Recover from Creative Burnout
In 5 Simple Steps
Burnout happens when your mental energy levels drop to zero, and no matter how much you know you have to sit down and work, you just can’t. It’s not procrastination, even though sometimes it feels that way. Burnout is a real phenomenon that happens to many of us. You’re not alone, and it’s totally normal to experience burnout from time to time.
The good news? You can come back from burnout. The bad news? It won’t be a snap of the fingers. These steps will help.
Step 1: Identify the Source of Your Burnout
WHY are you burnt out?
We’re only capable of doing so much within a given day, and when you’ve got stress weighing you down, burnout isn’t far behind. And the stress can come from a number of places: family troubles, day-job pressure, big life changes, concerns about the next crazy thing 2016 will throw at us, or apathy toward your current project.
Notice how most of those reasons have little to do with writing? Sometimes the source is what’s happening outside our writing life. Think of your capacity to create as a gas tank. Stress drains it. Good things — like sleep, relaxation, or travel — can fill you up. But if you experience stress on a daily basis, your creativity tank will continue to get lower until you have little left.
Step 2: Cut Yourself Some Slack
A lot of times what’s causing your creative burnout is out of your control. Sometimes it’s even a positive change in your life, like moving or adopting a dog. You have to stop berating yourself for not getting anything done. It only makes things worse. Even if the situation is “in” your control (i.e., writing related), being negative about it won’t solve the issue.
Instead, focus on self-care. What can you do for yourself? Start with getting a full eight hours of sleep or dragging yourself out for a short walk. Take an Epsom salt bath or try aromatherapy. Make sure you drink enough water! If you’re a coffee drinker, know that in times of stress, coffee can increase anxiety, especially if, like me, you’re sensitive to caffeine.
Step 3: Take a Digital Detox
Practicing self-care might also involve taking a digital detox. That usually means taking a break from social media, maybe even shutting down your computer for a couple days. There’s a lot of negativity on the Internet, and being exposed to it often creates a downward spiral of doom.
A digital detox is like a “reset” button. And while you have time on your hands, you can get started on the next step.
Step 4: Create a “Bust Burnout” Plan
Once you know why you’re burnt out and you’ve had some digital-free time to gain perspective, you can figure out what you need to do to kick burnout to the curb.
Nine times out of 10, the first item on your plan to bust burnout should be “take a break.” If your stress comes from an outside source — say, a sick parent or a move — give yourself permission to set aside your writing while you deal with the situation.
While you can write if the urge strikes, I’ve found that giving myself permission to take a break usually leads me to realize that I was even more stressed than I originally thought. You need time to recharge, and that usually means setting aside your writing. And yes, it can feel counterintuitive to set aside your writing when you have to get it done, but taking a day or two now is better than struggling for weeks. Set aside a specific time frame for your break, whether it’s a couple days, weeks, or even months.
During your break, know what you’ll fill your time with. Read books or binge-watch four seasons of the latest Netflix show. Maybe it’s focusing on your day job and spending time with your family in the evenings. Be intentional about how you spend your time, and fill it with non-writing activities that boost your creativity.
Stress can manifest itself physically, too, so be sure to address any symptoms you have. Stretch out your sore muscles or head to a yoga class. Visit a chiropractor to get a readjustment — sitting for long periods of time may throw your body out of alignment. Start an exercise routine, even if it’s taking short walks around the block a few times a day.
After your self-imposed break is over, you’ll have to get yourself back up to speed. You might find that you produce less than before your break, and that’s okay! Start out slow and build your routine again. It may take a while to get going, but don’t push yourself too hard, or you’ll fall right back into stress and burnout.
Step 5: Implement Your Plan
You got this! With your plan mapped out, it’s time to kick burnout’s rear end. Repeat the steps outlined here as necessary.
What’s your favorite way to combat burnout? Hit us up on Twitter!