EP-07- Burnout How and Why it Happens to the Best of Us

Burnout is not a phenomenon. Burnout is a serious condition that so many millennials face today. Social media industry workers are often the ones who face burnout more quickly than others. In this episode Sarah and Alli discuss the negative effects of social media burnout, ways to notice if you’re burnout, how to cope with burnout, and ways to manage your work on social media in the future..

By Sarah Potter and Alli Paolone

March 24, 2021

What is social media burnout?


SARAH: “Oh, god, it’s exhaustion. It’s how I feel right now in this moment, actually. It’s feeling isolated. And you look towards fantasies, and you’re irritated all the time. You’re so like, as moms, I think I think we understand like, we’re pretty quick to get irritated sometimes, especially under like more difficulty, or kids just might piss us off. 


But when you’re combining that with social media work, and being a parent, that level of irritability can just force you to lose your cool with literally everybody in your life. Family members, co workers, friends, kids, the neighbor across the street, the garbage man, the post office, with myself.”  


ALLI:  “This is real, like I’m exhausted. And like the issue with burnout too, is that it can cause frequent illnesses. Like, let’s walk through our personal journeys toward burnout.” 


So as many of you know, with the way I talk about things and the way I go about life, I’m an excessively driven and ambitious person. So much so that I literally did mind mapping of my ambition and the different emotional parts surrounding my ambition with my therapist today. My driving ambition is at the core of my being. And it has been since I was a small child, and a lot of that is generational ambition passed on to me, from my parents in a way, I feel live vicariously through me and my ability to have my business and do all the things that I have been able to do in the last 10-15 years. And a lot of that pressure made me push myself beyond human limits. 


I used to work 60/70/80 hours per week. That is literally not a joke. I would get up early, work for three hours, take Fox to school, come home, work for six hours, pick up Fox from school, come home, work for four hours, make dinner, watch a show with Fox then work for another five hours, and go to bed. I did this almost every day for six years. 


Everyone seems to think that social media is so easy, and that being a social media manager is such a simple thing to do. And that is a big lie. 


Social media managers are not given the credit they deserve. They bend over backwards; they manage your engagement; they are on your messaging platforms all the time. A notification comes through…who’s answering it? The Social Media Manager. 


Now if you’re a solo entrepreneur, you’re also your own social media manager. So you’re probably not giving yourself any credit for being a social media manager. Give yourself some credit right now.


You wear those hats, ladies, give yourself a hug, a toast, whatever! I never did that for myself. I never recognized my greatness. I neglected my own personal needs. I neglected self care, mental health, physical health, I literally did not go to the doctor for two years. Unless it was absolutely necessary. And then I collapsed, as you all know. But I still pushed onward for about six months until I couldn’t push any further. 


Then Ted stepped in and called it. I worked half as much; I slept more; I saw the doctor more; I got diagnosed, I cried, I struggled to cope, and then I had a reckoning with myself. 


I had to stop burning myself out. 


Flash forward to today, I don’t burn out as bright any more. I take better care of myself, and my entire vision of life has pivoted. 


Let’s talk about how I am managing burnout. 


Schedule time to rest


I started keeping track of all the appointments I had every single week, all the appointments the kids have every single week, and all reoccurring time I needed to go pick up kids from school or take care of myself. My Google calendar literally looks like a rainbow because I have so many blocks of time cut off from the rest of the world so that I can really focus on the time I need to get tasks done and work on things for myself.


I am not good at down time. I am probably one of the worst people to get downtime put into my daily schedule. And that is when I don’t schedule it on my calendar. I set reminders for myself daily. I have timers that go off and tell me when it’s time to stop and take a break. I do this so that I can ensure that I am pushing myself to take better care of my body in my mind.


Pivot your responsibilities 


When I say pivot your responsibilities, I don’t mean quit your job and do something different. But in all reality if that is what you need to do, then maybe you should do that. When I say pivot your responsibilities, I am saying find support at home and at work and talk about the things that you do you want a regular basis task wise that you’re struggling with and ask someone to help you share the load.


I’m about 7 1/2 months pregnant right now. In January I started noticing that it felt impossible for me to do anything on my own, and I needed a lot of help. So I talked to Ted about how much more help I actually needed and what exactly I needed from him in order to feel like I could manage my life. Since I had that conversation, I feel I can take on more important aspects of work and taking care of myself as opposed to taking care of everybody in the house.


With work, I shifted the kinds of services that I offer. Social media management was draining me, so I changed the social media services that I offer. Finding little areas to pivot in life and work can help you understand how to pivot your business and build sustainability in your life. 


Go outside at least once per day


Going outside at least once a day to do something that has absolutely nothing to do with work or running an errand is important. Fresh air does the human body a lot of good. This is a lesson that has taken me a very long time to learn. Whether you’re going outside in your backyard to sit on the patio and enjoy the sun for 10 or 15 minutes, or you’re going on a walk, a run, or playing Pokémon go with the kids make sure it’s something that you’re not creating as a task we’re putting on your to do list. Use it to decompress your brain.


Become more self-aware of signs of burnout


For those who don’t know, “Burnout is a reaction to prolonged or chronic job stress and is characterized by three main dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism (less identification with the job), and feelings of reduced professional ability,” says Elizabeth Scott, writer for Verywellmind


Here are the signs you’re heading toward burnout land: 


You feel alienated from work-related activities: You’re a little cynical about your working conditions and the people you work with. You complain about the people you work with in ways you never used it. Maybe it’s not Carol who’s being annoying, maybe you’re just stressed AF. Maybe you’re also emotionally distancing yourself from people at work and in your daily life.  That company BBQ you used to love sounds terrible now. 


Your body feels it: You’re getting headaches more, you’re physically exhausted, you pass out the minute you sit down on the couch, your chest hurts a little, and you’re sluggish nearly every day–not just at 2 PM post lunch.


You are emotionally exhausted: Your energy is low, you’re stressed A LOT, you take out your stress on the surrounding people, and you might have a dramatic ebb and flow to your emotions.


You’re no longer the high-performer: Remember when I said I have always been an ambitious over-achiever? When burnout occurs it affects everyday tasks at work, home, in life, and how you move about the world. You feel negative about the task at hand and you lose creativity. Concentration also goes out the window. And no, you scrolling mindlessly through your social feeds isn’t just you being distracted, it’s your brains ways of taking a break.  


Once you become more aware of these issues, you will catch onto them more quickly over time and realize, “OOF I need a break!” 


Get a therapist


Seriously. Go get a therapist! There are so many great ones to turn to. I see an EMDR therapist bi-weekly right now and do a lot of Parts Therapy. Parts Therapy help me identify and map out the various emotions that overwhelm me day-to-day and mange them more effectively. I’ve become more in tune with myself because of therapy. 


But maybe EMDR isn’t for you. Talk therapy is great for some people as well. Seeing a psychiatrist to ensure you don’t have a mental health condition that you need help with is a great idea! There are also apps out there like Talkspace, Betterhelp, Larkr, and more. Whatever or whoever ends up working for you, the best is on you and all about what you need. 


There are so many ways you can manage burnout, these are just a few of the ways I do it. I highly recommend you check out the Twitter chat that happened on March 25th via #FreelanceChat. It was all about burnout and how to deal. If you’re struggling with burnout or even just struggling to recognize it, reach out to someone for help. If you have no one, you have me. You have Alli. DM us on Instagram and we can help you help yourself. 


Remember, you got this and Social Media Therapy is a community who’s got your back. 

Join us on Instagram and hit up Sarah on Twitter.


Sarah Potter & Alli Paolone

Meet Sarah and Alli, two social media marketing consultants and digital experts who've been foraging their way since the early 2010's. This dynamic duo sasses the social media industry and sets some unspoken rules straight in this podcast on marketing, life, and all the therapy social media marketer workers need. 

"We’re not here to tell you how to do your job, we’re here to validate the shit out of what you’re doing and reinforce the unspoken ground rules of social media workers everywhere," says Sarah–known for her bold and brash approach to social content. 

This podcast is for more than just social media workers too. Social Media therapy is here for everyone worn out and burned by the ever-changing algorithms and forced sense of care about social platforms, and the social media rat race.

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