Say No to Benny Burnout

By Kyle Determan
  • 10.18.21
  • 5 Min Read

We’ve all heard of him – good ole’ Benny Burnout. He lurks around every creative corner and infects all ideas that had even an iota of potential. Once he’s gone, we are left feeling drained, disappointed and done. Done with creating. Done with searching for inspiration. Done with the idea of having a brilliant idea.

However, there are things we can do to discourage Benny from creeping in. Think of yourself as Jeff Goldblum, Benny as the alien race, and these tips are Will Smith with a cigar hanging out of his mouth. Basically, Benny Burnout doesn’t stand a chance once you’ve remembered why you create the awesome things you do.

face palm

BRAIN FREEZE

 

Let’s start at the top. Your brain is great for a lot of things: ideas, speech, knowing the difference between there and their. But, with great power comes great responsibility and sometimes, that can cause your brain to temporarily stop producing cool things. So, what do you do?

Switch sides. The right side of your brain is where your creativity lives and if the door is locked, quit knocking. Do something with numbers, look up some facts or even play with Legos. When we focus on a completely different set of skills, it gives us a completely different perspective. You can think of this as a break for your right side and an opportunity to strengthen your left. Or — just an excuse to play some Tetris.

girl on merry go-round not having fun

HEART OF HEARTS

 

Physical burnout is a slippery slope to find yourself on. You get tired, your sleep is less-than-ideal and maybe people pay more attention to the bags under your eyes than the ideas you have. With that being said, we must acknowledge the silent killer in the room: mental/emotional burnout.

It creeps into the deepest corners of our creativity and slowly emerges through lackluster brainstorms, a general apathy toward your work and the feeling of having no inspiration left. This sounds terrible, and to be honest, you would be hard-pressed to find someone in the creative field that hasn’t experienced this. My advice is to embrace it.

It seems counterintuitive, but ignore the urge to shut down the doubt and negative thoughts and turn them into gold (figuratively). Take the task you’re struggling with, channel how you’re feeling about it and go.

For example, I’ll use this blog and my feeling of being overwhelmed. Instead of putting it off for weeks, I started writing and exaggerated everything as if I was supposed to tell you how overwhelmed I felt. It was ridiculous and the result was something I would never let anyone read. It was something I knew I didn’t want and somehow that gave me the direction and energy to discover the blog I wanted to write. Give yourself some grace and try to lean into what you’re feeling.

folding paper

ALL HANDS ON DECK

 

We all remember the moment of pride in elementary school that came from walking past your art project in the hall, on display for everyone to see. Even if macaroni rainbows weren’t your strong suit, there was an undeniable sense of accomplishment and ownership. I made that. It sucks, but I finished and now it’s kind of cool. Fast forward 20 years and now you’re at your desk, feeling like everything you present is mediocre. Enter: Handiwork.

Psychology Today wrote an article about how using your hands to create does wonders for your brain, both physically and mentally. Origami. Doodling. Building a lemonade stand. Even making the world’s longest paper clip chain all have the power to enhance your thought process and reignite your creative fire. It doesn’t matter if it’s pretty or useful or impressive, just make something. Start to finish. Create something that you can take 100% ownership of, and then remember that feeling when you find yourself repeatedly fighting with our friend Benny.

Tom & Jerry character pouring coffee

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

 

I could’ve written this entire blog about self-care and giving yourself a break, or even about how important naps and snacks are (which I wholeheartedly believe.) Instead, I wanted to give you an arsenal of tools and techniques to ward off Benny and all his dirty tactics. But, if you were expecting self-care, I will take this time to talk about food. We all love it. We all need it. But Kyle, what does this have to do with food, you ask? Let me explain.

A 2021 study done by Harvard Medical School found that healthy foods do more than trim your waistline. Are you into salads? Hop on that kale train for increased cognitive activity. Are you more of a fruit fan? Berries have been found to delay a decline in memory. Or do you eat, breathe and sleep coffee? Good news! Tests have shown that caffeine increases concentration and overall mental function.

Look in your pantry, snack drawer or emergency donut stash and see if you could boost your burnout-blocking diet. It’s amazing how much changing your mid-morning snack can affect the rest of your day and your body. Put good in, get good out.

girls powerwalking in line

FOOT RACE

 

It can be hard to ignore the corporate foot race of being successful, healthy and happy. Throw in a bad case of burnout, and it seems impossible. A person can only take so many “no’s” before they stop asking altogether. Before you reach the point of no return and complete shutdown, take this small piece of advice: move. Take a walk around your building. Find somewhere you can stand to work instead of sit. Go outside for five minutes — let the fresh air remind you there is life outside of work

Our bodies were meant to move, so it makes sense that in doing so, we often break through whatever walls were closing in. Rarely is a problem single-faceted, and sometimes movement can be the catalyst to help you think through different approaches, solutions or outcomes. I mean, as long as you get there, it doesn’t matter how, right?

Basically, give yourself a break. Benny Burnout isn’t going anywhere, but we can learn how best to overcome his annoying tendencies that cloud our creative judgement. He sucks, but you don’t. Take this as a reminder that once upon a time you were proud of the work you did, and for good reason. While having a lull is inevitable, letting Benny win is not.

Good luck, soldiers.

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