Bow out to avoid burnout

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***TRIGGER WARNING: I talk about sexual assault. But here’s a version without triggers.***

Many creatives are also super political. That’s super cool. The world is fucked and we all gotta do our part to make it better. But burnout is real.

I can remember completely melting down in my third year of university. I was taking a couple gender studies courses and the stats were devastating. One night, I got drunk and cried on my balcony alone when I learned how many women are sexually assaulted in the USA.

Now, I know the world is shit. But that doesn’t stop information from destroying me.

When Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby first made the news for their fucked up, irreproachable behaviour, it hit me hard. I sobbed in my room alone. I berated some of the men in my life for not doing enough. I harboured a rage that stopped me from being able to work.

I followed Ghomeshi’s initially case, but quickly realized it was going to crush me.

Instead, I ignored the news. When others tried to talk about it, I put in my two cents about the importance of believing victims, let those I was talking to know how dangerous judging women who come forward is and then changed the subject. I heard the verdict when it came out, but I don’t know what all happened in between.

I don’t need to follow sexual assault cases to know that most men—even when they admit to their crimes—get little more than a slap on the wrist for rape. I also don’t need to follow those cases to do something, though.

I can write about consent and have conversations with men in my life about sexual assault. I can encourage others to think about respect when it comes to women’s bodies and demand it for myself. I can trust victims and talk to others about the importance of giving them support and allowing them to have a voice.

It is okay to take time away from the news and heartbreaking bullshit of the world, from time to time. There’s a big difference between sticking your head in the sand and getting a little distance to heal, rejuvenate and gather the strength to keep fighting.

It’s also okay to find ways to fight that cause you the least amount of harm.

This is especially important for people who battle with mental health issues. When the chemicals in your brain are handing you heavy, life-stopping blows on the regular, you don’t need anything else holding you down.

One thing I can offer to help you keep going through the mental health struggle is a weekly newsletter I’m now putting out that gives creatives motivation and support based on my experiences dealing with anxiety and depression. Sign-up now and together we can keep working for a better world while taking care of ourselves.

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Bow out to avoid burnout (trigger-free version)

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Many creatives are also super political. That’s super cool. The world is fucked and we all gotta do our part to make it better. But burnout is real.

 

It is okay to take time away from the news and heartbreaking bullshit of the world, from time to time. There’s a big difference between sticking your head in the sand and getting a little distance to heal, rejuvenate and gather the strength to keep fighting.

It’s also okay to find ways to fight that cause you the least amount of harm.

This is especially important for people who battle with mental health issues. When the chemicals in your brain are handing you heavy, life-stopping blows on the regular, you don’t need anything else holding you down.

One thing I can offer to help you keep going through the mental health struggle is a weekly newsletter I’m now putting out that gives creatives motivation and support based on my experiences dealing with anxiety and depression. Sign-up now and together we can keep working for a better world while taking care of ourselves.

Have mental health check-ins, even when life rocks

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Sometimes everything is going great and then WHAM! Anxiety hits your right in the fucking face.

Super polite.

I’m pretty bad for this. When things are going great, sometimes I’ll just take on more and more, thinking that my anxiety, depression and PTSD have magically gone away! I’m cured! I’m a normal human who can do normal things, like work 10 hour days seven days a week without lunch followed by an evening of emotionally supporting friends or volunteering. Because that’s normal … Then I’ll suddenly be hit with a wild panic attack or depression so severe even getting out of bed to feed my kitties is nearly impossible. And getting out of bed to feed myself actually is.

A way to avoid this is to stop from time-to-time to do check-ins. On a wildly awesome week when you’re ahead of your game, instead of working ahead, take a bit of time off alone to just reflect. What are you feeling? Why? Is there anything you’re not thrilled about? Can it be changed? If all is well, just take some time for regular self-care or do a little self-spoiling. Just because the garden is looking good doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be watered and fertilized, you know?

When things are getting a little hectic, schedule some alone time in. It’s okay to say no to a friend who needs help or to extra work for a little regular maintenance.

Hey, you’re taking time to read this! So maybe you’ve got a few minutes now to chat with yourself about how you’re doing? I recommend it.

Getting over self-doubt

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There have been days in my career when I’m so self-conscious, I can’t even get to my desk to check my emails. I’m too terrified that there’s a message ripping me or my work apart (it’s never happened) and I can’t check my social media pages or messages for the same reasons.

I’ve pushed off starting projects that I really believe in (such as Cockroach) out of fear of what other people are going to think.

Outwardly, I tell others that if you’re not hated by someone, you’re probably living life wrong.

Inside, I just want everyone to like me. I really want everyone to like me.

But that’s not realistic. Especially when you’re doing public creative work. The best anyone can do is go in with good intentions and respect. Do research, be curious, open yourself to criticism. And there probably will be criticism. Most of it will be kind and well-intentioned. Some will be awful and mean-spirited, but not much.

What’s the worst case scenario reaction of people if you put out something you really believe in? Everyone might hate it and then hate you. The chances of that happening? Slim to none. A bad case scenario is that people don’t really like it. Well, that’s great! You can walk away from that experience learning something. You have the opportunity to act with grace, earning respect from the folks who maybe didn’t quite get your vision. And then you can take the skills and insights gained to the next project. And the next. And the next.

Everyone has flops and failures. I’ve had plenty with Cockroach. You won’t see evidence of this, but I’ve hosted events that no one came to. I’ve hosted events that had two witnesses in attendance to see the complete fail. And I’ve run events that hundreds of people attended. As embarrassing as the crap events were, I learned a lot about promotion and event planning from them, so that’s a win for me. If I’d given up, Winnipeg’s Vegan Handmade Market wouldn’t exist.

Think about your biggest failure. What did you learn from it? Are you really willing to risk losing potential future learning experiences out of fear of judgement? I hope not.

Work how works for you

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There’s so much advice out there on how to run a freelance business, but not all of it is worth following.

Here’s why: I’ve been managing myself since I was six years old and bringing homework to the dining room table before dinner. I know the time of day I work best. I know how often I need breaks. I know the kinds of clients I want and I know the ones who will give me mad anxiety.

If you’re honest with yourself, you probably know how you work best, too. And I’m not just referring to time of day.

Freelancers need to find where their audience is chilling online and be there. So, if your people are on Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr, that’s where you should be? If you ask me, no. I poke around for groups and platforms where my audience is chilling, but I only put energy and time into the ones that I actually enjoy. Tumblr is fine and all, but it’s just not my jam. I know that spending lots of time on a Tumblr would not be great for my mental health, so all I have is a super neglected page for Cockroach. I’m still pretty into Facebook and really digging Instagram right now, so that’s what I focus on.

The days when I start getting myself into trouble are the ones when my anxiety manifests as this powerful energy to get shit done. Now.

When I blow through my daily to-do lists for the entire week, I’ve been known to check out free online freelancer courses. In my surge of excitement I’ll start the course, re-evaluating my core values and mission statement. Then I’ll get to a part about needling to post x number of times on Twitter a day and lose interest because it’s just not for me or become super anxious because I feel like I’m doing this freelance thing wrong. Sometimes I actually go so far as trying to implement their advice, but that just ends with me losing all my steam and need to take a mental health day from trying to do too much that just doesn’t feel right for how I work.

The fact is, unless you’re being mean or unethical, there’s no wrong way to freelance. Being self-employed is all about working how works best for you, and that’s exactly what I do.

Something new I’m trying out is a weekly newsletter sending support, love and motivation to creatives who struggle with their mental health. It launched today, so sign-up now and you won’t miss another week of it!

What’s up with Meg J Crane?

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I’m switching up the format a bit right now to let you know what I’m up to.

I’ve let you know a bit about a survey I’m doing to see what sorts of things I can do to support creatives who have anxiety, I’m planning a weekly newsletter for creatives who struggle with anxiety and I’m focusing this blog’s content more on what it’s like to be a creative who deals with poor mental health.

Here’s the deal: While I’ve only recently gotten a name for all the issues I deal with, I have had anxiety and depression since I was a child and PTSD since I was a teenager. Through the absolute best and the absolute worst, I’ve always been a writer. Sometimes I’ve also used other mediums to express myself, but even on days when I’m too depressed to pick up a pen, I’m always a creative at heart.

I’ve learned a lot. Through starting to open up about my mental health, I’ve connected with so many other creatives who are dealing with similar feelings. And many of them come to me with questions about how they can improve their life. Rather than keep giving advice and support on a one-to-one basis, I’ve decided it would be most efficient and helpful if I started focusing more of my career on supporting and motivating other creatives with mental health issues. (Which doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t want to still have those one-on-one discussions!)

A huge portion of my life is dedicated to my creative work, my mental health and trying to help other people, so it only feels natural that I finally combine all three.

But I do want to know how best to help people on a bigger scale. Check out my survey to let me know if I’m on the right track with the things I’m thinking about and to leave me some suggestions of your own. You can also send me an email or post a comment here if you’ve got thoughts for future blog topics or want to talk more about products.

And, of course, sign-up for my newsletter if you think it’ll help you. In it, I’m prompting a lot of private convos with my audience and I’m so excited to get started with the first one on July 31.

Kicking anxiety’s butt … for a minute

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No matter how on top of projects I am and how far ahead I work, there’s always going to be the odd day when work needs to get done, but the anxiety is crushing. Cue mad panic.

I’ve found it’s best for me to go into this situation with a plan on how to deal with these days. And that plan’s first step is to make a plan!

1. Plan the day

For me, making decisions is so difficult when I’m anxious. My brain is already running on overdrive and can’t handle the extra work. Before I get too lost in panic, I sit down and write out every single micro step involved in accomplishing whatever’s got to get down.

With the steps written out, I schedule them at different times, leaving space where I remind myself to eat, grab water, shower or just chill.

2. Cut the excess

On these days, I pull everything off the to-do list that isn’t necessary. Sure, I like to post on Instagram everyday, but my career isn’t going to fall apart if I skip a few. As much as a healthy meal would benefit me, on high-anxiety days that require me to accomplish something, I’m grabbing whatever is quickest to eat. The less there is to do, the easier it will be to get through the day.

3. Reward!!!

When I’m done what has to get done, I stop and drop. Go for a walk. Crawl into bed and doze. Watch Netflix. Read a book. Stare at the wall. I do whatever the anxiety allows me to do, and don’t do any more than that. Other celebrating the fact that I got shit done despite my anxiety.

Days like this are becoming fewer, but I still struggle with anxiety basically every day. For a better picture of what (my) life as an anxious freelancer can be like, follow me on Instagram!