20 ways for Photographers to prevent Burnt Out

February isn’t typically a crazy busy month in the land of Jax, but February 2020 has been absolutely insane. We’ve been photographing weddings and also commercial shoots in the most diabolical summer heat and it’s very easy to get burnt and burnt out with this sort of non stop schedule.

This has got me thinking about how it is so easy to land up with adrenal fatigue when you are working like this. Luckily I have developed a few tricks over the years and keep them up my sleeve to help me cope.

In case you didn’t know, I landed up in hospital with adrenal burnt out a few years back after abusing my body with a relentless schedule and not much self-care. I was working 60 – 80 hours a week for so long that I eventually just collapsed. It took about a year to recover and I have had to be careful of relapses since then! Click here to read more about that. I can tell you now it is not worth abusing your body to the brink. It has been proven time and time again that extreme stress causes a myriad of diseases. Do you really want heart failure or an auto immune disease because you’re unable to manage yourself or your time?

Life is short! You only have one life so let’s make it an amazing one! Most photographers start their career with so much passion and filled to the brim with enthusiasm, but when we push ourselves to the absolute max and stretch ourselves thin without putting anything back it is easy to start hating what we are doing.

Here are some things that you can implement into your life that will help you manage the stress that comes with a busy photography practice.

1.  A Healthy Body is a Healthy Mind
It goes without saying that if you don’t eat properly you will not be providing your body with the necessary fuel to perform at optimum level. As photographers we need to be mentally, emotionally and physically fit, and good nutrition is vital. So, ditch the junk and make sure you are nurturing your body with good, healthy meals. Easy fixes are homemade nutritious soups, divided into serving portions and kept in the freezer for when you just don’t have time to cook. I also have a Nutribullet and make smoothies with powered suppliments likeWazoogles to make sure I am getting what I need.

2. Exercise
It has been proven that doing 20 minutes of exercise a day actually releases stress hormones from the body. When we experience stress the endocrine system floods the body with flight or fight hormones like cortisol and adrenalin, which are literally telling your body to move. If we sit in a chair all day editing, those hormones will become stored in the body and can cause disease. A dose of exercise releases all the feel good hormones like dopamine and endorphins and will literally have you releasing that stress.

3. Take Vitamin B supplements
When I am extremely busy I actually go for Vitamin B injections. These help enormously! They can be a pain in the butt (literally) but they really do take the edge off and I have found I don’t get sick when I am up to date with these. In South Africa you need a prescription from a doctor for these injections.

4. Watch your caffeine intake
One or two cups of coffee per day is absolutely fine but drinking more then that will actually cause your body to go into stress, so when you are already stressed it is only exacerbating the situation.

5. Get enough sleep
Ok I know this can be very hard for the Moms and Dads out there and might be easier said than done, but not sleeping properly can leave one feeling frazzled and emotionally unhinged which is not great when combined with a busy season.

6. Factor in time for self care
Diarise slots for self care every week. If you don’t look after yourself who will? Some people need a walk on the beach to clear their head, others need a spa day, some need a coffee with a good friend or just a moment to journal and breathe. Make time for whatever you need to feel better because if you collapse in a heap or snap at a client your business will suffer. The key here is to diarise this time and make it as important as doing admin or editing.

7. Factor in time for inspiration
I take time before every shoot I do to look for inspiration. This means that I am able to draw from a full cup and create new images at most shoots rather than just re hashing the same old stale work because it is easy. Again, I make this time a priority.

8. Reward yourself when you have ticked everything on your TO DO LIST
Our brain stores memory and these stored memories will determine how we react to the various things that happen in our life. This is why a child who had a bad experience with a dog might be scared of dogs for the rest of their adult life, not matter what sort of temperament the dog has .

The reality of To Do Lists is that they are never ending. So when we work really hard to finish a very full To Do List and then add to it without any reward or acknowledgement of success, the brain will start to associate the To Do List with stress and will actually release stress hormones into the body. We are now becoming stressed about being stressed!

When you reach a point in your To Do list when you can take a breath, give yourself a break. Take a self care hour and do something that replenishes you so that your brain starts associating To Do lists with nice things and not just hard graft with no respite!


9. Put your prices up!
Charge more but take on less work
If you are so busy that you don’t have time to look after yourself then really what is the point of it all???? I would rather charge more than an average photographer but deliver a top-notch service and imagery than burn out. Been there done that! If you want to put your prices up you need to work on creating a distinctive style and impeccable service. This is something I teach during my Unstuck Yourself Creative Photography workshops. Get in touch if you would like to attend one of the two in person workshops I will be running in 2020 and get in on the watiting list now.

10. Make sure your work flow is razor sharp
It’s too easy to get stuck working in the same old way because you are too busy to take time out to learn how to do things faster! Most photographers are only actually making money when they are clicking the shutter so try and reduce time on the computer doing post.

11. Get help
Outsource, outsource, outsource! It is so difficult to do everything yourself and still have the time to look after yourself, so try and get help where you can. This can be as simple as hiring someone to carry your bag at shoots, to hiring an accountant, having someone else do your editing and album design, using a VA to answer your emails and do your invoicing, and using a company to do your social media. I work with a permanent assistant who helps me on shoots, with editing, album design and some PA work. I also have an accountant as personally I couldn’t think of anything worse than trying to do my own books!

12. Back away from the phone
When you are really stressed out it is a great idea to take a 12 hour digital detox from evening to morning to give your brain a rest! In fact put your phone on charge in another room so you aren’t tempted to pick it up as you open your eyes.

13. Get a good morning routine going
Waking up and grabbing straight for your phone is a recipe for crap day. Looking at social media stars is a comparison game that can make us feel inadequate, and emails are generally demanding something from us. Rather start your day by waking up a bit earlier than usual and do something positive that will set the tone for more happiness and productivity. This could be exercise, meditation, yoga, gratitude practice or reading.

14. Work with the right Clients
If your branding and marketing is on point you should be attracting clients that you resonate with. When you work with people who you love, you’ll be less stressed and be able to find more energy for the job.

15. Have something to look forward to
Set goals, for your business and yourself. When we have goals it is easier to work hard as we feel as if we are working toward something. This could be taking your family on holiday, buying a house or going to visit a friend in another country. When you need the energy, re-visiting your goals is a good way to get your head in check!

16. Take breaks and schedule holidays
You wouldn’t let your phone or your car battery run flat so why don’t you take the time to recharge? It is vital that we schedule time to switch off and let the body let go of all the stress. I could give you the “life is short” speech, but it is also vital for creativity and mental vitality. When you are running on half power your work will suffer

17. Know your “Why”
When human beings have a purpose in life we are able to muster up all sort of energy and achieve great things so when you lose your sense of purpose the opposite happens and energy dwindles. If you are shooting for the sake of it and have no idea why you are doing what you are doing, you are going to get bored and uninspired. Spend some time digging deep and work out why you are a photographer, who you want to work with and why you are doing the particular genre that you are doing. Go back to that before you start every single shoot.

18. Meditate
Meditation has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety and improve creativity and emotional stability. This was a game changer for me. I find that when I am meditating regularly every day I am a lot calmer, come up with better ideas, and I handle problems more rationally and just feel happier generally. It is so easy to get out of practice though! I use the Insight Timer app to record my progress.

19. Do what you can today
It’s so easy to get out of a good routine when you are busy. If that happens don’t beat yourself up. We are all human. Just do something right here, right now, today that will enable you to get back into good healthy habits.

20. Stop making excuses and just do it!!!!!
The more you put off a better routine the harder it is to get started, so stop listening to your mind. The mind will often talk you out of the difficult choice because it would rather take the easier option like sleeping in or ordering pizza. It’s just what the mind does. You are more than your mind. Ignore the excuses it makes up for you and JUST DO IT. Choose happiness. CHOOSE YOURSELF.

If you would like to learn from me I am running two Creative Photography workshops which are called the Unstuck Yourself  workshops and they will be happening in South Africa

Durban: 17/18 March

Johannesburg: 21/22 April

Click here to find out more or send me a DM and I will give you a call.

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