Side Hustles Can Lead to Burnout. Here’s How to Avoid It, Say Experts

  • Junior designer Ashleigh Dickinson suffered from anxiety when her side hustle became prominent. 
  • She told Insider about the strain that juggling two roles put on her mental health.
  • To be successful, you must be willing to unlearn what you know, a side-business coach told Insider.

Side hustling has become more popular as the Covid-19 pandemic hit, leaving people with plenty of time on their hands and realizing their nine-to-five jobs may not cut it.

One in three Americans reported having a side project on top of their full-time job in 2021, according to Zapier, an automation service that moves information between web apps. Among millennials, 50% reported having a side hustle, while 45% of all working Americans reported having one. 

Junior designer Ashleigh Dickinson spoke to Insider about her side hustle and the challenges she faced when juggling a demanding full-time job with her brand, AFTA Youth.

Dickinson said: “We live in such a fast generation and everything is shared, so having a side hustle is your personal thing, it’s something you’ve achieved.”

She continued: “We live in a diluted world — everyone influences you on everything so it is kind of nice to have your own thing that you have created. She added that, ultimately, it is down to a generational attitude of “let’s break the rules,” and be your own boss that keeps her going. 

In February, Dickinson felt burned out and was not enjoying what started off as an exciting project. “I learned that I had to be really strict with myself because it started to take a toll on my mental health,” she said. “From the pressure of doing my job, the pressure of having all these orders to do and the growing demand, my anxiety, which I hadn’t had for five years, came back.”

She wondered whether it was too much pressure to deal with both a full-time job and her side project.

Side-business and life coach Emily Tyson discovered through her experience of working a full-time job and having had three businesses of her own, finding the right balance is imperative in preventing burnout. 

Initially, starting a side hustle is another way for people to find “fulfilment,” Tyson said, “whether that’s with a creative outlet, a new challenge, to top up their salary or to work towards building a future for themselves.”

Balance is key to attaining what made you start your side hustle and you must find what works for you, Tyson said. She recommends that side hustlers “experiment and allow yourself to take a step back,” especially if you feel burned out. 

Regardless of the project you want to start, Tyson explained that you must be willing to “unlearn everything you know.” The instant results and pivots you may be able to achieve in your main job will not be similar to your side business’ success. 

Ashleigh Dickinson confectioned this fluffy pink hat.

Ashleigh Dickinson dropped six collections including fluffy hats.

Ashleigh Dickinson

According to Bill Gates, ways to prevent burnout include avoiding routine, finding new projects, and setting yourself challenges, Insider’s Carlos Galán Feced and Nathan Rennolds reported.

Other side hustlers that Insider spoke to highlighted the importance of setting boundaries to avoid dealing with recurrent burnout and remain motivated. 

Insider spoke to Burning Tree’s CEO Peter Piraino. Burning Tree’s mission is to treat those affected by mental health disorders, as well as chronic relapse.

He said: “The US right now really suffers from a culture of ‘more and now’, particularly ‘now’ and people feel like they have to produce tangible things to show their value.”

Social media drives people to seek approval from others in a way that people will gauge their self-worth, depending on their “social recognition,” said Piraino, who is also a master social worker and chemical dependency counselor.

Having a side hustle will require sacrifice, as well as time outside of your full-time job, social life, and personal time. Spreading yourself thin may cause disruptions in your relationships and impact your mental health in more than one way, Piraino added.


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