As a writer, I often fall into the trap of overworking myself... which then usually results in the worst case of Writer's Block on the face of the planet because I burn myself out.
I think I touched on how to get past Writer's Block before, and in that post, I touched on how pacing yourself and taking care of yourself is one of the best ways to not get Writer's Block in the first place.
In this post, I'm going to talk about self-care and why it's so important, as well as some tips on how to do it.
What Is "Self-Care"?
The first rule about it is that you can't take care of others or even do a job unless you first take care of yourself. This is absolutely true. I'm not talking about selfishly putting yourself in front of others or throwing them under the bus. No, I mean taking care of those basic needs, plus a few to give yourself a breather, that if you neglected them would result in declining physical and mental health.
You can't help anyone from a hospital bed, and you can't focus on the job at hand with burnout.
This is the self-care I'm talking about.
As writers and humans, we have this desire to help others often to the detriment of ourselves. Society even expects it. We all have seen the news stories about parents who gave everything there was to give plus some or that selfless neighbour who would give the shirt off their back.
When given half a chance, even if we claim we won't, we'll even work ourselves into the ground with no downtime.
This isn't a healthy lifestyle. Not even close!
We need that downtime to recharge.
How to Reverse the Burnout & Begin Helping Yourself
Take Stock of How Much Time You Spend on Everything
If you find yourself wondering where your day, week, or even month went it's time to create a take careful accounting of what you're doing. Every day, I want you to mark down what you're doing, at what time, and for how long. Be honest with yourself.
Once you've done that, transfer this over to an electronic calendar or day calendar and colour code each category to the following:
Personal (including showers and other activities)
Working Out/Physical Exercise
Transportation (the time it takes to get to work and back, etc)
Work - Including second jobs or gigs outside your regular work, even if not paid, and housework beyond basic stuff to eat.
There should be one day of every week where work is completely absent, even if volunteer, gigs, freelancing, regular full-time, part-time, etc. You need at least one day to shut it all off. No deep cleaning of the house, no looking at work emails, nothing. If you have kids, pick this day to also shuttle them off to the grandparents, an aunt/uncle, or another adult you trust who has been bugging to take them on an outing unless they're old enough to be on their own and responsible enough to not get into any trouble while on their own.
Replace that "work" or gig related stuff with a hobby where the entire point is for fun and relaxation. Nothing more, nothing less. Give yourself that freedom to shut off that part of your brain that says, "I need to...". If part of that involves kids, on that day they need to find out that Mum and Dad need their time too, even if to just reconnect with each other.
Trust me - they won't mind the time away from you either.
Now, take a look at how much time you spend on everything else over the course of the week. If you find yourself wasting time on social media, perhaps it's time to unplug.
Once you've taken stock on where your time is going (and it will probably surprise you), you can better plan where you want it to go. Trust me, taking the time to do that will make your life so much better.
I learned this from experience.
Managing your time will save your sanity.
I've Found the Time, Now What?
So, now you've managed to carve out at least one day to unplug completely, as well as a few hours to spare each day. What do you do with those hours and that day?
This depends on you, but I have a few suggestions:
Spa day, yes, even if you're a guy.
Dinner out (or order in).
Work on a hobby that is purely for the enjoyment of it, not as a side hustle.
Play video games.
Get together with friends and reconnect.
Reconnect with your lover and don't go anywhere (and order in)
Go camping, if you have that kind of time.
Read a book for pure enjoyment.
... And the list is nearly endless.
The one thing you're not seeing is doing anything with an agenda outside of relaxing.
The whole point is that you need this time to recharge your batteries and give you the mental break to come back energized and ready for the week ahead. Every night, after work, you also need that time to recharge from the day itself to be able to hit the ground running the next day.
It goes without saying, but don't neglect your health. This means actually going to your doctor for regular check-ups (and your dentist, optometrist, etc.) to make sure your body is running the best it can... and they're the one most qualified to make sure.
Also, consider your diet. A healthy diet will fuel your brain as well as your body, and you will be better equipped to handle whatever life throws you if your human-machine is fueled.
Speaking of which, if you don't go to the gym or do much to get moving, start! Don't go from zero to sixty in one day, but start slow with perhaps a walk up and down your street and, as that gets easier, kick it up to the next level.
Don't forget to sleep. Your body heals while you sleep, as does your brain. There have been numerous studies heavily suggesting there is a direct link between sleep and dementia later in life... more specifically that the less you sleep well the more likely you'll end up with dementia.
What tip will you try first?