How to deal with Burnout in 2020

My burnout face

Burnout is that horrible state between depression and exhaustion, that seems to hit us very suddenly and linger. It’s like running into a brick wall, and it happens to all of us at some point. You work and you work, and no matter how well you do, one day – boom! Burnout. The irony of it all is, the harder we work and and better results we produce, the rougher we fall.

When we get slammed with burnout, we suddenly feel that the effort, time and skill that we put into our work are significantly disproportionate to the reward. Imagine having to work one extra hour each day for the same pay. Ok, maybe you can deal with it for a while. How about two extra hours? How about working for free for a while? Maybe throw a few daily insults in there as well? At what point will you stop and say “To hell with it all. It’s simply not worth it. I’m walking away.”

That’s how every person experiencing burnout feels. The worst part is, most of the time we can’t actually walk away from it all. We have jobs and responsibilities, so we feel trapped, enslaved.

However, there IS a way to get out of this rut.

The biggest problem with burnout is that it’s self-feeding. We work too hard, and feel underpaid, unappreciated, used even. So we force ourselves to work even harder, thinking that increasing the quality and quantity of what we produce must change things for the better. But we’re exhausted. As we work more, we exhaust ourselves further, and with every new push of effort we get slammed with even more negative energy, as we’re still not getting the reward that we ultimately seek.

It’s quicksand. You need to get out, and you CAN, without quitting your job.

Here’re eight ways to deal with burnout that worked for me

Full disclosure, I’m not a therapist or a psychiatrist. I’m just a human being dealing with the stress of 2020, and these are the things that helped me get out of my burnout.

The first and the most effective step in dealing with burnout is also the most difficult one.

1. Force yourself to stop working

I know, I know, I said without losing your job. “Stop working” doesn’t mean quit your job and go live under a bridge. What I mean is, analyze your work day, and cast out every single item that isn’t absolutely essential. At first, you’ll hold on to all of them for dear life. “Of course I can’t skip that weekly staff meeting.” “No way can I not answer work e-mails after dinner.” “I simply can’t NOT release YouTube videos every week. My audience will freak out.” You can, and they won’t.

Decide what can stay and what can go by testing it. Sit out every other meeting, politely excusing yourself, and see if anything at all in the universe will change, other than you having an extra bit of energy. That heap of e-mails – you’re not paid to go through them after hours. Look at them in the morning, and if they compete with your actual work, bring it up with your boss and ask him/her which task they would rather have you perform. Your audience will still be there if you don’t show your face on YouTube for a month or even longer. Jesse Driftwood, who became famous by making DAILY short films of Instagram for several years in a row, just took 7 weeks off publishing anything at all on Instagram or YouTube, and nothing happened to him or his channels. He’s back in full swing, making absolutely amazing short videos with his new crew. Check him out by the way, instead of reading those e-mails.

YOU, need to actively force yourself to take time NOT to work every day. It’s harder than it sounds.

For me, I spent the last year and a half filming and producing professional art tutorials every week. Never missed a publication date. I was a on a roll. Burnout hit me as always, like a brick wall. No one particular incident occurred to cause it, I just started waking up feeling crappier and crappier every day and dragging my feet. A simple act of forcing myself to stop producing highly detailed tutorial videos every week, and instead spend more time on my art community and on my private students, changed my life instantly. And guess what, my YouTube watch-time hours and subscriber count did not come to a screeching holt. Literally, nothing changed. I just feel like I can breathe again, and my audience actually has opportunity to get personal feedback from me now.

2. Keep company of positive and happy people

This is difficult to do when you’re feeling down. We tend to hide from people all together. We don’t want to bring our friends and family down with our misery. Today, in the middle of a pandemic, it’s especially difficult because of social distancing, and because of the very obvious lack of happy people. Let’s face it, we’re all under tremendous amount of stress.

However, this step is expremely important. You NEED to find positive company and keep it. Think about all the times that a friend, a family member, or a colleague were not feeling so hot and you kept them entertained and cheered them on. Did you feel like they were dragging you down in any way? Probably not. You were probably glad to help out becasue you cared about this individual. And, if you had the opposite experience, you probably just distanced yourself.

Give people a chance. Let THEM decide if they’re up for being your positive company. It’s not up to you to make that decision for them, to spare them or otherwise. Reach out. Say hello. Start to mingle.

Now, while our strange 2020 lockdown lifestyle makes things a little bit difficult for social interaction, we do have the internet. Join a forum, or a group, or a community. Find like-minded people, who are all on the same journey. What are you into? Do you like diamond painting? Or motorcycle repair? Maybe you’re into scrapbooking or training dogs? Whatever it is, I assure you, there’s an online community out there that suits your passion or hobby. Spend at least half an hour a day there. It’s positive fuel.

In my private community TALM, we start every week with “Feel Good Monday,” where members share one thing that they are thankful for, hopeful about, or happy about that day. Some of these are very small things, like being thankful that the rain had stopped; some are larger, like celebrating a daughter’s graduation. I cannot avoid smiling and genuinely feeling good for the rest of the day after reading a whole thread of comments, all glowing with positivity. Not everyone shares, but enough people do to light up many other people’s days.

Find your light.

3. Laugh

Laughter is the best healer. I know, it’s 2020. There’s very little to be happy about, but humor isn’t dead. If you watch tv or movies, or YouTube, make sure to watch comedy. I kid you not, you will feel a million times better if you spend at least an hour every day laughing, even if it’s at the dumbest things. The very act of laughing has healing powers.

4. Say at least one positive thing every day, and mean it

This ties in heavily with 2 and 3, but it’s more specific. Just like with my Feel Good Monday tradition, saying one positive thing about YOUR life is extremely important…

My first year on YouTube

Remember my article “A new adventure begins, on YouTube?” Yeah, the previous one. That was almost a year ago. Joining the ranks of YouTubers turned out to be a fall down a rabbit hole, and I absolutely love it. It’s nothing like what I expected, and it’s pretty much a full-time job. I certainly didn’t expect to be talking to hundreds of people on daily basis. But I’m getting carried away. Let’s go back a bit.

I’ve always been terrified of video recordings and camera appearances. Hell, even actual phone calls, where you have to use your voice to communicate with another human being, have always been traumatic for me. It’s so much easier and safer to put things in writing. When writing, you have the privilege of taking as long as you want to produce content. You get to shape and reshape your words until you’re 100% happy with what you want to say and how you want to say it, and you get to do it all in your pajamas, with no makeup on.

I got comfortable at my keyboard. I didn’t ever want to get into video, except that many of you, my fans and colorists, kept asking for video art lessons. So, one day, after watching Peter McKinnon videos, I declared that it was time. I would take the leap and just set up a YouTube channel. What’s the worst that could happen, right?

What I immediately discovered is that video is scary. Recorded video is straight up weird. That whole “just pretend that the camera is your friend” thing is not helpful at all. I don’t have any friends who look like lifeless, glossy, unblinking, black circles. You can’t just flip a switch in your head and pretend that you care about sharing something with the camera. Live recording is even more terrifying, because you get just one shot. No post-production, no chances to take out all those Um..’s. You just talk and hope for the best.

In my very first video I look like I’m about to cry. That’s because I am. That awkward, tense, three-minute episode took a full day to record and three days to edit. Scratch that. It took three months to record, considering all the time necessary to get the first camera equipment, make the art, film the art, write the scrip, rehearse the script, and then spend the day recording it over and over again.

Today, I can produce a video like that in less than three hours, artwork and all. Instead, of course, I still take three days, but produce much more involved episodes. So, what changed, and how did it change?

The one biggest piece of advise that you will hear from any YouTuber is “stick with it.” Producing weekly content, basically grinding, is the way to make it on YouTube. And, what do you know – it’s true.

I thought that getting used to the camera, to the workflow, and learning the editing software would take many months if not years. But I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I advanced at a geometric progression, leaping from terrified to mildly uncomfortable, to pretty chill, to “hey, this is cool,” to “hell yeah, let’s do this!” within the first three months.

I cannot stress this enough, if you’re new to YouTube, STICK WITH IT.

Of course, an entertainer is nothing without her audience. YouTube only works if someone’s watching. You wouldn’t think it, but one of the biggest time hogs in art and video production is marketing. I spend almost as much time talking about my new video releases and upcoming live-streams as I spend on video production and editing.

I believe that this is one of the most difficult things for artists and creators to overcome. We just want to be left alone and create art. We unrealistically expect that the simple act of posting a video will get someone to watch it. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Internet is oversaturated with information, and getting anyone to see your video takes nothing short of a miracle.

Building an audience is as big an art form as the actual art that I share with you, and this is where things come full circle. Remember back when I could not for the life of me think of the shiny black camera lens as my friend? Well, now I can. In fact, now I have a difficult time seeing anything other than a curious, smiling face staring back me, because that’s essentially what’s happening.

All of you, my viewers, the people who say hello in the live streams, and hit me up on Facebook chat after the show, all of you with profile pictures and personalities, and coloring styles – I’m talking to all of you, each of you, individually every time I look at that camera lens. I see you Laurie, and you Sam, and you Kat, and you Cyndie, and the rest of the 1,000+ colorists in my Facebook group TALM. I see all of you, and all of you are there in my studio, and I genuinely enjoy our time together.

This is why now, you will rarely see me without a huge glowing smile on my face and my arms spread wide open when I start my show yelling “Hellooooo! aaaaaaaand welcome!!!!!” You can’t fake that emotion. You can’t learn it. You have to experience it. But, to get there you have to grow your audience and you have to get to know them. One feeds off the other. As I get more animated and personal and professional, more people join. As more people join, I get an emotional reward for all the hard work, and I take my game a level higher. And on and on it goes.

Now, I’m not at all a big channel. This isn’t one of those “I went from nothing to a million subscribers in a month” success stories. The truth is, my niche – adult coloring tutorials – is quite small, and having started my channel with no video or social media history at all, I had to work very hard and a lot to get to 1.5K subscribers.

I won’t tell you that it’s easy, that you just need to do it and have fun. That wouldn’t be truthful. The truth is, you have to work your butt off, spend some sleepless nights, sacrifice some hobbies and even jobs, accept a life with perpetually dirty dishes and piles of laundry, and reevaluate your whole attitude towards public feedback and criticism, if you want a chance at simply remaining active on YouTube.

I look at channels started by friends and family of famous YouTubers, or see celebrities bored with quarantine kick off brand new channels and immediately get a million or more subscribers on day one. At first, it’s discouraging, but then I remember that it didn’t take John Krasinski one day to get 2 million subscribers. It took him 20 years. 20 years of building up his professional career as an actor and a tv personality. That first YouTube episode invited his entire 20-year dedicated audience, his virtual family. I didn’t have that. I’m building it up now. I’m on day one.

Some of you may look at my channel and think it a huge success. You may have been on YouTube for two years and still have 200 subscribers. You may think you’ll never get to where I am now. You will.

Don’t compare apples to oranges. You are not me. I am not John Krasisnski. We cannot be jealous of each other or be discouraged by the other’s success. We should learn from it. You absolutely can be where I am now. And I absolutely can get to 2 mill subscribers. But we all have different paths that we take. Paths that have already been greatly shaped by the lives we’ve lead so far.

We cannot complain about not getting a head start or a boost, but we can work hard to get to the milestones that we set for ourselves, and remember to set realistic expectations. If I really want a multi-million subscriber channel, I probably need to explore more popular niches, but I may not necessarily want to. I would rather be a big fish in a small pond, and stick to what I’m good at and passionate about. An epic adult coloring channel is better than a mediocre lolcat channel.

So, what’s happening on these days?

When the pandemic started, I switched from my weekly high production 10-minute recorded art tutorials to daily live streams called  Survival Coloring, and it dramatically changed the mood of my channel.

Coming up on two-months of Survival Coloring, my personal community has grown quite a bit, and I developed much closer connections with many colorists. I enlisted the help of my husband, inviting him to be my “lovely assistant” and a character on the show, known as Tek Support. We’ve had weekly live guests, including molecular biologists, med techs, professional artists, homeschooling parents, crystal collectors, etc. It’s really been life changing, and now it’s time to re-adjust to the flow of things yet again.

Starting Mid May 2020, I will reintroduce recorded tutorials, keeping occasional live-streams, and of course the big two-hour weekend shows like the one I have coming up on May 23rd. I’ve been really enjoying having special guests on the show, and the next guest is indeed special. Albert Jones, the man behind Black Widow pencils, my new favorite brand, will be live on my stream.

I will be working on my original drawing of Black Widow, the Marvel character, using only Black Widow pencils, while Albert talks to us about his new pencil set release, how he got started making pencils, what’s involved in this business, and anything else that the live chat participants wish to know. Additionally, we’ll have a giveaway, where three lucky winners will get new Black Widow pencils sets sent to them directly from the source.

This kind of a collaboration is one of the greatest rewards of being a YouTuber. Suddenly, the people and the companies that you look up to as giants and deities, become regular approachable people that you can invite to your house for a chat. Where else would this be possible?!

If you’re an artist or a colorist, I hope to see you there. It will be quite epic, with much to learn, enjoy, and even win. Coloring Black Widow with Black Widow Pencils

Help my channel thrive!

Many don’t realize, but video production takes A LOT of time, time that I don’t get paid for. What you can do to help my channel grow and succeed is simple. All you have to do is watch my videos all the way through, and hit that thumbs-up button. That’s it. It’s free and fun.

The watch time hours and the likes are literally what drives my channel. The more minutes and likes that my video gets the more likely it is to get picked up by the algorithm and be recommended to someone else, therefore getting more views and more likes. So, if you enjoy my content, please let me know by doing this one simple thing.

I have to say, so far you guys have been an amazing audience, and I cannot thank you all enough for making this journey possible. I’ll see you on shortly.

Bye. Don’t lick strangers.



A new adventure begins, on YouTube!

This week I took a giant artistic step in a terrifying direction – I created a YouTube channel!

I have been avoiding video cameras for years, and lately I realized that I can’t escape them any longer. I simply have too much information to share with you guys, and visual demonstrations are far more powerful than written text.

My aim is to release new content weekly. I will keep my videos short and sweet, professionally filmed and edited, and full of useful information for developing artists and colorists. From specific drawing techniques, to behind-the-scenes of my personal art projects, to deeply philosophical art discussions, my channel will take you inside the mind of an artist. So, buckle up and enjoy the ride.

For me, the most exciting part of this new journey is that YOU guys are driving my content. I get so many private messages and comments with specific questions, that I am in no danger of running out of topics for hundreds years to come.

I always say that art is a conversation, and you are proving me right. When I release a time-lapse or a tutorial, you comment on it and it opens a whole new can of colorful worms, a new video is born, you comment on that, and on and on it goes. I thank you guys for your support and the inspiration that you give me. I hope that I inspire you as well.

If you enjoy my videos on YouTube, please take a moment to click the “thumbs up” button, and subscribe to the channel to get all the new video content. Your support makes my channel possible.

See you there.

Lisa Mitrokhin channel