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5 Great Strategies to Combat Burnout as a Writer

combat burnout

Combat Burnout - Understanding the Stages and Strategies to Cooldown

How do we combat burnout? Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that results from chronic stress and overworking. It can leave individuals feeling drained, unmotivated, and even questioning their abilities. As writers, burnout can be particularly challenging, as creativity and productivity often suffer when we are mentally exhausted.

In this article, we will explore the 12 stages of burnout and discuss practical strategies to handle and prevent it.

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The 12 Stages of Burnout

1. Unresolved Stress

Burnout often begins with unresolved stress. When we fail to address and manage stress effectively, it can accumulate and lead to a more severe state of burnout.

2. Excessive Drive and Passion

As writers, we can become intensely passionate about our work, which is commendable. However, when this drive becomes excessive and relentless, it can contribute to burnout.

3. Putting in Excessive Effort

Pushing ourselves beyond our limits and working tirelessly to meet deadlines or achieve goals may seem productive, but it can lead to burnout if sustained over time.

4. Disregarding One’s Needs

In the pursuit of our writing ambitions, we may neglect our own well-being, including sleep, relaxation, and self-care, which can worsen burnout.

5. Blaming Others for Personal Issues

Attributing personal struggles and challenges to external factors, rather than addressing them directly, can contribute to burnout as it prevents us from finding constructive solutions.

6. Time Becomes Irrelevant

When experiencing burnout, the concept of time can lose its significance. We may find ourselves working at odd hours, neglecting breaks, and struggling to manage time effectively.

7. Denial of Burnout

It is common for individuals to deny experiencing burnout initially. Acknowledging burnout is the first step towards overcoming it.

8. Official Withdrawal

As burnout intensifies, individuals may begin to withdraw from their usual activities, both professionally and socially.

9. Behavioral Changes

Burnout can manifest in various behavioral changes, such as increased irritability, mood swings, and reduced productivity.

10. Lack of Self-Care

Self-care becomes neglected as burnout takes a toll on physical and mental health, leading to a vicious cycle of exhaustion.

11. Impulsive Control

Individuals may resort to impulsive behaviors to cope with burnout, which can be detrimental to their well-being.

12. Depression and Mental Deterioration

In the final stages of burnout, individuals may experience depression and a decline in cognitive function.

Strategies to Combat Burnout

Embracing Burnout: It Happens to the Best of Us

Experiencing burnout does not make you a failure; it makes you human. Many successful writers and professionals have encountered burnout at some point in their careers. Acknowledging and accepting burnout as a natural response to prolonged stress is crucial for personal growth and well-being.

Combating Burnout - ADJUST YOUR PERSPECTIVES

Adjust Your Perspectives

Shift your focus from repetitive tasks to what sets each project apart. Find value and purpose in your writing to reignite your passion. You can also check out my post on reigniting creativity for further details.

In the relentless pursuit of writing projects, it’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing each task as just another item on your to-do list. However, to combat burnout, it’s essential to shift your perspective. Instead of viewing your work as repetitive or mundane, focus on what makes each project unique and valuable. Before starting a new assignment, take a moment to ask yourself, “What sets this story apart from the ones I’ve written before? What message or experience do I want to convey to my readers?”

By finding the significance in each piece of writing, you infuse passion and purpose into your work, reigniting your creative spark and preventing burnout from taking hold.

Combating Burnout - SEEK HELP FROM OTHERS

Seek Help from Others

Reach out to trusted friends or family who will genuinely listen and support you during challenging times.

When burnout starts to creep in, reaching out for support can make all the difference. Sharing your feelings with trusted friends, family, or colleagues can provide a much-needed emotional release and validation. Ensure that you surround yourself with individuals who genuinely listen to and understand your struggles. Having a reliable support system can alleviate stress and help you gain perspective on your challenges.

Sometimes, all it takes is a listening ear or a few words of encouragement to lift the weight of burnout off your shoulders.

Combating Burnout - PRIORITIZE EXERCISE AND DIET

Prioritize Exercise and Diet

Maintain a balanced diet and engage in regular exercise to boost physical and mental resilience.

The link between physical and mental health is undeniable, and prioritizing exercise and diet can significantly impact your ability to cope with burnout. Regular

 physical activity not only reduces stress and anxiety but also releases endorphins, the body’s natural mood elevators. Incorporate exercise routines that you enjoy, whether it’s walking, jogging, yoga, or any other form of activity. Additionally, pay attention to your diet, as certain foods can affect your mood and energy levels. Fuel your body with nutritious foods that sustain your energy throughout the day, and avoid excessive consumption of stimulants and sugars, which can lead to crashes and worsen burnout symptoms.

For further information on diet and exercise and its importance, an article I suggest is by Healthline written by Michael Kerr that was updated in January 19th, 2022. You can check it out here.

Taking care of your physical well-being directly contributes to your mental resilience and overall ability to manage burnout effectively.

Combating Burnout - BE WARY OF TRIGGERS

Be Wary of Your Triggers

Identify personal triggers that contribute to burnout, such as perfectionism or poor time management, and develop strategies to manage them effectively.

Understanding the triggers that contribute to burnout is key to preventing its escalation. Recognize patterns in your behavior and thoughts that indicate you are heading towards burnout. For some, perfectionism can lead to a relentless pursuit of flawlessness, resulting in increased stress and exhaustion. Others may struggle with time management, leading to overwhelming workloads and inadequate rest. Identify your specific triggers and consciously work on managing them. When you catch yourself falling into counterproductive habits, pause and take a few deep breaths. Remind yourself that perfection is not always attainable and that it’s okay to seek help or delegate tasks when needed.

By being vigilant about your triggers, you can take proactive measures to prevent burnout from taking control of your writing journey.

Rethink Your PrioritiesCombating Burnout - RETHINK YOUR PRIORITIES

Align your writing goals with your passions and values. Prioritize tasks that contribute to your growth and fulfillment as a writer.

Take a step back and evaluate your writing priorities regularly. The demands of the writing world can be overwhelming, and it’s essential to reassess what truly matters to you. Ask yourself if the projects you’re working on align with your long-term goals and values. If a particular task does not contribute significantly to your growth as a writer or resonate with your passions, consider whether it’s worth your time and energy. Be willing to let go of commitments that no longer serve your purpose, and focus on projects that bring fulfillment and joy to your writing journey.

Remember that saying ‘no’ to some opportunities allows you to say ‘yes’ to what truly matters, and it can be a powerful way to prevent burnout and maintain a healthy balance in your writing career.

A Personal Experience: Learning from Burnout

I vividly remember an encounter a few years back when I was introduced to someone who claimed to be deeply connected to the film industry. Little did I know that this individual would lead me down a path of deception and burnout.

Spoiler alert: He lied.

He spun an outlandish tale to convince me to write something for him without payment upfront. He promised that once the piece sold, we’d split the earnings evenly. At the time, I naively saw an opportunity to showcase my writing and potentially make some money, so I agreed. However, the project he had in mind was far from what I was passionate about. It dived into the world of politics, a genre I had consistently avoided because of its controversial nature.

As I began working on the piece, I felt the weight of the pressure he put on me to produce something exceptional. The burning desire to impress him and secure a successful sale took a toll on my mental and emotional well-being. But as fate would have it, after dedicating countless hours to crafting the manuscript, I handed it over to him, eagerly waiting for his response.

And then, silence.

He vanished without a trace, leaving me in a state of uncertainty and disappointment. I learned a very hard lesson that day. I realized that chasing money and external validation at the expense of my passion and mental health was a recipe for burnout. Writing is an art that flows from the heart, and compromising that essence for financial gain only led me down a path of exhaustion and disillusionment.

Since then, I’ve made a promise to myself: I will write about what I truly love and believe in. I won’t let the allure of quick rewards cloud my judgment. I want my words to be genuine and authentic, resonating with my readers and myself. That experience taught me the value of staying true to my convictions and writing from a place of authenticity.

Now, I channel my energy into projects that ignite my passion, whether they are personal narratives, captivating fiction, or thought-provoking essays. Writing has once again become a source of joy and fulfillment in my life.

Maybe someday, I’ll write a short story from that unforgettable experience. But for now, it remains a powerful reminder of the importance of embracing my true voice and staying committed to the stories that matter most to me.

Recommended Books and Media on Combating Burnout

Books

The Cure for Burnout by Emily Ballesteros: A transformative guide that offers practical advice and insights to recognize, address, and recover from burnout by creating sustainable work-life boundaries and fostering personal well-being.

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski PhD, Amelia Nagoski DMA: A transformative guide that offers practical advice and insights to recognize, address, and recover from burnout by creating sustainable work-life boundaries and fostering personal well-being.

Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday: A compelling manual that draws on Stoicism to argue that facing our challenges head-on is the path to inner strength, perseverance, and success, turning obstacles into opportunities for growth.

YouTube

How to Deal with Burnout

3 signs that you’ve hit clinical burnout and should seek help | Laurie Santos

Final Thoughts

Burnout is a significant challenge for writers and professionals alike. However, it is not insurmountable. By recognizing the stages of burnout and adopting effective strategies to manage it, we can sustain our creativity and productivity over the long term.

Burnout is a difficult obstacle for writers to overcome as they navigate the intersection of ambition and stress. My own encounter with burnout proved transformative, unveiling a path I needed to traverse. I learned that writing’s true essence lies not in seeking external rewards, but in nurturing our unique voices and sharing stories that stir our souls.

Embracing burnout as a natural part of creation taught me resilience and self-compassion. It’s alright to pause, reflect, and breathe when expectations weigh heavily. In those moments, we rediscover the passion that first ignited our love for words. Writing extends ourselves, expressing and connecting us with the world.

Together, let’s rise above burnout, transforming it into a catalyst for growth and self-discovery.