Burnout. It happens to the best of us, and unfortunately I’m not talking about the fun, burning rubber, kind.
It’s something we’ve all discussed before, I’m sure, but there’s a reason: it’s not an issue, like an argument, which can be examined, resolved, and tucked away in the ‘lessons learned’ draw. It’s like your dental hygiene – you cannot brush your teeth once and expect them to remain healthy. But brushing your teeth daily and making sure you don’t chew on sandpaper can certainly assist in maintaining a bright, healthy smile.
Burnout is what? Stress? Exhaustion? Apathy grown into something larger, or a misbalance between ‘real life’ and online priorities? It can be a combination or each, things unmentioned, or, like a wound left untended, a single thing which grows worse with time, spreading, infectious, into other areas.
For some of us, it’s little more than a brief period of disinterest, for others it is something more serious. We all know what stress is, and have, to some degree, experienced it for ourselves. That font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, defines stress as being ‘a negative concept that can have an impact on one’s mental and physical well-being’, and it can indeed be a very real problem, with stress having a flow-on effect to other areas of life. Stress and exhaustion, left unchecked, can lead to anxiety, depression, and even physical illness. The Victorian Government’s ‘Better Health’ website advises:
“Stress that is not managed or treated can lead to significant medical illnesses and anxiety disorders that can result in depression. Stress may contribute to physical illness such as cardiovascular disease… Untreated anxiety disorders can lead to serious depression.” – source: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au
While a bad week blogging or a slew of bad books are not necessarily akin to a soul-sucking job or a difficult relationship, it’s perhaps helpful to examine Blogger Burnout with the same importance we would allocate when considering stress in ‘Real Life’. After all – to return to our delightful, festering, furunculous wound analogy – a problem left unchecked can grow into something far worse.
Looking at Burnout and Stress Differently
Stress can be both external and internal. A family emergency is beyond my control. Overextending myself? Now that I can fix. So I’m considering Blogger Burnout and Me, thusly: if I’m drained, uninspired, and struggling in my day job I look at…
- How I’m doing things. Am I overextending myself, or trying to fit more in than I have available time? I can’t fit 42 hours of deadlines into a 37.5 hour week.
- I take a holiday. A week away from work allows me to return bright, refreshed, and well rested, ready to take on a new challenge.
- I prioritise. In this case, think of yourself as self-employed. Being self-employed, it’s more important than ever to manage your time well. The best thing is, as a blogger, you choose your own hours. Do other things in your life (school, exams, family or friends) need more time? Consider what’s more important, and take the time you need.
What Works For Me
Yet for all this meditation on the matter, I don’t have the answers. I’m not sure any of us truly do. I do know what works for me, though:
- I pace myself: I find the self-imposed pressure of posting a review once or more every week is a big stressor for me. If I read three books in a week, I don’t post three reviews. I’ll post one or two, and setup a backlog. A buffer of a week or two worth of reviews ready to post is enormously helpful for me if I’m running behind due to those ‘real life’ concerns.
- I take a break: Whether it’s from reading, from posting, or from the three-hundred blog posts bookmarked in my reader, sometimes I need a break. This might mean a week of doing nothing except catching up on The Vampire Diaries with my incredibly tolerant husband, or it might mean spending a weekend reading something I want to read for me, not for review.
- I try to keep perspective: I have a husband who I adore, and family and friends I love and enjoy spending time with. I also work full time. I’m paid to do that, and it deserves my full attention. I also try to remember why I started blogging: because I love books, and, perhaps even more so, I love talking to you about them. If the love isn’t there, why? Am I reading the wrong books, or focusing on the wrong things, like comments, stats, or something trivial like followers? I know I tend to do this. Every now and then I have to kick my own ass ;D
- I do what works for me: I am in awe of people who manage to post every day, or even every two. People like Giselle, the gals at Novels On The Run, or the fabulous Jennifer who post every day are amongst my blogging heroes. But I’ve come to accept that I can’t do that. And it’s a relief.
- I take stress seriously: Stress is a Big Deal. I’ve had jobs I love, and jobs I hate, and I never want to turn blogging, this thing and community I adore into something I simply ‘do’. Stress, left unchecked, can turn into something truly ugly, and you are so much more important than a few hundred words a few times a week. When I stalk your blog, it’s because I love your reviews, but ultimately, because I love you more. If you don’t feel like you’re coping – and this applies to any part of your life, online or off – ask for help. If you’re a part of this community, you’re loved – trust me. Think of this community like Hogwarts: Help will always be given at to those who ask for it.
The answers? I don’t have them. What I do have
are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people… is a great big group friends that help me cope, that – for some strange reason – love me for me, and don’t mind if I miss a week posting. All of this helps me deal with Blogger Burnout.
But, truly, the point of this ‘discussion’ isn’t me – it’s you. How do you deal with burnout and stress? Have any Trade Secrets™ you’d care to share? Yes? TO THE COMMENTS! I would love to hear them.