Friday, February 18, 2011

Beware: Burnout

Posted by: Janni Nell
I was considering topics for this blog, when I heard some stories of writers suffering burnout. These were people, who juggled full-time day jobs with raising kids and writing to tight deadlines at night and on weekends. To meet the deadlines, they cut down on sleeping, relaxing and caring for themselves. They had breakdowns. Sometimes they ended up in hospital. It made me remember how important it is to care for ourselves. So I thought I'd blog about some of the things I do to keep sane in a crazy world.

1. Say no. We'd all like to be Superwoman (or Superman) but sometimes you just have to admit you can't do everything. There aren't enough hours in the day. Learning to say no can be hard but it's worth learning.

2. Treat yourself. Even something as simple as chilling out with a coffee or rereading your favourite book. Do anything you can to nourish your soul.

3. Stop giving. Take instead. I know, I know, we're told this is selfish, but if you don't care for yourself, you don't have the energy to care for others, or do your best work. The trick is to find a balance between taking and giving.

4. Meditation. Whether you use a relaxation tape, deep breathing or reciting a mantra, meditation is a great way to de-stress.

5. Smell the roses. Take time out to enjoy the simple things: the colours of flowers, the sounds of birds, the patterns of clouds. Feed your soul.

So what do you do to help you cope with a busy life?


  1. Great post. I work full time on top of writing and caring for my family, so things can get really crazy really fast. I've learned that I can't force myself to do more than what my body and mind will handle. For example, on a regular day I write 1000k-1500k words. Then I stop. Even if I finish early I still stop and go hang out with hubby, read a book, or hit the sack early. Because other times even that 1500 words is like pulling teeth and I can't get them down until midnight.

  2. Thank you for reminding me of this. Usually, I feel like my writing time is my refueling time but even with that it's hard sometimes to find a balance.

  3. Thanks for bringing to light what we all experience. I'm a teacher, and on our executive board for our local union. I'm also the treasurer of our local RWA chapter. I am on way too many committees at work, and my writing has suffered. When I get overwhelmed like I am, I find I can't hold a thought in my head for very long. I've vowed to let a lot of the stuff go next year. I've assigned friends the task of kicking me under the table when they see my hand creeping up to volunteer for anything. Oddly enough, when I do get to write, that's what centers me and calms me down. I'm lucky. My kids are grown, and teaching affords me a lot of time off throughout the year. Otherwise . . . no way could I handle what some writers handle. Great post, and I love the British spelling. :0)

  4. J.K. - at the moment I so identify with words being like pulling teeth.

    Eleri - finding that balance can be really tricky.

    Barbara - it might be British spelling but it's written with an Aussie accent :-)

  5. Excellent post! I think it was Eleni Konstantine who recently shared a bit of wisdom that resonated with me. "If your friend was in your situation, what advice would you give them? Now, take it!" Sometimes we all need a reality check and permission to be kind to ourselves. Yup, even writers :)

  6. That was an excellent piece of advice, Jenny.

  7. I can't take claim for that one - it was Rowena Cory Daniells who said that. But isn't it great...usually we expect more from ourselves than from others.

    Having had been struck by health problems in recent years, all I know is that you have to look after YOU... If you are person who likes to help others - how can you do that when you can't help yourself. It all starts at home.

    Like you said Janni, it's all about Balance.

  8. So I remembered the wisdom, but not the source of wisdom. My first year uni tutors always said I needed to learn referencing! and footnotes, does anyone still use them in this internet era? Anyhoo, wandering off topic. Thanks, Eleni, for the proper attribution. Janni's absolutely right. Balance is vital.

  9. Which is why I'm hanging out in my pajamas all day today! Yay! We are expecting another biggie snowstorm today. Sounds to me like a good day to hole up and write.

  10. Enjoy you Pajama Day, Barbara.

    Thanks for dropping by Eleni.


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