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  • Helen English Artist


Okay, so a slight change of tone for one week! I delayed writing this so I could follow up with another viewpoint of life soon after.

Burnout. I’m sure that you have heard of it and, likely, have experienced it in a lesser or greater way. I would define it as the complete antithesis of motivation. It’s that feeling of possessing very little enthusiasm for what was setting you on fire not so long ago. It can last for a few days, a few weeks or much longer. It can bring feelings of despair and depression with it, and is something which often creeps up on you as a result of overwork or just spreading yourself too thin on projects that are not your prime motivation for being. Much like everything in life, it differs for everyone. I can only speak from my own and very recent experience.

I do enjoy being ridiculously busy. It fuels me but it has to be on my own terms. I do contract work of various types and I love the freedom of deciding on schedules, together with the person contracting me, to suit us both. A few months ago, I added another commitment to my week and that’s when my year began to change. I had been running around, doing mad hours and ignoring my purely creative practice. Slowly my energy began to wane and it got to the point where I needed to take a step back.

Luckily, a couple of weeks later I had the energy to realise that I needed to make stronger decisions about how I spend my time. I started volunteering in a wonderful environment, Mokoia Island, which gave me more rather than less energy. I worked on a number of creative projects, one of which is a voluntary project, and started to regain my sense of self. I do have to earn a living so this is not advice from someone who can sit around and just volunteer her time willy nilly but I have reorganised my life to allow me to give four hours of my time every other week for one project and a handful of hours over the coming weeks on the other. And it makes an enormous difference to how I feel. I still get frustrated on occasions but I have found balance.

I think that the lessons learned are that if life is getting on top of you, you must take time out. Even a few hours when you can be alone and think about what isn’t working and what you could do to improve it. Is it your worklife, your homelife or both which is running you ragged. Talking to someone really helps, either before or after you have had the chance to think. I have a good friend who I meet for coffee but sometimes talking to someone who doesn’t know you can take away that pressure to conform to a friend’s advice. Last of all, I hope that your week is more full of sunshine than clouds and that you have time to sit down and smell the coffee.

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