I just wrapped up several hellish weeks that included a busy schedule at work, some rush freelance work, writing group activities, a dozen birthday parties, one sick cat and a herniated disk. I have a feeling that final item was brought on by everything else.
Those few weeks capped off a busy year that never seemed to take a breather. It wasn’t the kind of stress that a glass of wine and good night’s sleep could fix. I felt worn out every day. Some days I questioned what I had been thinking when I decided to pursue my writing. I found myself wishing for swine flu just so I could have a few days to do nothing but sleep.
Being in a creative field means that you are vulnerable to burnout. It’s not the kind of work where you can simply check your brain into a locker, slog through your eight hours, and then reinstall your brain at the end of your shift. And for those who fit their writing in after an eight-hour-or-more slog…let’s just say that carpal tunnel isn’t the only thing you have to worry about.
Burnout can lead to long-term health problems that can spill over into all areas of your life. But here’s the good news: there are things you can do to prevent and treat burnout.
HelpGuide.org has some great resources for dealing with burnout. This resource takes the “Three Rs” approach to burnout: how to Recognize it, Reverse it, and build your Resilience.
For me, I found three things that really helped:
1. Learning to say “no”. I’m a people-pleaser by nature, and as a part-time freelancer, it’s like cutting off my arm to have to turn down a paycheque. But no typing means no working; no working means no income; and no income means I have to cancel HBO. So some “preventative nay-saying” was my first step.
2. Getting professional help. Luckily, my injury was in the early stages and some treatment will have me back up and working in no time. (Update: Chiropractic treatment? Meh. Massage treatment? Heavenly.)
3. Leaning on my informal support group. If I didn’t have the Restless Writers (even their odd new habit of calling me “Sultry Monkey”), I wouldn’t have any outlet for the stress of juggling a day-job and the writing life. Lori and Beckie—and yes, all our blog visitors and Twitter folk—are all a part of my mental-health care action team. I’m grateful to have you.
Thankfully, I’m on the mend. Have you had an experience with burnout? How did it happen? And how did you deal?