I don’t know a single person who has never experienced some form of burnout. It’s so common we’ve invented something called vacation to treat it. We burn out from our day jobs, from school, even housework. Sometimes, we even burn out when pursuing our creative endeavors. Right around this time of year, I find burnout beginning to hit harder. Summer with its vacations is far behind us, and the holidays/new year loom ahead. Here we are, sagging in the middle, fighting the downward pull. It’s tough to pull out of that. Here are some ways I get through this worn down, cranky phase. I encourage you to give them a try.
For a while, not forever. Here’s where that vacation comes into play. You’re dragging at work? Go hiking over a three day weekend. You’re sick of cooking? Order in. Creatively burned out? Take a few days and don’t make anything. Shocking concept, right? All the writers are probably scoffing at the screen—NOT write for days? You’re mad, woman! Yes, it’s generally advisable not to go too long without writing—the whole use it or lose it mentality. My personal feeling is that if you’ll lose the ability to write well just because you went on a brief hiatus, you have bigger problems than being a bit drained. You of course know yourself best and what your creating brain can handle, so trust your own judgment. But let up a bit, friend. At least consider ungluing your fingertips from the keyboard.
Do something else. This advice particularly applies to artists and writers. Creative constipation’s a bitch, but it can be remedied. When you only use one muscle over and over, it gets tired, yes? Swole, certainly, but tired. Exercise another. Recently, I’ve focused on my love of music while resting from writing; it’s been refreshing to delve into a part of me that’s been neglected for a while. But you don’t have to switch gears to something you’re familiar with. If you’re a writer, paint. A photographer? Go bake a cake. A knitter? Jot down a poem. Will you feel silly? Probably. But that’s the point—stop taking yourself so seriously. Often when we burn out, it’s because we feel some pressure to be earth-shattering, original icons. Hard to feel that pressure when you’re doing something with the skill of a toddler. Plus, who knows? You might find a new outlet for your creativity in the process.
See the beauty around you. Be inspired by the sunset, the flavors in tiramisu, the rhythm of dancers’ feet. The hiccup in your baby’s laugh is a sea of renewing energy. The smell of coffee wafting from your kitchen has an effect on you—what is it? Read your favorite book for the twenty-fourth time. Observation is a learned skill, and it’s essential for those who need a reminder of the miracle that is our world. Workers, be soothed by these observations; you’re taking in the lifeblood of what you labor for and why it’s all worth it. Artists, drink in this energy, the inspiration flowing out from everything into you—then let it out again in your chosen medium when you’re ready.
It’s normal to be tired. Let yourself feel rather than deny it, because it will catch up with you. Then move through it and out the other side, back to that feeling of flow that we all crave.
Do you have any ways of dealing with burnout? Let me know in the comments!
By Madeleine Mozley