Can you remember how inspired and excited you were when you first started your business in the wedding industry? You were so filled with hope and energy, delighted at the prospect of making a living out of doing something you love. You did the happy dance every time you got a job and spent days and months scouring the Internet to learn as much as you could to better your craft. Your new job was your passion and you had so much ambition and drive. Your focus was razor sharp and Enthusiastic was your middle name!
Then just like that, the newly engaged couples found you and you were so busy with wedding bookings that before you knew it you hadn’t had a weekend off in months. You found yourself working 6½ day weeks and your friends just stopped inviting you to social functions, as you were never free. You headed straight to the computer after waking and often didn’t even notice that you were still in your PJ’s at 2.30pm. Breakfast? Who needed breakfast? You survived off coffee and whatever was quick to stuff down your throat. You were so happy work was going well that you started to become a bit obsessed. You often put your clients before your partner, family and friends and everything became work, work, work. The person that came last in all of this was you. You didn’t have any time for family or friends, let alone yourself! You didn’t have time to exercise … damn you hardly had time to eat!
And then you started feeling really tired, lethargic and grumpy. You found yourself curled in a heap – a sobbing, crying mess after working a wedding day for no other reason that you just felt so darn tired. You started dropping balls here and there and found yourself feeling totally overwhelmed. Your back ached, your neck ached and your memory was totally shot. You got sick every time you had a bit of time off and you were cranky. You found yourself over reacting to things and you felt depressed, hopeless and out of sorts. You loved your job but your inspiration was teetering and you found yourself feeling like your creativity was drying up. You compared yourself to other service providers and friends and family who seemed to have much easier lives than yours and it felt like there was no one who truly understood just what you were going through. There were many times when you felt like giving it all up and you started dreaming about getting a normal job with normal hours. Your passion was gone, your head was in a whirlwind and you were just plain exhausted!
Is this person you? Do you relate to any of this? If you have found yourself nodding along you might be suffering from adrenal burnout, or heading that way! At the very least your life is definitely out of whack and you are at risk of hating your job and possibly yourself!
The person I spoke of above was me a few years ago and then I landed up in hospital. I had worked myself into such a state that I collapsed and was diagnosed with adrenal burnout. Your adrenal glands release a chemical called cortisol or stress hormone when you are threatened with imminent danger. This flight or fight hormone allows us to run faster and find strength we never knew we had. When we are constantly under stress these glands are constantly releasing stress hormones, and the theory is that they get tired and depleted and we find ourselves burning out.
After a lot of research I found that some of the typical symptoms of adrenal burnout or adrenal fatigue are:
Exhaustion, hopelessness, mental fogginess, ironically not taking care of oneself, workaholic tendencies, forgetfulness, fatigue, cravings for salty foods, a weakened immune system, depression, dizziness, etc.
I am no doctor or expert and this article is not meant to be a medical journal. I do however know what happened to me and it wasn’t fun. I can now recognize when I am on a slippery slope and I can actually feel when I am burnt out! It must be noted that the concept of adrenal fatigue is still debated in the health world so you really should seek expert care if you feel like you are suffering from any of the above symptoms.
Recently I noticed a few good friends who also work in the wedding industry were battling, and they encouraged me to speak out about this.
Now, not everyone who is stressed has burnout that is for sure and I think it is important to see the right specialists, but also realize that stress is part of burnout and balance is the best prevention and cure.
Here are some lifestyle choices I use to prevent burnout and create more balance in my life. When I am in a good mental and physical state I tend to produce better work and am a nicer human being all round. I must say here that I definitely don’t have it all figured out and often fall off the zen wagon and I am writing this article for me as well as for you!
Seek medical help
After seeing my doctor I eventually went to a nutritionist who put me on a program that involved eating regular healthy meals and taking vitamin supplements. This really helped me get over it all and find my energy again.
It goes without saying that exercise makes us feel good and if we feel good we work well!
Eat healthy food and drink water
We all know we should have a healthy balanced diet and drink lots of water to have a healthy body, but gosh it is sometimes so hard when we are super busy and stressed. There are times where having to eat is a massive hassle to me! But at the end of the day when I let my eating habits go pear shaped and I am really busy at work I start to feel burnt out! I have also found that if I eat a lot while I am shooting I am less tired the following day so I always ask my clients to make sure they provide lunch and dinner and I ask my assistant to remind me to eat and drink water.
Vitamin B injections
I have regular Vitamin B injections, which help me hugely with coping with stress and seem to give me extra energy. Now I must mention that I used to have a crippling needle phobia, which had me fainting and going a bit crazy every time I saw a needle but the benefits of these seem to have won! It is also probably important to mention that I am a vegetarian so these bad boys really help!
Hire an assistant
I don’t know how it is that photographers will happily spend fortunes on gear but will be reluctant to hire someone to help them. I have had a permanent assistant for 4 years now and wouldn’t want to imagine life without her. If you train your assistant properly this should free you up to do more important work, make more money, give you more free time and ultimately have more balance in your life.
Sharpen your axe
There’s that old story about the woodcutter who spent his days chopping wood with a blunt axe. When asked why he didn’t stop to sharpen his axe he said he was too busy!
It is so important to take time out of your normal work routine and general “busyness” to look at your workflow and see if you can make things run more efficiently in your business.
Find the right clients
If you are a creative, chances are you get very involved with your clients. I know that I need to relate to someone to be able to work with them closely and make visual narratives about them. It is therefore imperative that I like my clients. Luckily for me I haven’t had any bad eggs in years and working with wonderful people has kept me excited and motivated through the good and the bad times.
Don’t wake up and go to the computer
I used to do this for years and it really wasn’t very productive to my business or myself! Nowadays, I wake up and go for a walk and a swim in the ocean and I drive to an office, which isn’t in my house. I start work later but I seem to get a heck of a lot more done in a day then I used to! I am also a much nicer person!
Find a passion outside of work
When I was first starting my business I had little time for anything or anyone else and eventually I really started to hate life. Nowadays I find I go a bit mad if I don’t make time to do the things I love outside of work, and if I am over- stressed I am less productive. I prioritize my horse riding as being as important as doing a shoot.
Work for free
Now before you jump down my throat, I don’t mean what you are thinking! If your business started out as your passion, chances are your passion may get a bit frayed if you are overworked. It is important for me to do personal work that I don’t get paid for. There is less pressure when there’s no financial remuneration, which means that I can really experiment and play. This type of work is therefore fulfilling and the benefits spill over into my paid work enormously.
Fill your soul cup
It is so important to have something in your life that refreshes your inner being. That may sound like some hippy hogwash but I know for me if I go horse riding, to yoga class or catch a really good wave I feel like I have had a “soul shower”. I just feel better on the inside. When I feel better on the inside I am more creative, more excited about my work, a nicer human being and kinder to my body.
Make relaxing a priority, which is as important as working
If you never make time to relax your creativity starts drying out and if your creativity and mental sharpness are dull then you aren’t giving yourself, your clients or your business the best of you. It is important to prioritize down time, as it is to prioritize go time.
Write to do lists and prioritize what is important on them every day
It’s so important to write things down, as these types of lists keep us on track. It’s easy to get vortexed into the “busyness” of running a business but when we have a game plan and a proper list, things get done more efficiently.
Stop comparing yourself to others
I kept looking at all those photographers who were shooting 65 weddings a year and wondering how on earth they did it. It drove me crazy until I stopped! Everyone is on a different journey and it is more important to know yourself and improve yourself than to try and be someone else.
Spend your time with the people you love and the people who inspire you
When I was in the thick of my burnout days I became very insular and hermit like. This didn’t make me happy at all and I often felt like a hamster on a wheel. Nowadays I try and spend as much time as I can with the people I love. I also made a conscious decision to spend time with people who inspire me.
Imagine working for a boss who never told you were doing a good job? As small business owners we seldom reward ourselves, which is silly. Try and treat yourself as you would an employee and make sure you give yourself a pat on the back and a treat when it is due!
Take time out to inspire yourself
When we are in a creative rut we just keep doing the same thing over and over again. I now take time out to do things, which inspire my artist’s spirit. And I generally spend the afternoon before a big shoot doing just that. We can inspire ourselves by going to galleries, looking at books, the net, movies, doing workshops, watching YouTube tutorials or meeting new people. To me taking inspiration time is as important as cleaning my lenses. If I am uninspired my vision will be cloudy!
Take time to write down your goals
If we are constantly rushing around and never take the time to think about what we really want it is unlikely things will improve. Being conscious of goals and objectives does give one purpose and therefore motivation. There is also a great sense of achievement when goals are reached.
Learn to say no
If you want a balanced life you cannot take every job that comes your way or say yes to everyone who “quickly wants a few pictures”. Learning to say no was a difficult lesson for me but it is important to put boundaries in place. For example I won’t shoot on a Sunday otherwise I won’t see my family. It’s a rule for me now.
Book time in your calendar for holidays and weekends away and don’t be tempted to fill them with work.
The only way to ensure time off is to actually book time off for yourself. I mark off periods on my calendar and will treat that time as being booked.
Take time off during the week
If you find that you are working every weekend for months on end, make sure you take a day off during the week. You can you know! You are your own boss after all!!!
And last but not least ……….
Put your prices up
If you are that good that you are totally overbooked then chances are your prices are too cheap. I would rather do less work for the same amount of money but put in the type of energy that I know that I always do, than spread myself thin and not deliver the standard of work I really want to. Charging what I am worth has been one of the most important things in helping me find balance.