For Creatives, it’s easy to get wrapped up in our passion and focus on our long-term goals. We race along, balancing the demands of daily life with our commitment to carve out as much time for our project as possible, when BLAM-O:
It’s a familiar foe, but it still seems to catch us off-guard. “Right now? But things were going so well!” And suddenly, in the face of that exhaustion, the siren call of the couch and an entire season of whatever show we’ve been meaning to watch become overpowering.
I don’t know if it’s possible to completely prevent burnout, but there are ways to keep it from happening as often.
Take a rest day!
I know, I know, too much to do, so much at stake, this is the only pocket of time you’re going to get for a few days — hear me out. At least once a season, take an entire day to recharge your batteries. Do something unusual, something outside of your normal routine. We live less than two hours away from the Ohio Amish community, and taking a drive through the rolling farmland is as good as going back in time to simpler days. It never fails to relax us (and stuff us — the food!). Here are some other ideas:
Take a long walk in the woods.
Slather yourself with bug spray and tuck a small notebook and a lunch into a backpack and head for the forest. Nothing centers us like nature. If ideas and inspiration come bubbling up, jot them down in the notebook and return to the present. Take a nap. If your mind keeps niggling you about all the duties you’re neglecting, acknowledge it and push it away. Mary Kay Ash famously said she’d been cleaning the same spot for twenty-five years, she was ready for someone else to clean it. Likewise, we will always be tacking chores onto the to-do list, but on this day, we are devoting ourselves to relishing our health and vitality. The sun will continue to rise and set even if the house is a mess. Ignore it for one day.
Get a relaxing massage, a new haircut and color, then go to that restaurant — the special occasion restaurant. Obviously, I’m for budgeting and avoiding added debt to credit cards, but this is your sanity. If you can swing it and pay cash, take a splurge day once or twice a year.
Or go to the fancy salon. Most of the year I’ve got my head down driving away at a project and will literally have to hold my bangs out of my eyes before I realize it’s time for a haircut. If this is you, you might have to schedule a pamper day or else people will start mistaking you for sasquatch…
Get away from the house.
It’s tempting to stay at home in your jammies all day, but instead of refreshing you, this tends to sap you. It’s hard to relax when you’re surrounded by the clamoring tasks you’re trying to escape. At the end of the day you’ll feel frustrated rather than calm. And, nine times out of ten, you won’t be able to resist chipping away at this-or-that… Dishes, laundry, removing every single picture frame off the wall to do a deep clean dusting, etc.
It would be better to schedule an all day cleaning marathon on another day and feel awesome about getting a ton of things done, rather than calling it a rest day and not resting very well. Instead, go to a cafe that you love but don’t get to visit often. Take a journal and doodle and dream. Let your mind wander as you people-watch. Or, take a day trip, avoiding high-traffic, stressful driving, of course.
Visit someone you rarely get to see
In a digital age, face-to-face time is priceless. Every year at my family reunions, we shake our heads and make vague promises to get together soon but we never do. Reconfigure your perspective by spending time with relatives and friends, especially older ones. (I have a 92-year-old pen pal, and our problems are vastly different. I’m worried about career and creative pursuits; she wants to stay healthy so she can make it back to her summer beach cottage one more time. It puts my problems in a different context!) Life is short, and you’ll never regret taking time for special loved ones. Bonus: you’ll get advice from ones who have been there before you.
Whatever you choose to do, take a personal rest day and keep your appointment with yourself. It’s not selfish. Your family will thank you for returning refreshed and refocused, rather than pushing yourself to a frazzled, overwhelmed storm of stress.
Do you have a favorite rest day strategy? Tell me about it!
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