Let me start off by saying I don’t know the answer to avoiding burnout. I’m not a doctor or a psychologist or anything like that. But since the start of this year I have been trying to find it. Putting too much pressure on yourself can make you feel like you’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown every week. Trust me I’ve been there.
This year I set one personal goal for myself: to be less stressed. Stress can kill you or make you sick so reducing it is something I take seriously.
Of course, I didn’t do anything in January to help me achieve this goal. I started off the year pushing it hard in all areas: work, writing, and saying yes to as many things as possible. After a month and a half I was exhausted. Working full-time, writing a novel in one month, and taking care of a house, dog, etc. is a lot for anyone. Over the last several weeks I’ve been trying to reduce the stress in my life and feel like I’m on the way to making progress.
Some things I’ve found helpful:
Remove social media apps from your phone. I used to check Twitter and Facebook multiple times a day. It wasn’t leading to anything productive. I used to be afraid of missing out on writing articles, publishing advice, and family photos. I removed the one-tap apps from my phone and find I visit the sites less and less. I might even delete Facebook altogether.
Make time for exercise. I sit for a good 8 hours a day and for another hour to write. Sitting is the new smoking according to some. To combat all the sitting I try to do some exercise every day. A good friend of mine recommended the 30-day Fitness Challenge app. I find it pushes me just hard enough to break a good sweat and reset mentally.
Get outside for at least five minutes a day if you can. I work from home a lot so it’s easy for me to fit a walk in. On the days I go to my office I walk a mile and a half to and from work. For those who don’t have the freedom to do this, set a daily reminder on your calendar to get out, even if it’s just for five minutes in the parking lot. I feel so much better after I get some fresh air.
Write when inspired and don’t push it just for the sake of pushing it. This is one that’s been hard for me to adhere to. I’ve always had the “butt in chair” mentality when it comes to writing. The more you do, the higher the output, the better you will get. But writing a novel in one month made me loathe writing (usually it takes me several months to write a first draft, but I wanted to see how many books I could write in 2018). I really don’t like that feeling. For now, I’m trying to write when I want to write. Recently, I took a two-week break from writing and editing, something I haven’t done in over ten years.
Say no more often. I had several interviews lined up to talk about writing and publishing and I did something I thought I would never do: I cancelled some of them. These were opportunities I had sought out to try and promote my work, and I couldn’t believe I was turning things down. Here’s the thing, though. I didn’t feel bad about cancelling. I felt relieved. Could I spend more time promoting my books? Yes. Is it good for my health to always be on top of it? No.
Your turn. What have you done to try and reduce stress in your life? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments.
Don’t miss my other post, How to Avoid Burnout as a Writer Part II.