The title above is based on the lyrics “It’s better to burn out than to fade away” by Neil Young. Some of my favourite lyrics, however, on reflection I don’t think it’s good to burn out at all.
I felt the burn the other week and gladly saw it coming before it really got out of hand. I’ve been in bad places before due to workload and pressure and I for one particularly need to keep myself in check from time to time, that is, being someone whose mental health isn’t always at its best. My trouble is that my vocation is also my hobby and finding the mindset to stop, or even to think to stop can feel a little alien. That said, going full pelt for 2 weeks into the freelance hustle took its toll and reminded me that I needed a break and to press snooze.
Below I have written and illustrated a list of 6 things I did to help centre myself before easing back into the hustle with a new perspective.
1. First of all, I put the pencil down
Getting away from the work had to be a must. That’s right folks… no drawing! I don’t know about you but I feel the need to create constantly, so I simply retreated to the sofa and watched a bit of telly. That mental creative break was great to give my mind a rest from thinking. Thinking is something I do a lot of so trashy, mind numbing tv to clear the mind… just what the brain ordered!
2. I played my guitar and sang
Ye I’m not much of a singer (nor guitar player) and I probably do my neighbours head in but I enjoy it and can get lost in it. Again, a mental break where I can get away and admittedly fantasise about becoming a musician one day.
3. I went out for a drink or two.. ok maybe 4
Now, I’m not saying alcohol is the answer to all life’s problems. I think it can do more harm than good but in moderation it’s nice. So going out for a few and mixing that with socialising and interacting away from the screen was really stress busting and a release of the built up tension and foggy thoughts going through my mind. It was a good night, with a lot of laughs and as they say, laughter is a good medicine.
My mental health and outlook on life can really change after a good bit of shut eye.
4. I went to bed early and slept in
I love bed and a good night sleep along with pushing the snooze button a few extra times really did the trick. An obvious one but not one I often neglect. My mental health and outlook on life can really change after a good bit of shut eye.
5. Less coffee
Not an easy one to stop so I didn’t go cold turkey from the black stuff, nor did I have just the one giant cup, but I did have less. I also remembered to take in something solid instead of just sitting and filling up my cup one after the other. Less coffee means being less wired and jittery… healthy body, healthy mind.
6. I took my time when I was feeling ready to get back into it
That is to say I made bite size goals instead of trying to do all the things! There is a trend in self employment that you need to work your butt off and harder than the next guy to stay ahead of the game and I do agree with that in principle. However, managing time and scheduling my day kept everything digestible.
“I think we have to have just as much passion for our own well-being as in our own career”
So press snooze
OK, maybe I didn’t have a full burn out this time. I mean, being completely exhausted and in bed for days. But as I have said I have been rock bottom mentally before and it’s not a good place to be. Recognising in myself that something wasn’t right and doing certain things over 3-4 days centred me and I was able to get back to doing things again with a new mindset.
I’m not going full pelt now, but I’m certain I will again. As with any form of self employment it requires hard work. Burnout is ultimately inevitable, it comes from passion for the work and I love my work. But I think we have to have just as much passion for our own well-being as in our own career and know when it’s time to press snooze and do something else to rest the soul.