Saturday, September 7, 2013

Fighting Mental Exhaustion

I just realized that I suffer from mental exhaustion - a.k.a. burnout - from time to time. I'm going out on a limb here, but it must be a regular occurrence with writers. We use so much of our creative brain that sometimes our energy becomes so drained that we don't feel like doing anything. It also doesn't help when your day job also demands brain power, in which case your mind is doubly drained!

Looking into the symptoms of burnout, I found some interesting things. There was a girl that I worked with at the University who came down with a horrible case of burnout. She only realized what was happening when our boss and mentor pointed out some of these symptoms and advised that she take a break. It wasn't easy to fix, but over time the symptoms subsided.

You may be suffering from burnout if you're experiencing these things:

  • You're feeling helpless, trapped and defeated
  • You constantly feel like a failure
  • You feel tired most of the time and don't have the will to do anything
  • You isolate yourself and procrastinate
  • Your eating habits are changing to be less or more than usual
  • You experience muscle aches and back pain
I've felt more than one of these at any given time, usually when I'm coming up to a stressful time of the week, or if I'm pulling double duty with my day jobs and my writing. This leads me to believe that allowing yourself the chance to recharge is essential to maintaining a healthy creative mind and body.

In this digital age we are encouraged to go, go, go! We need to be producing. But, we also need to allow ourselves a chance to relax. I'm trying to give myself one day a week that I can come home and not do any work. I can watch anything I want. I can read whatever strikes me on my shelf or in my Kindle. I can just sit and not focus on producing anything.

If you're also a writer - or even if you're not, but you're experiencing some of these burnout symptoms with your own work, I urge you to slow down and take a break. It doesn't have to be long, but your brain is like a battery. It needs to be recharged once in a while!