Writers, Are You Looking After Your Mental Health?

As a self-employed solopreneur you probably don’t get to take a mental health day when it all seems a bit too much. After all, there are all those bills to pay. That’s why we spend so much time wearing multiple hats and juggling all the tasks that people in a regular business would have lots of employees to do.

writing mental health Writers, Are You Looking After Your Mental Health?

Many of us are also juggling beyond the four corners of the screen in our daily lives. We may be parents, carers for elderly relatives, members of volunteer organizations or possibly all of them at the same time. It’s no surprise that we sometimes feel overwhelmed – anyone would. But sometimes that overwhelm goes a bit further. Ask any writer or creative type and they will tell you about burnout – that mind-numbing feeling of lassitude and incapacity that’s way beyond overwhelm.

I’ve written about burnout multiple times before (see the reading list at the end of this post) so I won’t rehash the same tips. But here’s my public service announcement on the subject of mental health: you owe it to yourself to look after it. And that means a shift in attitude to your writing business and your life.

Though I’m not particularly religious, I’m a big fan of the Serenity Prayer.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

It may just be the way my mind works, but that simple three step structure suggests and approach to moving to a healthier life, both mentally and physically. My three steps are:

1. Recognizing that you can’t do everything.

2. Prioritizing what’s most important to you.

3. Giving yourself permission to release the rest.

Each step has its challenges.

1. Recognize Your Limits

Many of us were brought up to think that we can do it all and have it all. It’s not true. Time is finite and, as I discover the older I get, so is energy. The other day I had to turn down an all day, all night girlie get-together because I knew I had to get up early the next morning to handle one of my responsibilities and I didn’t want to be exhausted when I did it. While that was probably the boring choice, it certainly was the sensible one. Sometimes there has to be a trade-off. Recognizing that you have mental and physical limits will help you with the next step.

2. Prioritize What’s Important

If you can’t do everything, then some things take precedence. These may be business tasks or personal ones – they will be different for everyone. For example, when you work for yourself, you may put work that you enjoy doing above work that simply pays the bills. And you may have personal commitments that nourish you emotionally – for me, a fixed point in my day is collecting my daughter from school. I don’t schedule meetings for that time and, unless I’ve been out of town, I’ve only missed a handful in the last seven years.

3. Release the Rest

Priorities established, you’re left with the rest. These will probably break down into:

  • essential tasks that you have to do yourself.
  • essential tasks that someone else can do for you.
  • non-essential tasks.

You can stop doing tasks in the third category right away. Then you can outsource the tasks in the second category. Bam! That’s two-thirds of your workload gone right there. Don’t you feel better already? I know that whenever I’ve outsourced a soul-destroying but necessary task to someone who loves it more than I do and will do a great job, I’ve had a great feeling of relief and liberation.

Setting the Context for Better Mental Health

Following these three steps can help you avoid burnout and overwhelm. But there’s one more thing you can do, too. Since you’re the boss, allow your employee side to take the occasional mental health day. In the same way that you schedule everything else in your work calendar, schedule an occasional day off to recharge, regroup and get back to a feeling of balance.

How do you look after your mental health?

Further reading:

This post is part of the March 2014 Word Carnival, a roundup of business-related posts by the smartest group of bloggers you could hope to meet. This month’s theme: Mental Health and your Business. Check out the rest of this month’s posts on the Word Carnivals site.

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