to happen:(
Therefore I decided to acknowledge this, take a few steps back, be more aware and listen to my body by taking this seriously.
Do you recognize yourself in the above signs too? Then I strongly advise you to do the same, stay conscious and take the right steps to prevent a burnout.
Early burnout signs
Unlike stress, with which you usually feel like you have too many responsibilities, burnout is a sense of being all dried up. And while you’re usually more aware of stress, you don’t always notice a burnout because it's a more gradual process. Even though the signs are more subtle at first, they will gradually worsen and creep up on you.
Therefore it’s essential to first become aware, here are few additional symptoms to help you recognize this;
Waking up drained and reluctant to get out of bed.
Feeling insecure, or like you're ‘alone in the world’.
Feeling down with loss of motivation.
Having a negative view on things or becoming more cynical.
It can feel like caring about what you used to love is now a waste of energy.
Thinking that nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated.
I also noticed that I’m getting a bit frustrated lately with the rat race of travel on social media. Feeling annoyed when I look at accounts of people posting the perfect travel pics and idealizing traveling all the time, proclaiming that you should give up everything to follow your dream to travel the world.
Contradictions & curated social media life
Sounds contra dictional coming from me? Especially when you look at my Instagram account with all those polished travel pics, quite hypocritical right?! But that’s exactly the struggle of social media.
What you see online is always only just a part of the story and person, and in general a very styled and edited part! For me especially because I use my @AuthenticChica account as a brand and therefore choose to only post those extra special pictures there, that relate to my travel lifestyle and website.
And unlike what you see on my travel account, I don't travel all the time, because I have my own company, without staff as well. That means I do a lot of consulting and social media management work for other companies and brands as a freelancer too, which goes on 24/7.
It’s also quite contra dictional to me, because I do what I love, made my hobby into my job, and am my own boss now. But because of that I lost the balance and the boundaries and limits have become unclear.
The most dangerous thing is that the unhappiness and detachment caused by a burnout can in the end threaten your job, your relationships, and your health. But by recognizing the earliest warning signs, you can still take steps to prevent it.
Tips to prevent a burnout
So how to get back on the road to a more balanced and happy life? I know the most annoying thing can be people trying to help by saying things like:
‘’Just don’t worry about it, or just do this or that!’’
But you do have to acknowledge the problem and do something about it! I’m currently still working on this myself, especially since my job involves so much social media activity for my own brand and my client’s.
Therefore I accumulated the following tips from psychology sites, health articles and my own experiences, which I hope can be helpful to you as well;
'Offline is the new luxury', take offline breaks more often, you can even set your phone’s alarm for this.
Go into nature, this truly is my happy place, and walking is proven to be therapeutic.
When I do I try to leave my phone at home more often or force myself not to take pics all the time when I see something pretty😊
Stop comparing with others and focus more on myself!
Don't go over my own limits, set more boundaries and say no more often!
Try to be more open and talk about my feelings with other people, confide in a close friend or a professional if needed.
Make enough time for socializing or relaxing, for me that means no work during the weekends or take at least 2 days in a row off per week.
Work out a few times a week, exercise has proven to be a powerful antidote.
Eat healthier, especially less sugar and unhealthy snacks or comfort food like pasta or french fries, as these high-carbohydrate foods quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy. I also take the needed vitamin supplements per season.
Start practicing yoga, meditation, and deep breathing techniques again, which can activate the body’s relaxation response.
Make sure to get enough sleep (at least 8 hours a night).
Travel less and slower, with longer periods at home in between.
I try to spend more time on my offline hobbies again, like painting, in which I can be creative as well, but provides a good contrast to my online creative job.
Broaden my horizons and consume content that’s in general not related to my discipline to stimulate my creative juices.
Take more time to reflect and think about my hopes, goals, and dreams.
I see it as an opportunity to rediscover what really makes me happy, but also heal and be happy with what I've achieved already, instead of thinking of what I still have to do!
Limit contact with negative people and eliminate the 'takers' in my network.
Try not to take on too many new responsibilities, ask for help from others, or collaborate if needed.
One step at a time, I make lists to organize when I’m doing what, write down my ideas, schedule them and cross them off day by day, week by week.
Become more aware of how much time certain things cost and respect it, that also means time on social media, editing and writing captions.
Don't scroll through my timeline unfocused and try to restrict myself to 3 hours a day on social media, you can put a limit on this, with a notice on your phone.
Put my phone away for a few hours in the evening after dinner until bedtime.
Try to limit my social media and online habits to 3 regular moments a day and make that a routine.
Watch the news and get out of my social media bubble to stay informed about what's going on in the world
Do fun things, and laugh a lot!
Meet up with 'regular friends' as well and don't post any IG stories of it, it's refreshing;)
I would certainly not say that I’m there yet, but I am aware and working on it!
If you’re experiencing the same, instead of ignoring it, or being disappointed with yourself, try to think of these early symptoms as red flags that something needs to be addressed.
With this blog I want to acknowledge this underestimated problem, and put it out there by being more open about my own experiences. Things are not always as they seem on social media!
Through this checklist I’m actively trying to find my balance and subsequently regain joy in the things I used to love, to prevent a real burnout and breakdown, which is not beneficial for anyone.
I hope it can help you as well and let me know when you have questions or other tips I can add here to help each other.
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