The Twenty-Something Series: How I deal with burn out

Being busy is great, but it does bring the risk of getting burnt out. In this post, I talk about how I recognise burn out in me and how I deal with it.

As those of you who've been following my blog or Instagram will know, I have been crazy busy over the past year. In this post, I'm going to talk about what burn out looks like for me and how I've learnt to deal with it.

Let's take a quick look at the last year...

Since early last year, I have: moved twice, had a movie released on Netflix and announced its sequel, written a new book, edited another, sold the sequel (novel) and my spin-off novella to The Kissing Booth, had a weekend in Sao Paulo and a few days in New York for WattCon, had a work trip to Germany, a few trips to London to meet my agent or editors and just recently done a panel for Birchbox for International Women's Day (#ad? Do I need to disclose that here? I'll be on the safe side and say #ad for the Birchbox panel.)

It's been a busy time. I've had a lot going on. And I'm sure I've forgotten something in that list.

And obviously, that's all been on top of the day job. My full-time 9-5 working in IT. 

Mostly, I take it all in my stride. 

Something comes up on the bookish side and I'll take a day's holiday from the day job to go to London for meetings or whatever, or I'll spend a few hours in the evening writing or promoting something on social media. Things come up and I just... crack on.

Sometimes I sit back and think about it and I realise how much goes into it. 

Even something like a promotional post on social media to announce my latest book deal - I took and edited the photos, crafted a video for my YouTube around it, spent some time scheduling the Tweets and then spent a few hours replying to people's messages and comments, or doing an Instagram Live. Something that sounds so simple - 'Announce book deal online' - turns into several hours' worth of work.

I posted recently about how much more there is to being a writer than just writing a book.

And when you're doing so much, at some point, you burn out.

So what does burn out look like for me?

For me, burn out goes through two stages. I've got stage one, which I've come to recognise as The Danger Zone. This is where it gets risky and I need to check myself.

The Danger Zone of burn out for me means that I'm so busy from the time I get in from work that I look up and realise it's ten o'clock and I need to jump in the shower, I haven't had tea, that laundry I was going to do never got done, and I'm so wrung-out I can't actually get to sleep when I do go to bed. I'm so focused that I've become over-focused and I get mentally exhausted very quickly, but have so much going on I try to ignore that. Which, to nobody's surprise, totally backfires.

If I have a day or two like that now, I make a conscious effort to take a break, and take care of myself, get back into a better routine - but more on that later.

After The Danger Zone, I get into my second phase of burn out: Complete and Utter Uselessness. 

I had a day like this the other week. I'd been doing pretty okay but was stressed thinking about the week ahead because I was going to be away for a couple of days, had things to prepare, had stuff to tie up in the day job because I was going to be out of the office... 

And instead of being productive when I got in from work, like I thought I needed to be, I laid on the bed and... crashed. 

I went blindly through all the recent Buzzfeed quizzes, checked my Twitter and Facebook every few seconds where there were no new posts, and ended up doing a Q&A on Instagram Stories - mostly because I couldn't bring myself to get up from the bed. It was eleven o'clock before I dragged myself up to get in the shower, and I only did so then because I knew I wouldn't get up early enough to do it the next day.

When I'm in this kind of burn out, I just don't function. I do nothing productive. I sleep a lot. I just feel totally drained for a couple of days. I'm pretty useless if I reach that point - which is why I work hard now to avoid getting to that point, or how to bounce back quickly.

So how do I deal with burn out?

If I've learnt one thing over the last year, it's how important self-care and routine are for me. I've talked a few times about both of these things on my blog before, and they might sound simple, but they're so vital.

Recognising what burn out looks like for me means I know when I'm pushing myself too hard now. If I think I'm in The Danger Zone, if I have a day or an evening like that, I stop. I step back. I look after myself. And if I'm having a day where I'm burnt out and useless, I focus on me - not my work - to get myself back on track.

This is where routine comes into it, too, but for a couple of reasons. 

If I'm getting close to a burn out, it's usually because I've let my routine slip somehow, and I make a conscious effort to get back into it. Making myself a proper home-cooked meal (rather than throwing something in the oven, or doing something quick). Re-doing my nails. Making sure my chores are done. I make sure I take myself to bed early. 

Little things that just help me feel more human. They're also easy things that I would be doing anyway. Even something like changing my bedsheets can be a big help if I'm starting to feel run-down.

Routine is also important in helping me avoid burn out because it's a way for me to manage my time better and be more productive when I am working so much. 

I get into work a bit earlier so I can head off a bit earlier. I do any chores as soon as I leave work. I cook tea early and take a shower before I do anything else. By the time I do sit down, it means I've got the rest of the evening. It's just something that works for me. 

Knowing what a 'good way of working' is for me is a huge factor in avoiding burn out. I know how much I need that routine when I'm busy, and how much I need that time for self care.

I'll be posting soon on here about how to make time for self-care when you're busy, so keep an eye out for that, too!

What's your best advice for dealing with burn out? What does it look like for you? Let me know in the comments, or Tweet me @Reekles!

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.