In the fast-paced and demanding world of interior design, burnout is a real and significant challenge. As creative professionals, interior designers often pour their energy, time, and passion into their projects, which can take a toll on their well-being. In this blog post, we will explore the stages of burnout, its causes, and provide actionable tips on how to cope with burnout in the creative realm of interior design.
Understanding the Stages of Burnout:
1. Honeymoon Stage: The initial stage of a project where excitement and optimism are high. However, it’s essential to set boundaries during this stage to prevent overcommitment and potential burnout.
2. Onset of Stress: As the workload increases, interior designers may experience reduced sleep quality, irritability, and neglect of personal needs. Recognizing the signs early on allows for the implementation of solutions to manage stress effectively.
3. Chronic Stress: Persistent tiredness, self-sabotage, and a feeling of pressure are common symptoms during this stage. Interior designers may find themselves withdrawing and experiencing a sense of burnout starting to take hold.
4. Burnout: At this stage, interior designers may obsess over problems, experience pessimism, self-doubt, and behavioral changes. Neglecting personal needs and feeling overwhelmed become more prevalent.
5. Habitual Burnout: Chronic sadness, mental and physical fatigue, and depression are indicative of habitual burnout. Interior designers may find themselves in an intense sympathetic mode, leading to overreactivity and a sense of being stuck.
Causes of Burnout
Burnout is not always solely caused by overworking; multiple external and internal factors contribute to its development. Understanding these factors can help interior designers identify and address the root causes of burnout:
- High demands: Forcing projects on a deadline, high maintenance clients
- Confusing interactions: Playing telephone
- Poor collaboration: Clients who are not doing their part to move the project along
- Unmet needs: Clients who don’t provide necessary feedback, seem indifferent or uninvested
- Pressure: Client’s pressuring you
- Lack of freedom: Feeling like your hands are tied and there’s no autonomy for your experience and expertise
- Poor communication: Non-responsive clients or subcontractors
- Lack of resources and teamwork: Every man for themselves or subs performing subpar
- Negative feedback: Receiving negative feedback from the contractor, subs, or clients consistently.
- Unmet Needs: You need feedback, autonomy, freedom, flexibility, acknowledgement, reciprocity, collaboration, communication, validation, creative expression, work-life balance, etc.
- Limiting Beliefs: Your own negative belief patterns about yourself as a person, designer, design style, management style that interfere with your ability to show up otherwise.
- Perfectionism and Unrealistic Standards: Putting too much pressure on yourself to perform, perform under constraints, wanting a “perfect” design and not being satisfied with your own decisions, feeling like you’re not doing enough or doing it well enough
Identify whether your burnout stems from an external or internal factor. As burnout occurs from a consistent stress, it’s likely that there’s multiple factors, external, internal and a combination that have led to your burnout.
Dig a little deeper. What factors lead to your burnout? Identify the specific root cause of burnout and write a list. Use the chart above to help you or spark inspiration for what feels right for you that’s may not be on the list. If you’re struggling to identify what this is, I highly recommend creating a Frustration Tracker, like the one I use here:
- Are you feeling pressured with timelines?
- Is someone on the team not working collaboratively?
Find solutions based around the root cause. For example:
- If you’re feeling pressured with timelines, be realistic with yourself. How long would this typically take you without restriction? What is the restriction? Consider moving the timeline back and communicating directly to the client that the timeline is causing significant strain on the design team and you need to implement a more realistic timeline to be efficient on their project. I no longer design around timelines for this exact reason.
- If someone on the team isn’t working collaboratively, send a email reiterate their importance to the project and they type of communication that you need moving forward to keep their project moving efficiently. Place timelines where you can (Ie. please respond by [date] or within [x number] days.
- If your root cause is a limiting belief, look into self-help books, podcasts, courses or therapy to help you overcome this pattern.
- If your root cause is improper work-life balance, consider options such as turning off your devices at a certain time, taking small breaks throughout the day, practicing good self-care, finding hobbies that rejuvenate you, connecting with friends/family more often, etc.
Look beyond just the obvious. Sometimes a frustration you may be feeling is a pattern. This may indicate that you may need to implement system changes, contract changes or make beyond just this particular client. If you’re unable to do so now, write this down and be sure to revisit it after the project completes.
If things still persist, consider an exit strategy. If internal or external changes do not improve the situation, consider researching alternative options and taking the necessary steps towards a change. I would highly encourage you to create an inventory of your frustrations such as the Frustration Tracker I mentioned to see where patterns occur. You can and should also identify what services make you the happiest. If it’s a particular service that you identify patterns, consider focusing solely on consulting services, or niche down even further to just paint color consultations.
Burnout is a prevalent issue in the creative world of interior design, but it is not insurmountable. By understanding the stages of burnout, identifying the causes, and implementing effective coping strategies, interior designers can take proactive steps to prioritize their well-being. Remember, addressing burnout requires a combination of setting boundaries, addressing limiting beliefs, nurturing your nervous system, and seeking support when needed. By taking care of yourself, you can maintain your passion for interior design and create a sustainable and fulfilling career.