As a matter of fact, it is not unusual for fashion and art students to find themselves caught up in too many projects at a time, all too demanding of their creativity; or rather to study for a concerningly long time before an exam, in an effort to memorize all of the information as quickly as possible.
It is most important to remember that nobody is alone when experiencing these incredibly stressing and intense moments.
While sometimes the problem lies with our own organization skills, other times our schedule simply requires our energy on too many tasks. Usually, when this happens, we start experiencing a familiar range of emotions that go from feeling overwhelmed to exhaustion, from anxiety to confusion. The turmoil we go through is the perfect environment in which such inhibiting feelings spring and we are left dealing with a frantic mindset that slows us down during our learning process. In the worst situations, all of this results in experiencing what is most similar to a burnout, a condition related to overwhelming amounts of stress. In a TED Interview series called “How to Deal with Difficult Feelings”, Dr. Emily Nagoski and Dr. Amelia Nagoski, co-authors of the book “Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle”, have explained three ways in which burnout can manifest itself. According to the 1970s definition of Herbert Freudenberger that they provide, burnout “involves depersonalization, where you separate yourself emotionally from your work instead of investing yourself and feeling like it’s meaningful; a decreased sense of accomplishment, where you just keep working harder and harder for less and less sense that what you are doing is making any difference; and emotional exhaustion.”
Work anxiety leads to either experiencing a creative drought or pulling all-nighters to make up for the lost time.
For fashion and art students like us, work stress, along with the guilt of “doing what you love”, might translate into a series of responses and behaviors that rather look like this: we start working harder and being unnecessarily harsh with ourselves, neglecting our needs and personal life because we are too focused on getting our work done. Or we start procrastinating and delaying our duties because they cause too much anxiety and we subconsciously think that there is no way we can successfully confront our assignments. But, as we know, this ultimately leads to either experiencing a creative drought or pulling all-nighters to make up for the lost time. In the first case, all the stress that has built up inside us holds back our own creativity: the term “drought” accurately describes the feeling of struggling with ideas and inspiration which leaves us in despair. In the second case, we consciously choose to deal with the effects of sleep deprivation, giving up on the restorative time we need to rest and relax instead of prioritizing it.
The puzzling, yet comforting, thing about similar experiences is that, more often than not, these hyperbolically worsening scenarios can be caused by some inefficiencies in our routines. If we think about it, in most circumstances we employ so much of our time in tasks that can be dealt with in smarter and less time-consuming ways. Take for instance the endless process of researching the right reference that many of our visually creative projects require, something which if not well thought-out might take up hours. Or think about how confusing our class notes can be if we have never revised them throughout the semester or if we leave them all over the place on our computers: all small, off-putting occurrences that end up taking a lot of the time that we could have used for studying or creating. And while all of this is true, the exact opposite is just as dangerous: overplanning is a bottomless pit in which we indulge in a perfectionist attitude that does not meet our needs, neither proves to be the right approach to address our organizational issues.