When I’m feeling great, I like to push myself hard to write and publish as much as I possibly can. I focus on quality, so I don’t write a bunch of garbage and throw it at the wall, hoping some will stick.
I create the best work I can, but I publish as often as my health will allow me. As you can imagine, this takes up a huge part of my day. It also uses up all the physical and mental energy I have. Doing this day after day almost always ensures a trip down the rabbit hole.
Yeah, like now.
I’ve only published one story in the past two days. Yes, it was mostly because I spent the better part of the days in government agencies trying to get all the documents I needed for my resident visa — but I also have been so stressed that my mind refuses to create.
Even today, writing this — I’m struggling. Last night I had big dreams that I would sit down today and write all day, pumping out as many pieces as I could. But when I sat down at my laptop, the words wouldn’t come.
I am completely burnt out, depressed, and anxious.
In my procrastination, I was scrolling through Facebook, and I noticed there were several other of my writer friends who are having issues right now.
What are we doing to ourselves? Are we pushing too hard?
The root of the problem
It’s no secret that many of us who are creatives suffer from chronic mental health problems. Being creative and having a unique brain seem to go hand-in-hand. I wrote about it a few weeks ago:
So why, if we know we need to be extra careful with our health, do we push ourselves to the limit?
I only speak for myself when I say the reason I need to publish so often is money. I need to support my family, especially now that my wife isn’t working due to her difficult pregnancy. I’m building an income stream on Medium, and I need to push as hard as I can to get to a point where I feel comfortable with what I make.
Being financially successful on Medium isn’t easy. We have to scrabble and scrape to grow month after month. There is not one secret to success, but part of it is writing awesome pieces every day and publishing as much as possible.
If I were only writing to grow as a writer or for the fun of it, I wouldn’t need to spend as much time creating as I do. The main reason I write is writing is my main source of income, and if I want to earn, I have to produce.
Taking it further
My mental health is tricky. I live on a precarious ledge where, if I tip too far forward, I fall into the depths. As much as I’ve tried, I’ve been unable to find the balance point. The past few months have either been no writing at all or going full-out.
There is no middle ground, or at least I haven’t been able to find it.
I know from my successes in the past that it took me finding a balance. When I set out to change my negative thinking, I often tried the other extreme of being a Pollyanna. It took me years to find the middle ground. Now, depending on the situation, I balance the negative and the positive. Yin-Yang.
I’ve made great strides.
It didn’t happen overnight, and I know I have to be patient when it comes to finding a balance in work. But, my need to earn a living makes it difficult to be patient and wait for a time when everything is in balance.
What am I supposed to do?
I need to push hard because it’s the only way I know to get to where I need to be. But I also need to take it easy on my brain because it’s sick and can only take so much before it shuts down.
I’m not the only one
We know there is a lot of us having this same battle. We need to build our income, but if we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t be able to do anything.
It’s a vicious circle. It’s a place where many are living right now. It’s a constant up and down that is causing some of us to burn out completely. How can we keep working hard when we can’t keep our minds healthy?
Let’s think about this situation
How do we quickly find a balance? We need to continue to work hard while taking care of our mental health. We need to find the middle ground. How do we do that?
1️⃣ - We must realize that we can’t do everything. We are only human, and there is no possible way to take care of everything. We only have 24 hours in a day. In addition to writing, we have family responsibilities. We have to provide food, clothing, and shelter. We have to put out the fires. There is so much that wants our attention, but we can’t do it all.
2️⃣ - We need to recognize that we aren’t like everyone else. Those of us with mental health issues aren’t the same as people who can do simple things without breaking down. Despite our best intentions, we can’t expect that we can be superheroes. Not everyone is superhuman.
3️⃣ - We can’t do it alone. I realize that some don’t have spouses or even friends on which to rely. But there is help available. We can use automation as much as possible. We can buy prepared meals. We can get childcare and focus on work. We can hire someone to clean our house. We can make appointments with people like therapists who will be supportive when we need help with our mental health. There is help available.
I have a plan
I have a simple plan going forward, and by writing it down, I hope I can help you too. The key is to keep it simple because we don’t want to add more difficulty to our already complicated life.
- Make a list of every possible thing that needs doing. I’ve started documenting my days, and after a week, I’ll have a complete list.
- Figure out what tasks can be done by others. We have a laundry service right down the road. I know I don’t have unlimited money to spend, but how much money is being wasted by me doing the laundry? What has a higher ROI, writing for three hours, or washing clothes for the same amount of time? What about other tasks? Can I pay bills online instead of in person? Can someone watch my daughter and take care of her needs during the day so I can focus on my work?
- What kinds of automation can I use in my work? Can I use a social media scheduler to post my articles online? Am I using Grammarly to cut down my proofreading time? Do I have a process that I use every time I publish?
- How much time can I allocate to work every day? Can I use the time I scroll through Facebook or watching Netflix for writing instead? Can I make a schedule and keep to it? Can I shut out distractions during work time so I’m more productive?
- Who can I get to help me with my mental health? Can my doctor or therapist be more supportive? Is there are family members or friends who I can call in times of need? What about online friends? Who do I have that could be helpful when I’m struggling?
You may not ask the same questions I asked myself, but you should start asking questions. Analyze and pick apart how you are doing everything and find ways to do it better. Invest money in making your life easier. It takes money to make money.
When you are scheduling time, it’s important that you make time for self-care. Take care of your hygiene, eat the right kind of food, get enough sleep, and give yourself plenty of time to decompress. If you have to schedule the time right now, do it!
Make your life easier, and take time for yourself. Two simple things, but so important to keep you from burning out.
Pay attention to your mental health.
Do what you need to do to get things done.
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Jason Weiland is a writer, blogger, vlogger, and mental health advocate living a dream life in far-away destinations he only dreamed of as a kid. He talks about difficult issues but has never lost his sense of humor or willingness to understand others and help when he can.
He would love to connect with you on social media.