Updated: Dec 6, 2021
Burnout and creative blocks have got your attention - now it's time to tend to yourself.
Every message I communicate through my illustrations always starts off as a personal message to myself. I have been hearing the message 'tend to yourself!!' loud and clear for over a month now, feeling burnt out has hit me hard. At first, all I could think of was what a great illustration that phrase could make and I wanted to create it straight away. I fall into this mindset at times when I'm more concerned with productivity than listening to how I feel and being mindful. Thankfully (or not), my burnout came with a creative block so I had no choice but to rest. This message came with no creative fuel, only a strong demand to listen to it and take the advice! It was time for me to tend to myself.
When I'm feeling burnt out or lacking creativity often a sense of guilt and an unhelpful layer of stress comes along with it. Some thoughts that niggle in my mind are - I have so much work I want to get on with, this is a waste of time, how will my dreams ever progress if I rest. Despite whatever negative thought patterns creep in, I believe that blocks happen for a reason and I try to pay attention to the message that might be hidden within them. The easy route is to push through feeling stuck but this never proves beneficial for me. In the long term, I gain more from giving all my attention to how I feel, I'd even go so far as to say that there is magic that can come from feeling burnout. But that magic will stay hidden and burnout will continue demanding your attention until you take time to tend to yourself.
Finding that hidden magic and relief from feeling stuck comes from being introspective and taking time to reflect. There is a different cure for every situation. Sometimes crying is just what I need, sometimes I need to go find space in nature, sometimes I need to bake a banana cake. Tending to yourself is self-care - giving yourself attention, doing what makes you feel loved and lovely and cared for and nurtured, filling up your cup until its overflowing and spilling into your creativity and into the joy you feel just for being alive.
In a practical way, tending to myself looks like; addressing/feeling something I've been avoiding, resting and nourishing myself with self-care, reflecting through journaling, meditating or doing other activities which clear my mind, following my intuition, doing things that bring me joy (avoiding job-related creative things), being actively kind and encouraging towards myself especially when negative thoughts come knocking. These activities all nurture my mental health and help me become fluent in the language my inner world speaks.
If the cause of burnout isn't clear already, one way that helps me gain clarity and understanding of how I came to feel this way and how to move past it is through journaling! I cannot overstate how healing journalling has been for me. It's a great opportunity to face the problem, to reassess, to reevaluate, and help yourself feel ready and empowered to go back into the world again. Some key things I like to ask myself and take time to ponder on are: Why do I feel this way? What are the circumstances, thoughts, or patterns that led me here? If my burnout could speak what advice would it give me? What is stunting me from moving forwards? What needs to be let go to make room for me to grow?
There's a lovely plant analogy within my illustration which communicates this idea. If you take a look you will see a cosmic hand reaching up out of the subconscious, it is trying to cut away one of the flower's leaves which is withering. This larger and wiser part of you knows that the leaf needs to be cut away for the good of the whole plant. The flower's growth has stunted, it has put all of its time and energy into reviving the withering leaf which is proving useless. This leaf represents something that is blocking your growth. It represents the process of letting go of a way of being, a redundant and limiting belief or thought about yourself and what you are able to achieve, or a bad habit that is getting in your way. The magic thing about it is that despite how scary or confronting it might be to reflect on yourself and decide what needs to fall away, there is a huge reward. Where that old leaf was taking up space and energy there is suddenly energy for the plant to grow stronger and space for new shoots to sprout! The dead leaf which has been cut away then degrades into the soil and nourishes your foundations. The tears you cry fall and transform, perhaps feeding into a new and fulfilling aspect of your life. This is the magic that is hidden within burnout, a chance for transformation and growth.