*The information provided in this article should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, and those seeking personal medical advice should consult with a licensed physician. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health providers regarding a medical condition.


First things first, are you suffering from burnout? Or are you mislabeling your symptoms and overlooking other causes? Use the list below to identify the signs and symptoms of burnout. If you feel several of these apply to you, you likely are currently in a cycle of burnout. If not, keep exploring. You might be dealing with other health issues, chronic stress, or depression.*


  • Fatigue

  • Headaches

  • Reduced performance

  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns

  • Getting sick more frequently


  • Mental exhaustion

  • Loss of motivation

  • Increased irritability

  • Decreased interest in your work or hobbies

  • Feeling helpless, trapped, or alone

  • Increasingly negative outlook or cynicism


  • Isolating from friends and family members

  • Avoiding work or household duties

  • Regularly clocking into work late or leaving early


Self-care is a huge theme that I’m seeing run around the Internet space these days. From blogs, newsletters, and podcasts that are dedicated to sharing every form of self-care you can think of to ongoing conversations in the Being Boss Community. Bosses experiencing burnout feel like they are losing the #hustle talk and self-care has quickly become a topic we love to obsess about.

My response to this is two-fold:

  1. F*CK YEA! As entrepreneurs we work too hard, the pressures are too great, and it’s too easy to internalize other people’s expectations. This can lead to skipping lunch, not going for walks, or giving up some of our simple joys like soaking in the bathtub. So, in light of our newfound obsession, let’s all give each other a mutual group high-five! Taking care of ourselves should be a priority and taking a break from the daily grind is an accomplishment we can be proud of.

  2. Let’s not make self-care another thing on the to-do list. I don’t think that any of the huge proponents of self-care are advocating for this, but as a Type A Creative (as I’ve often referred to myself), it’s easy to click into “accomplishment” mode and treat self-care like a task. So skip scheduling specific activities and focus on feeling good in the moment, whatever that looks like for you. Because adding more to your plate that you “have” to do can actually increase the symptoms of burnout.


Last January I hit burnout in a major way both physically and mentally. I had spent 2 years working 80 – 100 hours per week, trying to grow my brand strategy studio, Prim’d Marketing, while earning a Master’s Degree in Writing. I would work a full day with clients and then hit my second shift by heading to the library or a cafe to write. Some days it was off to class to have my ass handed to me by smarter students and brilliant literary professors. I was starting my days at 9am and ending them at 11pm. It was nuts, even for a driven creative like myself. I had zero work-life balance.

I’ve written a bit about the experience of being a Type A Creative and finding active rest. But to be honest, it’s taken me almost an entire year to really understand the depth of how far I had pushed myself and to heal from the extreme asks I placed on my body and mind for those couple of years.

Last January, when I finished the MFA program, I was excited to have some of my life back. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was so tired. Tired in my bones, tired in my will, tired in my heart. I was tired of putting on the big girl pants. Tired of making hard decisions. Tired of designing or writing things only to have people tell me what they didn’t like about them. I felt bare — like I had creatively given away every last thread I had to offer.

I wanted to wrap myself in a blanket. I cried a lot. I wished I had a creative fairy godmother to tell me I did a good job and feed me soup. I wanted someone to draw the curtains and dim the lights and say I didn’t have to be the boss anymore.

I still wrestle with talking about this — perhaps I feel shame. Shame that I should have known my own limits, shame that I was the only person who didn’t think what I was doing was crazy, shame that I convinced myself that I could do so much.

Yet at the same time, I know that my superpower is doing what needs to get done. I’ve been this way since high school. I’d be the last to leave the library, the last to dim the lights, the last person standing after everyone else’s brains had turned to mush and they’d packed their books. It’s a strength that I love and admire about myself. But it’s also a strength that limits my growth and the growth of my team and business.


I did get a fairy godmother. Her name is Rachel, and she’s a spiritual advisor and women’s health coach.

I remember that first session we sat in her tiny cottage surrounded by the redwood forest, and the peaceful babbling of the stream outside was enough to crack me open. I couldn’t stop crying.

Rachel showed me many things over the coming months, but the biggest thing was this: just like great design, our lives need white space.

This felt different than “self-care” had before. It wasn’t a to-do. It was a void. It was giving myself permission to take a break. It was carving out 2 hours in the morning before I turned on or picked up a screen. It was saying no to travel opportunities so my husband and I were home at least two weekends a month. It was saying no to fun things like dinners and nights out because I just needed some time to ramble around in my living room with no place to be and nothing to accomplish.

I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that slowing down and making space was damn hard.

But slowly, I could feel myself coming back to life. I was probably kinder to my partners (married and business). I didn’t feel like there were so many demands placed on me, or more truthfully, demands I volunteered to hold.

Over the months, this white space morphed into a more traditional form of “self-care:” long baths, candles, hiking in the redwood forest, and Soul-Cycle classes. But it took almost 6 months of white space to recharge and feel my creative roots again before I was even ready for more traditional self-care methods.


The best part is, slowing down and making space has made everything better. We doubled our revenue last year. So did our profitability. We hired a new assistant and a social media person. This year we’re looking to bring on a writer and a designer to start taking even more tasks off my plate that I normally do as the boss.

It’s a bizarre and difficult truth for me to hold — the more I pull back and breathe, the more we grow. It’s not about doing more. It’s about making space.

Initially, I felt compelled to make this post a value-driven, “here’s how white space can help you.” But I think I’d rather leave you with this: If you’re facing real burnout, boss, I see you. I feel you. My heart goes out to you. It’s hard. You’re pushing and pushing and pushing. Yet, a little nagging voice keeps telling you that the only way to get to where you want to be is to just push a little harder.

But let me invite you onto a new path. Just like the fabulous creations you make, your life needs some white space too. Some space that has no obligation to be, look like, or do anything certain or specific. Adjusting those “doing” muscles into “white space” muscles feels awkward and counterintuitive, but the rewards are great.

Deep breath boss. You’re doing a great job.


Ask for support from your team, friends, and family

No matter how you feel right now, you are not alone, boss. You are not the only person experiencing burnout and you can and should reach out to your community, especially your inner circle, to ask for help. This might look like simply sharing about your struggles with a confidant, redistributing the balance of responsibilities at work or at home, or brainstorming how to reduce stress points.


Disrupted sleep and eating schedules are common in people experiencing burnout symptoms. Try a new bedtime routine, especially if you tend to scroll or watch tv until right before your head hits your pillow. You can limit screen time before bed by reading or simply doing nothing for an hour or two before you’d like to be asleep. If it’s difficult to fit in preparing healthy meals, try meal prepping or a meal delivery service. What’s important is that your body gets the minerals and other nutrients it needs to recover.


It’s a scientific fact that being in nature reduces stress, increases endorphins (the feel-good chemical), and helps you to feel calmer. Yes, please! You don’t need to seek out a national park or waterfall to experience the benefits of the great outdoors. If you live in a city and can’t easily travel to a scenic spot, check out your local parks or botanical gardens. Plus, this is a fun activity you can share with friends and family which can reduce feelings of loneliness.


This isn’t the time to try and start a new, intense workout routine focused on getting fit. Unless that’s what makes you feel your best, of course. What matters is that you move your body and spend time in your body rather than in your head. The gentle movements of yoga or tai chi could be beneficial. Or if you find joy in activities rather than a structured session, go for a walk, ride a bike, or play a team sport. Your body and mind will thank you, even if you’re just adding in a few stretches after you get out of bed.


What really has to get done every day, every week, every month, or every year at work and in your life? Does that nagging task need to be done right this minute? Or can you move it to a future date or hand it off to someone else? While healing from burnout, it’s okay to make YOU the priority for once. Leave those dishes for tomorrow and enjoy a movie on the couch instead. Surely there’s a colleague that can run reports so you can leave work on time. The thing is unless you’re performing surgery or some other life-saving task, whatever it is doesn’t need to be done right this second.


If you’ve read this far but still aren’t sure if you’re experiencing true burnout or stress, there are some key differences between the two.

One key difference between stress and burnout is that you can usually identify a specific cause, like a specific situation, person, or responsibility that leaves you feeling anxious. When you’re experiencing stress, you are struggling to cope with the pressures of work or life but you still feel like you can keep going and remain hopeful overall. Stress ebbs and flows and you might find that taking short breaks, practicing conflict resolution, or changing your routine slightly helps.

But burnout will hit you like a ton of bricks and leave you running on empty. It often isn’t tied to any one thing or situation. It’s everything. It sucks up your joy and motivation leaving you feeling empty and unable to move forward. It isn’t fixed by taking a short vacation or a mental health day. It can take multiple months to years to fully recover. And that’s okay. Trust the process and don’t give up.


Jenni Brown is a ​Type A Creative and a ​Co-Founder of Prim'd Marketing​, where she's ​the resident creative-brain // web & branding strategist. Jenni's experience ranges from global brands such as Pepsi and Taco Bell to small businesses and creative entrepreneurs. She when she isn't creating beautiful websites​, collateral, or Brand Plans for Prim'd clients, she writes and designs for Prim'd.