For many, working a day job is a necessity to earn the money we need to live and to do the things we love. Some of us might develop a side hustle that allows us to earn a little cash while doing what we love. But what happens when what we love becomes our main source of income?
When your passion becomes a ‘have to’ instead of a ‘want to,’ the change can feel unnerving. I first faced passion burnout back in college. I loved reading and writing so much that in school, I sometimes got in trouble for reading novels during classes for other subjects. As a literary studies major, getting to read and write all the time felt like a dream come true at the time. But doing what I loved full time became incredibly stressful. The pressure increased after writing also became my means of earning money.
After years of working to strike a balance, these are the tricks I’ve picked up to avoid passion burnout:
1. Practice gratitude.
One of the best resolutions I’ve made this year was to start a gratitude journal. I write three things that I’m grateful for each Sunday, and more often than not, at least one point per week involves writing or reading in some form. I’ve experienced gratitude for having the privilege to earn money doing something I love, and for the people writing has brought me into contact with.
2. Permit yourself not to work.
A few weeks ago, all of my assignments were turned in for graduate school and work early, and as someone who still struggles with time management, I was happy to reward myself with Netflix time after getting over the initial shock of having literally nothing to do. After I hit play, I realized I wanted to keep writing. For myself. Giving myself permission to do something mindless reminded me that I do love writing, even when it's work.
3. Do something mindless.
Whether relaxation for you is going dancing with your pals, hitting the gym, or indulging in an hour-long bubble bath, give yourself time to recharge in whatever way you see fit. Stepping away can help you really show up when it’s time to focus.
4. Only compete with yourself.
In the age of social media, it can be hard not to compare yourself to others when you’re constantly inundated with stories of their success. You can start to believe that if you were working as hard as they are, you would be on their level. This practice can lead to you putting so much pressure on yourself that it strips the fun out of your passion. Set achievable goals based on your past self, not on other people.
5. Try new things.
Stepping out of your comfort zone can lead to inspiration. If you’re a creative, try taking yourself on an artist date and practice a medium outside of your field. Even if your passion is more straightforward, trying out something that requires a different skill set can make you appreciate the talent you have in your chosen area, or can lead you to discover another passion.
6. Mix up your friend group.
To stay balanced, it’s important to hang out with both people who are in your field and people who are not. If you find yourself surrounded only by those in your industry, you can forget about everything else life has to offer (plus, you can run into that whole comparison trap). However, hanging out with friends in your field can help you solve problems, and getting to gab about specific things most people don’t know about can remind you of the fun that is associated with your job.
7. Take a step back if necessary.
Take on fewer projects, ask for extensions, or take a vacation (or staycation!) if you are starting to experience symptoms of burnout. If you can’t get everything done that you need to in a way that makes you proud, just admit it. Monitor your stress levels, and care for yourself accordingly.
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is a contributing writer for Color My Bubble. Her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets 2017 anthology.