“Maybe it’s burn out?”
The words I hadn’t been able to form myself being gently suggested by a friend. Maybe, I said while waiting for the ground to swallow me as the failure I must surely be.
After months of working, creating, speaking, mentoring and hustling I felt dry, spent and ill equipped to deal with rebuilding my energy levels. I was raw and feeling emotionally spent coming out of the first six months of the year.
As work eased off for the summer I allowed myself to slow down and focus on only the jobs which needed to be done. It’s just a blip, I thought, and yet every creative spark which flew out of me in the coming weeks I couldn’t get any of them to light the fire. She was right, I was burnt out.
Google ‘burn out’ and dozens of articles face you proclaiming Ten Signs That You’re Burned Out but offering little help beyond what seems obvious. When I tried this, even picking which advice to take on board was too much so I just closed the window.
School wrapped up and our first trip beckoned. Escaping to a place where everything was taken care of for us (no spoilers – I have so much more to say about this) gave me the opportunity to stop consuming.
As I took a break from reading, watching, listening and generally consuming online I was able to let go of the anxiety that I wasn’t offering up new work constantly. My cameras were never far from reach and I was creating for the future rather than the pressure to share immediately. I was making plans and thinking through ideas that would have weeks to ferment before I needed to take action. And I wrote; snippets and thoughts just for me and my own satisfaction.
And gradually I started to feel the kindling of fire. Weeks passed and I let go of caring that my photos on Instagram didn’t make the perfect grid or catch enough likes because that’s not why I share to Instagram. I stopped worrying about what people were thinking and saying about me and my work because it triggers a spiral of doubt. Who needs to invite that kind of negativity in?
How often do we make a conscious effort to be gentle with ourselves? To nurture what inspires us and heal what has broken within? And now I’ve given myself time to rebuild I can see that I’ve sunk into old stress habits: patterns of self loathing and lack of care for my body.
So this is the time I burned out. That I stopped treating myself well and felt the whiplash of such foolhardy ways. It’s also the time I made space for recovery. It’s the summer I didn’t work at every opportunity and felt revived for it.
And I’m ready for September, so ready to burn brightly once again.