Archive | Burnout and Creativity RSS feed for this section

Re-inventing yourself

3 Jun

recycling (Photo credit: Giuseppe Moscato)

It seems that the only way out of a burnout is to go through.

There is no going around, over, or under. Not if you want out.

Once you are in, you have to go through.

For me, it felt pretty shitty. I had no energy, and spent all of my not-working-time simply in recovery. However, once I started looking around, and experiencing where I was, there was much to learn.

Don’t expect what you find on the other side, after you are “out,” to be your ultimate solution. It is the solution for NOW.
My insight came when I realized that I might be able to function as a “tour guide” for people experiencing burnout. I was able to re-kindle my love of writing and website-making to create this blog, and I was off and running. I started feeling much better, remarkably quickly. I had re-invented myself as an expert on burnout, professional, emotional, and physical.

I learned something else in the process of that re-invention, as I started living as my reinvented self. Reading about burnout all day, and then writing about it, is kind of depressing! It was as if I was spending loads of time knee-deep in territory that I desperately wanted to escape.  I am thankful for the Feldenkrais Method, and the way of thinking and exploring that have become foundational in my life and problem-solving style. Here is what I gleaned:

  • nothing is permanent. Nothing. What you observe and experience now, is simply what you observe and experience NOW. Keep observing and experiencing. Whatever it is, will change.
  • make small, comfortable changes. Observe and experience whether those changes make a difference. If you notice a difference, it means that something has changed. (See number 1.)
  • keep making small, comfortable changes. Keep observing and experiencing. Experiment with doing more of the changes that produced positive results (whatever that is for you), and doing less of the changes that produced negative results. You will quickly get the hang of it.

My subsequent reinvention resulted in another website, Through it, I hope to take my “tour guide” tendencies into the areas of my specialization: movement, insomnia, and healthy eating. I feel jazzed and energized by it. Business is booming, and I feel positive and clear for the first time in a long time. Reinvention is always a work in progress. (See number 1.)

This Method works in a variety of settings. It works in movement difficulties, pain, stress, and insomnia. It works for examining lifestyle changes, like what time you go to bed a night, what food you put into your mouth, what you spend your time thinking about. Each new experiment is a new invention. Combining those good inventions in a way that feels right, now, is the beginning of reinventing yourself, healthier and wiser.

Precursors to Burnout

19 May

One of the characteristics of burn-out, when you’re in the middle of it, is a sense of overwhelm. You’ve lost your mojo, your ability to concentrate, perhaps even your ability to remember a time when you were capable, competent, confident. Just know that those things are still there. You just can’t get to them. SO — they are not “lost,” they are simply “misplaced.” That can be a distinction that makes the difference between continuing the downward slide, and beginning a hopeful upswing. You are still you. You have an opportunity to make some changes so that the best possible “You” can emerge.

Notice that I didn’t say, “The Old You.” The Old You is just the You that you knew. Perhaps there’s an even better You that is preparing to come forth. Didn’t think of that, did you?

A number of things led up to your burnout. It doesn’t matter whether you know, or understand, all of the factors. Just know that this didn’t come “out of the blue.” Conditions were favorable for burnout, you just didn’t notice. Here’s what you must do: start creating new conditions — conditions that are favorable for you to feel well, energized, and thriving. Conditions where You 2.0 is happy.

How to do this? I like the 15-minute technique. When you are feeling tired or overwhelmed, set a timer for 15 minutes, and do something different from what you were just doing. Go for a walk. Watch some cat videos. Clean off your bathroom counter and sink, or your kitchen counter. Fold and put away your laundry. ANYTHING. Take a picture at the end of 15 minutes so that you can look back and appreciate that you did something that was only for yourself.

After you are in practice with these little 15-minute bursts, begin to use this time for something creative. Write in a journal. Draw a picture. Take some photos or video. Work a little bit on a craft project. You will gradually have a “body of work” built up that begins to feed and restore your soul. As you do these things, you will have energy and clarity to make other changes. You could eat a piece of fruit, instead of a cookie. You could find a 5-minute exercise video on YouTube and move a little bit. Inch by inch, these new patterns will have a positive effect.

A Rhythm of Life

23 Nov
The Whisper of the Muse. Elizabeth Keown, G.F....

The Whisper of the Muse. Elizabeth Keown, G.F. Watts and Kate Keown. Albumen print, 261 x 215mm (10 1/4 x 8 1/2″). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was reading an interesting discussion about creative burnout on the blog ScoutieGirl. Her reflections on her own work schedule and how to be as creative as she could be got me thinking. Here are a few of my random musings.

1. Creativity comes in lots of different “flavors.” When I first read “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron (about 10 years ago), I let go of some of my own prejudices and misconceptions about living a truly creative life.  Some of these ill-founded ideas were based on familiar stereotypes: the starving artist, high-maintenance pain-in-the-ass, incapable of sustaining stable relationships, living a life of excess and dissipation. Who in their right mind would want that for a life? (Oh yeah, let’s not forget another stereotype, the insane genius.) By dismantling some of these stereotypes, The Artist’s Way helped me to embrace, for the first time, the idea that “creatives” can make a good living, have stable loving relationships, and seem outwardly normal in every way. This was very good news to me, a middle-aged woman, launching out on her own as a refugee from academia.

2. If you are waiting for Your Muse, be prepared for him/her to arrive on an erratic schedule.  Some people have the flexibility to work very well like this.  However, if you add a partner, children, clients, or artistic collaborators to the mix, they get pretty impatient with your damn muse. Muses are happy to be trained. If you show up at pretty much the same time every day to do your work, and stick with it, your Muse will learn your schedule and will work with you.

3. You have to know yourself well enough to honor your own rhythms.  Whether you are a morning person or a night owl, it makes sense to work when you are feeling the most awake and alert — the most responsive and fluent in self-expression. Sometimes, you can have more than one rhythm.  After a long absence from writing, I have been writing every day for the past two weeks, usually in the morning. I log in to a site called and have at it. I may write more, or other things, at various times of the day. However, it is that early-morning-while-it-is-still-quiet time when I can best get things going.  I usually keep a pretty sedate schedule, up by 8 a.m., in bed by 11 p.m. and asleep by 11:02. When I am working on a new project, I can be so mentally stimulated that I am writing late into the night. Like tonight.  When inspiration beckons, I like to follow it. I am in the process of finding a way to organize my time so that I can have a blend of structure and spontaneity in my work. I’ll let you know how that goes!

4. I think there is a difference between physical burnout and creative burnout, although they may go hand in hand. My own comeback from burnout actually began when I became aware that a few health issues needed improvement, and ASAP.  I began in earnest to pay attention to getting enough rest (I am talking 8 hours a night, folks) and to improve my nutrition.  As I began to feel better, I somehow showed up again in my own life.  I didn’t even realize that I was burned out, and that was why my creative inspiration had dried up. My personal burnout manifested as overwhelm. Too many irons in the fire, too many tasks, too many requests, too many emails. The only thing that there wasn’t too many of was clients. I simply didn’t have the energy to do the daily and weekly activities necessary to fill the pipeline with new customers. Happily that is now turning around as well.

Each of us is constantly adapting to circumstances and our environment as we find it, moment by moment. When you change anything — your schedule, your nutrition, your projects — you will change too, and your work will change as a result.  This is called “artistic development.”  The great thing is that, apparently,  a growth response to change can keep you learning and creating throughout your lifetime.  That is what I am counting on.

Have you found a rhythm that works for you? How do you balance all the aspects of your life? 

Enhanced by Zemanta
%d bloggers like this: