Swoon Author Vicky Skinner: How to Avoid Burnout
Perhaps the best and worst thing about me is that I’m a workaholic. It’s the best thing about me because I’ve always been focused and driven and worked hard to achieve my goals, which has led to the fulfillment of my greatest dream. But it’s the worst because I often don’t know when to stop and when I try to juggle everything (work, marriage, social life, church, hobbies), I can get serious burnout. So, in case you’re like me, here are a few things I’ve found that help derail the burnout so that you don’t crash.
1.) Get some sleep
This might seem like an obvious one, but this is a very tough one for me. I’ve had insomnia for as long as I can remember, and while I have absolutely no trouble sleeping in, getting to sleep is one of life’s biggest challenges. I often feel guilty for taking naps, sleeping past 6 a.m., or going to bed early, but when I don’t get enough sleep, burnout is surely just around the corner, so take a day off so you can sleep in (this is literally what the weekend is for), say no to some plans so you can get to bed on time, and put your phone away! That light is so bad for you!
2.) Focus on hobbies
This is another tough one for me because for so many years, writing was my hobby. I went to work all day and then came home and wrote to relieve the stress. But now, I write full-time, so when I’m not writing for work, I find myself working on future projects or outlining a NaNoWriMo novel or writing dialogue in my head in the shower. Almost every waking moment of my life is spent working on a story in one capacity or another, and while I love it (I literally do not get sick of writing), it tends to devour everything else in my life. So I have to remember to take out time to sketch or go to the museum or go for a run or watch a movie or bake a pie. And that usually inspires my writing!
3.) Spend time with friends
This one is so important for me and always works the best. Sometimes I’ll go and go and go until my head is pounding and I’m emotionally exhausted, and that’s when I call my friends. My two best friends and my mom (my go-to people for a good time) all work from home, so just like I can take a day off when I need to, they can too, so when I’m feeling frazzled, I’ll often go see a movie with my mom or go shopping with my best friend or just go sleep on my bestie’s couch because being in someone else’s home clears my mind after being in my own for a few days.
4.) Have some alone time
One of my favorite things to do is walk around the bookstore or library by myself. I also love to take myself to lunch and just read a book while I eat. Going to the movies by myself is heavenly. I love going for a drive with no destination and a new album I just bought on iTunes. Sometimes, I just need the quiet, and that means getting away from home, responsibilities, and my characters.
5.) Get some exercise
I’m not here to tell you to start training for a marathon or start P90X or get a gym membership. But when I’ve got a headache from the constant going of drafting or edits, going for a run helps 100% of the time. It clears my head and also gets my blood flowing, which gives me more energy when it’s time to get back to work. Exercise takes a lot of forms—go for a bike ride, take your dog for a walk, do some yoga, go rock-climbing or swimming or rollerblading. It’s good for your body and great for your mind.
6.) Take a vacation
I know this is easier said than done. I definitely don’t have the finances to go to the beach every time I get burnout (I live four hours from the nearest beach). But a vacation doesn’t have to mean taking a week off and flying to Europe. Find a day in your week that’s the least busy, tell everyone you’re not working that day, and stay at home and watch Netflix and eat ice cream. What I find is that if I take a day off just because I’m not feeling it, I’ll get into a rut where I have a hard time getting back to work. But if I plan a vacation day, I feel like I’ve earned it, like I’m getting the same time off as someone who goes off to an office job every morning (like my husband), and I’m justified in getting out of bed, going straight to my couch, and not moving until it’s time to go back to bed. But take caution, use sparingly.
Burnout happens. Humans are expected to juggle more things than they’re capable of and still find time to do things they enjoy, which at times is extremely unrealistic. But don’t forget that if you don’t take a break, you’ll crash, and then you’ll be even more incapable of those responsibilities. Practice self-care and work smarter, not harder!