Today was a hard day. I am feeling burned out, and there is no end to the cause of the burnout in sight. Work is busy, but it isn't work causing the burnout. It is everything else, and while I can take time off work, there is no escaping the everything else right now. So I have been thinking about what I can do to alleviate the burnout when I can't escape its cause. I decided that maybe writing a post about the things that have actually helped might help me think of more.
One thing that has helped a lot is finding a book that can pull me in and thoroughly distract me. This is easier said than done. I have tried many books, and most have not done this. In the early days, I started to fear I wouldn't be able to read - I kept trying and not being able to stay focused on the book. But then I read the manuscript that will be the next Annorlunda Books release, Lagoonfire, by Francesca Forrest (cover reveal just posted this week!) and it completely sucked me in and I realized I'd just need to keep trying different books until I found one that absorbed me. Here are the books that have worked so far:
- Agency, by William Gibson. I've written about this at length before. Even though The Jackpot feels disturbingly close, it is not the focus and the plot is so engrossing that both this book and The Peripheral (which is the first in the series) manage to feel like a warning and yet still be a fun read.
- High Risk, by Chavi Eve Karkowsky. I knew from my days following the author's blog that the writing in this book would be wonderful. It is more than just beautiful writing, though: It is a well-constructed exploration of maternal-fetal health and I found it somehow calming despite the high stakes topics being discussed.
- American by Day, by Derek B. Miller. I read this one because my book club picked it. I am so glad we picked it - I would never have found it otherwise, and it was a thoroughly diverting mystery/action story with some good thought-provoking things about American culture thrown in. I've got the first book in the series (Norwegian by Night) waiting for me to get time to try it.
And that's it. I've tried a lot of other books. Some, I finished (usually the book club books), others I decided to set aside and try in less distracting times.
I would dearly love to find TV to watch that would feel good and distracting, but so far the only series we've watched that really worked for me is The Mandalorian. We watch a lot of 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown on YouTube, too, but that is more just a filler than a proper distraction.
We've been having family movie night just about every week. Mostly, I do this because the rest of the family likes it. But my recent choice of Bill and Ted Face the Music was a good one - for some reason, that movie made me really happy, and it gave me the escapism that people like about movies (most movies do not do this for me).
I had hoped that getting back out on my rollerblades would help, but I am not sure it does. There are too many other people, even when I go early, and too many of them aren't wearing masks, creating extra stress around navigating the crowded spots.
The exercise habit that seems to help the most right now is going for a walk in my neighborhood while listening to podcasts. I have recently started trying to go out for at least a short walk between the end of my work day and the time I need to start dinner. I found that I missed the way listening to podcasts on my drive home helped me switch off my work brain, and so I'm trying to replicate that with walks.
I like to sit in our backyard with a glass of wine and watch the light fade and the birds fly over head. I haven't been able to do that this week. It looks like the fire that is fouling my air right now may be brought under control sooner than expected. We caught a break and had cooler weather and less wind than expected today. So maybe I'll be back to that habit soon.
If I am in the right mood, practicing embroidery is relaxing. I usually listen to podcasts while I do that, too. I may decide I am ready to move on from just practicing stitches to stitching a simple design.
One of the things I usually do when I'm feeling burned out is plan a getaway - even if it is just a day trip somewhere close to home, getting away helps. This is not possible now, and so I have turned to looking through photos from past vacations. This has been surprisingly helpful. I wrote about my latest trip down memory lane over at Adjusted Latitudes. Maybe I should try to post more there, if only to get time browsing through old photos!
The other thing I find soothing is listening to music on YouTube, and trying to find new things. I guess it is a way to explore when we can't actually go out and explore. Here is one of the new songs Mr. Snarky and I found and like:
And that's all I have. I will piece together some combination of things to get past this bout of burnout. What are you doing these days to keep yourself feeling somewhat OK?
I've been thinking of you all on the west coast during your fires. I remember how hard it was when you couldn't go outside or exercise because of the air. And we didn't even have a pandemic!ReplyDelete
How have I been coping? At the beginning of Covid, I found blogging about the information I was reading (rather than just doomscrolling) was helpful as it gave me a focus. I'm also a big traveller, like you, and I've done a couple of virtual travel experiences - surprisingly good, especially if you use the opportunity to catch up with a friend from someone else in the world.
But the thing I'm finding hardest is not having travel to look forward to - I really love planning travel, almost as much as the actual travel, and it's going to be a long time for me from Australia. I do occasionally research cool places I'd like to go anyway, pretending they will be my next trip (small towns in Germany, walking in Japan, another cycling trip to Vietnam...)
The main thing I'm trying to do, though, some days better than others, is find something to enjoy in the moment. I've got a random bit of beauty in each blog post I do, and looking for a great photo from the day to post is an excellent way of making me pay attention to the little beautiful things around me.
I should look into the virtual travel experiences - you aren't the first person I've heard say they are surprisingly good!Delete
I just finished reading A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green, and if you haven't already, I think An Absolutely Remarkable Thing (book 1) would be worth trying to read. It's got fun thriller elements, but also interesting ideas about society and ethics.ReplyDelete
Thanks! I'll check those out.Delete
I'm almost out of Ilona Andrews novels... Reading the Kate Daniels series backwards has been a lot better than reading it forwards because it gets really good around book 4 or so. (The first time I tried, I couldn't finish the first book and gave it away and did not return.)ReplyDelete
I have a nagging sense of guilt that I have been falling down on activism things. I need to figure out how to get that back into my routine now that schools have started. It's really hard because normally I would be in the middle of deep voter registration right now, but every thing we were able to do last year the pandemic + our county not really wanting people to vote has made impossible.
I do find that writing Vote Forward letters helps with the feeling of doom that is definitely a component of my burnout. But I also often feel like I should be doing more... but I'm not sure what that would be.Delete
oddly, something that has helped with burnout is injuring myself so I couldn't walk for a week. not particularly recommended while trying to manage kids & puppy & full time job... but it's helped me let go of some things because I just can't do them. spending a lot of time with your leg elevated watching the great british baking show is EVENTUALLY relaxing. maybe I'm usually too hard on myself to be productive?ReplyDelete
Yikes! I think I'll pass on that method of dealing with the burnout! But I think you're right: Sometimes being forced to rest is what it takes.Delete
I second nicoleandmaggie on reading Ilona Andrews! Then you can move into my favorite unofficial genre of "Magic Detective." Somehow, reading about British cops solving magical crimes (Rivers of London) or formerly polygamous cult member FBI agents solving magical crimes (Soulwood Series by Faith Hunter) is the ultimate distraction. They fix the problem! It can't possibly happen here! I remember sneering a vampire romance once upon a time, but when real life is depressing, there is nothing better than a vampire hunter who wraps everything up in a neat bow at the end of the night.ReplyDelete
... adds these to library lists...Delete
I do have an unread magic detective book on my kindle right now, but it's not one of these. It's a shinigami something or other and I'm worried a bit about cultural appropriation, so it's a gamble. I also have the fourth Eve Williams (Necromancer detective) by Ashley Beasley but I didn't like the third as much as the first two, so I haven't gotten it started. (I did really like the first two a lot.)
OK... maybe you two have convinced me to try magical detective series!Delete
The Shinigami detective series is really fun too. It's not what you expect and that's what makes it lovely.Delete
Oh good! Sometimes even otherwise good white US/UK authors get a bit cringy when they tackle "orientalism" [sic] (I'm sure tv tropes has a list of my complaints because the tropes are so prevalent), so I've been holding off on this one even though I own a copy. (And there are so many great Japanese animes with shinigami!)Delete
I really enjoyed the Detective Inspector Chen series (magical detective!). But it's been a while and I can't attest to whether they're a little racist or not!Delete
I had been walking every single day and it was not enough to keep things good but it was enough to keep things okay. Now I'm in the worst air quality part of Oregon (not in Portland, in the mid-Valley where it's worse) and ash is falling from the sky and I have no idea how to deal with things when I can't even be outside.ReplyDelete
That is really tough and I know exactly what you mean. I don't have any bright ideas for how to handle the compounding of catastrophes. What is happening in Oregon right now is so scary. I hope they can get the fires under control soon and that your air improves.Delete
If you have a good virtual travel experience, do please let us know! We've been doing ok at fighting the doldrums but it's an uphill slog most days. It's tough when we realize how much of our lives are being boxed in. We lost social lives and JB's activities. We compensated with biking and hiking, then the fires and air quality have taken that away. We're still able to read and cook and enjoy silly games indoors, and a friend sent JB some new board games which is both fun (Connect 4) and an exercise in frustration for the games they don't know how to play. We write a lot of letters even though I don't necessarily know what to say. JB composes lots of one liners and does art in hopes of lifting spirits and I add the addresses and embellishments. I do enjoy a good meditative word search or coloring page. There's something nice about not thinking too hard about the thing at hand. Every week or two I'm motivated to try a new recipe of some kind. Our banana PB chocolate chip oatmeal bars turned out great. Catfish two ways is up next.ReplyDelete
We tried having game nights early on. Perhaps we should bring that back until the smoke clears!Delete
Totally up to your covid comfort zone, but wanted to suggest camping. I've heard of a lot of people doing that lately, and the idea of it being fully outdoors and very socially distanced from anyone outside your household makes it seem pretty safe. But maybe that's just not what you're looking for and that's fine too!ReplyDelete
I've found it useful to know that I'm going to be doing some scrolling and try to be prepared with some less miserable/pointless-feeling scrolling topics. Right now I'm reading about the effective altruism movement! Also about how to live in more environmentally friendly ways.
I'm really sorry about the fires. I lived on the west coast until recently. It's incredibly awful to hear what it's like there from friends. Not being able to go outside while also not being able to go inside while away from your home is so miserable, I'm so sorry and I hope it passes soon.
Can't figure out how to edit, but just realized how little sense that makes with the fires! Yikes. Maybe sometime soon though :(Delete
No worries! I don't think you can edit a comment on blogger. I used to pretend I was going to move this blog to a self-hosted wordpress site, but that hasn't happened and honestly probably never well!Delete
We have camped a bit. I am the least enthusiastic camper in the family and could suck it up for a good get away. But as you mention in your second comment, there isn't really anywhere not smoky to camp right now. One of our favorite camping spots is in Joshua Tree. Last time we went was around Thanksgiving, so maybe that's an idea for us. Thanks for your comment!