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?
2 responses to “My burnout recovery strategy…and other tips for over-worked writers”
It’s also good to set up a plan for ongoing stress relief that works with your schedule and unique needs.
For instance, for some folks, exercise is an essential stress buster. For others, it’s just one more darn thing to find time for.
I’ve got a great 30 second release for stress and negative energy in June 2009 on my blog at http://www.ForesightYourCtPsychic.wordpress.com .
Please feel free to drop by and see if that and other things we’ve posted could be a useful part of your plan for stress management.
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