Sometimes, I get sick. Or life gets crazy busy. Or I’m feeling really overwhelmed. Life has its ups and downs, and that’s okay.
But, when it takes me a lot longer to do less, and adding one more thing to my schedule seems impossible, something has to give. Knowing my limits is important. Otherwise, I can burn out and that takes a lot longer to recover from than a yucky cold or a few busy weeks.
There are two difficulties when I decide to take a break. The first is deciding how much to put on hold. The second is keeping the break temporary.
If I have to take a break, it’s usually not just with my art. In many areas of my life, there are things that can absorb neglect better than others. I can put off doing laundry for a week if I have to. I can’t imagine skipping brushing my teeth unless I can’t move at all.
Some things I just don’t feel comfortable skipping. I will continue posting to my website, even when school is starting or just before Christmas. I will continue drawing a face a day and doing my other drawing practices. However, I may put off my art studies for a week or two if I need to. I might put off copying cartoon ideas from my various notebooks into the appropriate sketchbooks. I might not read any art books or watch art videos.
Sketches from Christmas break. Everyone is enjoying some relaxing time off around here.
And even though that isn’t skipping much, taking something out of my schedule seems huge. I feel like the rest is so much more manageable.
And when crunch time ends and I’m struggling to recover, I may wait an extra week to put things back in place. Recovering isn’t easy. There’s so much make up work to do. Dishes, laundry, emails, phone calls…
But when I feel like I have my schedule back without feeling like I’m constantly scrambling, the break is over. It’s time to pick things back up. If it’s hard to do, I use the methods I wrote about a few weeks ago for finding motivation.
What do you do if you pushed too hard for too long and you feel completely burnt out? When you just can’t get yourself to start anything at all?
My advice is to be gentle with yourself. It’s going to take a lot longer, and you’ll have to start smaller. Instead of trying to jump back into your old schedule, find something you can do. If you can’t paint, can you sketch faces? Can you doodle? Can you color in a coloring book? Can you go to a museum? Can you go on a walk and look at fall leaves or interesting clouds or flowers or birds?
Find something that sounds fun and do that. Then do something else fun. Can you do something fun once a week? Once a day? Give it some time.
Are you still feeling burnt out? It may be time to redefine your goals. Are the goals you used to have what you really want to do? Does something else sound better? Really imagine what it would be like to achieve different goals.
If you have a goal that you really want to achieve, how will you get there? What skills do you need to develop? How will you develop those skills? What do you need to practice?
Now, try to find motivation, like I talked about in my post a few weeks ago. If that doesn’t work, go back to finding simple, fun things to do. Try again later.
Recovering from burnout isn’t easy. Instead, take breaks when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Set aside enough tasks that you can feel the relief of letting those things go temporarily. Then, when you’re ready, pick them up again. Take care of you.
When you return from your break, things might not come as easily. Things you draw may look funny and wrong. Go easy on yourself. It won’t take long to get back to where you were if you stay consistent. You’re just a little out of practice, that’s all.
If you feel like you need someone’s permission to take a break, you have mine, for what it’s worth.
Sloth from my story, “Sloth Picnic,” published on 12/5/18.
Do you sometimes take breaks? How does that work for you? Have you ever felt burned out?
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