Do you need a break?
A lot of people recommend pressing forward through exhaustion, hard choices, and those moments that make you want to give up.
And I want to be perfectly clear. I am not asking you to give up.
I am asking you to take a break before you push through to the end.
When you are hiking up a mountain, especially as a beginner, you walk as fast as you can up that hill. If you’re anything like me, within fifteen minutes you’re gasping for air, your heart is beating out of your chest, and you feel like you might, possibly, throw up. You consider just rolling back down the hill, but know that your dog will give you the side-eye. Hobbling back to the trailhead, you climb in your car and drive home. Ugh.
When you go up that same mountain with a more experienced hiker, you’ll notice that they walk slower, take pauses, and look at the views while sipping from their ever-present water bottle. When moving at a manageable pace, you come to the end of the trail and discover that exhaustion snuck up on you. You feel less like you’re going to die and more like “That was hard, but so much fun!” And the next time you climb the mountain, you’re a little stronger and more able to bear any potential setbacks.
That’s the difference between taking a break and giving up.
Taking breaks in your creative work time gives you the same sort of ability to persevere with your writing projects. They support your creativity by filling your creative well with ideas, sounds, smells, experiences, sights, and tastes. They give inspiration room to strike.
However, we usually view breaks with suspicion. Am I just wasting time? Will this break lead to me giving up? How can I devote my usual writing time to doing something else?
Taking a break, no matter how necessary, can be scary. That’s normal, especially if you are feeling that gasping, desperate grasp for creativity each time you sit down. When your creativity seems to disappear, you wonder if it will ever return.
Yes. Yes, it will come back. You’ve just exhausted it with the constant exhale of work and no inhalations of inspiration. Whatever else you think, you can know for certain that, given time and space, your creativity will show up again.
So, how can you take this magical break and let that pool of creativity build back up?
Focus on the Physical
Even though all of our despair and anxiety seems located in our brains, our bodies hold that tension too. Rest your body and give it ample nourishment in the form of good food and healthy exercise. When you do this, you make space for your creativity and inspiration to return. Here are some of the things I do to support my body when my creativity begins to dissipate:
- Chop Wood, Carry Water: Focus on simple acts and do them to the best of your ability. No more. No less.
- Tubing: Just like riding an inner tube down a lazy river, limit your time spent doing anything strenuous—mentally, emotionally, or creatively. Look for ways to have fun during the workday. Make your workspace a pleasant place to inhabit. But keep your butt from dragging on the rocks! Do enough that you won’t get in trouble with your boss.
- Take a Nap: Resting your body with midday naps, meditation, or walks connects you with your body and encourages you to listen to it.
- Nourish Your Body & Soul: Embrace the practice of mindful living. Consider each thing you put in your mouth. Enjoy every single bite, whether it is a bowl of carrot sticks or ice cream. And do the same with your activity. These small moments of attention actively nourish your body and soul, allowing the joy and beauty of the experience to seep into our fuel tank of inspiration. Plus, that mindful nourishment of your mental and physical being? That’s self-care, baby!
Play With Your Creativity
Once you’ve created the space for your creativity to return, inspiration will begin to seep into your being again. These next suggestions actively refill that reservoir of creativity while battling burnout. Engaging with them on a consistent basis continually tops off your creative well and keeps your creative, work, and home lives balanced.
- Laugh: Yep. We gotta giggle. Laughter releases stress, prevents and heals burnout, and just plain makes you feel better. And sometimes it’s darn hard to get yourself to laugh. So hard that our bodies have even evolved so that even if we PRETEND to laugh, it works just as well. Laughter opens our minds and hearts, and allows us to absorb those inspiring thoughts and ideas.
- Indulge Your Curiosity: Curiosity is our primary source of inspiration rejuvenation. Following your curiosity supports gathering all of the new ideas, sights, experiences, tastes, smells, and sounds that fuel your creativity and inspiration. Any preparation for a creative project begins with unleashing your curiosity as you research, gather materials, and test outcomes. And a necessary byproduct of that process is joy.
- Connect with Family & Friends: When your creative well drains, you tend to isolate yourself. Humans, even the introverts among us (count me in as an introvert!), require connection with each other. When it’s good, these connections feed our souls and add complex experiences and feelings to our creative well. They ground us in ourselves and our history, as well as giving us inspiration for new creations.
- Play: We need to play. Activity combined with the firing of our imagination is an essential part of our lives. Our creativity depends on engaging in play where we can embrace whimsy and test our boundaries. Integrate the idea of play into anything you do, from taking out the garbage with a swing and a shout of “Two Points!” to join your child for a game of hopscotch.
It’s time to heal, take a break, and let that creative well fill back up. To disengage with the stressful thoughts and see where our minds take us. To play, to revel in the sunshine, to ignore the clock, and take in all of the beauty and joy we can discover.
The opposite of burned out isn’t rest. I mean, part of it is rest, but the other part is inspiration!
Let’s get ourselves ready to be inspired.
But first, let’s take a nap.
LA (as in tra-la-la) Bourgeois empowers you to embrace JOY as you manifest your creative goals through her Creativity and Business Coaching. Battle resistance, procrastination, and overwhelm with her at your side, gently encouraging with humor and heart. Discover more at her website, labourgeois.biz.