Refilling Your Creative Well: Recovering from Burn-Out

How to help refill your creative well and come back from burn-out.

If you follow my Covid Chronicles series you know that I hit a really low point before the holidays. A big part of that was feeling very stressed, overwhelmed, and creatively burnt out, and in general just burnt-out. I was feeling directionless, uninspired, and tired. I couldn’t focus, I was physically drained, I was having trouble sleeping, and small frustrations felt insurmountable. One of the most notable ways this manifested was that I had a really hard time writing and coming up with new content ideas.

To address how I was feeling, I knew that I needed to be intentional in my time-off during the holidays in order to heal, otherwise my burn-out would just get worse and this would set me up to struggle even more in the new year.

Since coming back from the holidays and implementing these 7 tips, I have been feeling much better and I thought I would share what helped me to heal and refill my creative well during that time. These aren’t particularly complex or strange tips, but I think the particular combination was very beneficial.

These tips could help with a creative burn-out if you are a creator like myself (writer, visual artist, dancer etc.) but they could also help address just general life or work burn-out even if it’s not specifically creatively oriented.

  1. Rest. This can take a few different forms. Time-off is ideal but this can also include taking a few extra breaks in your day, saying no to extra demands where possible, taking naps, setting aside periods of down-time, and getting a good nights sleep. Downtime and sleep are like healing medicine for the brain. They help our brain to slow down, release pent up stresses, and refuel important hormones and neurotransmitters.
  2. Nurture yourself. Nurturing to me, means feeding and refueling. There are many different ways to nurture ourselves including; eating healthily and regularly, relaxation or self-care activities, attending therapy, spiritual exploration and thinking, even time spent with someone you love who you can talk to about how you’re feeling. Take time to nurture yourself, your mind and body, what it needs to be healthy and balanced.
  3. Stop creating. Just stop doing as much as possible. Don’t force things if they aren’t working. Try to let go of worries of productivity or achievement, you will create again. In a work setting, you might try to delegate tasks, ask a coworker for support, or try to get rid of unnecessary tasks or put aside tasks that can wait.
  4. Seek out other creators (or new things) and explore. Take this time away to try new things. This will rekindle imagination, inspire you and expand your mindset. It can also take your mind off of frustrations or creative (or non creative) blocks. When we are exposed to new ideas and experiences they can help us to better understand what we are going through but can also bring us new energy, fun, and can help us shake-off stress.
  5. Make a plan for when you will create (or work) again. This will help quell anxieties about productivity, i.e. I don’t need to think about that until then, but it is also helpful to work gradually towards a goal which will prevent you from putting off getting back to your creative project or work. You can’t put it off forever. If you just wait until you feel “perfect” again it might be too easy for you to put it off or make excuses as to why you can’t create.
  6. Create or work again but without pressure for perfection. As you slowly come back to work or creative pursuits it’s going to feel intimidating and you might have fears and anxiety that what you do won’t be up to your expectations. Just try to go through the motions and let go of the expectations you held from before. You are starting fresh, it might not be perfect, and that’s okay. Sometimes just doing something has it’s own healing affect. Set a timer and get to-it; try to stay away from long drawn out sessions as they might contribute to more burn-out.
  7. Time. It’s clichĂ© for a reason. Like so many other things in life there is nothing like good-old time to help. I don’t know why this is so true but something about time passing just helps. It brings us further from our problems and often leads to a new perspective that can help us feel better. It isn’t a perfect solution on its own and its not something we have any control over but sometimes the only thing that will really help is just time. Time away, time passing.

Another thing to note is that burn-out can be cyclical. What I mean is that we ebb and flow between periods of higher and lower stress but using these tips can help level out the highs and lows to create a more rideable wave, and help prevent complete burn-out or total crash.

I hope you find these tips helpful if you are dealing with creative or other kinds of burn-out. Remember, you have to be gentle with yourself when it comes to dealing with burnt-out because burn-out comes from ungentleness: overworking, under nurturing, and over-expecting from ourselves and others. Have you experienced burn-out, what helped you? Comment below.

Write soon,

Hannah B.L.

P.S. stay tuned for next week, January 18th, 2021, when I release the first part of my new series: What Does This Have To Do With Wellness?

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