Hello friends! Today I figured I would spend some time to answer an excellent question submitted by a blog reader. This questions has had me reflecting deeply over the past weeks on the notion of dealing with blogger burnout as an introvert/HSP.
Q: “Hey Renee! I had a question (or possible blog post suggestion) for you in regards to your past post about highly sensitive people. I’ve been reading up/thinking about it so much since I recently discovered I was highly sensitive, it explains SO much so clearly now. Now I think my question is geared more for introverts overall whether or not HS, but I think you would have a lot to speak into this as someone who interacts a ton on social media. How would you say you navigate it all with putting yourself out there on social media and blogging as an introvert and HSP? Is it a constant struggle or have you found a balance through it all? Do you have any suggestions to those of us that want to start blogs, be more active on social, to find a balance in consistency and setting boundaries when we tend to be more private in general?” — Stasia Renaud
Thanks Stasia for your question!
As many of you know, I’m a sensitive and inwardly-focused person. But I am also a very lively creative being. So I am usually working on a minimum of three projects at a time. Although right now I’m juggling: blogging, freelance photography, poetry, music, teaching yoga, planning a big camping trip and helping out with Frolic Chocolate, developing some wellness workshops and I’ve started getting involved in acting again.
You might read that list and think geez this girl is a major overachiever.
Or maybe you read that list and you think wow I’m exactly the same way!
Here’s what’s really going on: I’m a multipotentialite. I’m a non-linear thinker. I’m highly self critical. I don’t have any kids or pets. And I make my own schedule.
If it weren’t for this combination of factors I wouldn’t be able to run my life like this.
Sometimes I imagine that my brain is a clown car and all of my projects are circus performers that take turns at the wheel. It’s frequently mad in there. But thankfully the lion-tamers, tightrope walkers and sword-swallowers seem to have my best interest at heart.
Because I tend to take on a lot of work and play projects I’ve had to become extraordinarily good at understanding just exactly how to balance my life and keep myself from feeling overwhelmed and burnt out. Especially because I often fall into the trap of comparing myself to more extroverted and left-brained types.
I always have to reground and remind myself that what works for other people doesn’t work for me. Linear thinkers have their perfect editorial calendars, posting schedules and straightforward content. Me? I’m meandering. I never post on the same days. I’m even poetical. But I’m also a treasure trove of unique content ideas. And I will never run out of ideas for this blog. Even after death my ghost will probably putter around whispering vegan cheesecake ideas into the great wide ether beyond space and time. I try not to put myself down for having this sort of organic way of creating content.
The best way I go about managing my blog-life without becoming overwhelmed is by getting lots of restorative time, taking time to do mindfulness practices, continuing to eat well and getting plenty of exercise.
But that’s quite the trite little list of obvious to-do’s.
So let’s jump in a bit deeper, shall we?
Just Admit It, We’re All Burnt Out
The biggest problem that all bloggers and self-made people struggle with is burnout. Not only do we burn the candle on both ends with our never-ending task list; but we are always on our phones / computers / tablets ready to reply to comments, answer emails and send out contracts.
From personal experience I can say that having technology around all day every day reinforces a complex of negative patterns that contribute to blogger burnout.
- It creates an unrealistic sense of duty. Because people can reach us via text, phone, email and social media 24/7 we come to believe that we are required to immediately respond.
- It keeps us in a constant emotional rollercoaster as we react to positive and negative stimulus back-to-back, all day long.
- It has us on high alert. What if the next big thing pops into our inbox that needs immediate action?!
- It disturbs our sleep patterns late at night and early in the morning, when we should be falling asleep and waking up naturally. Bad sleep patterns = more caffeine = adrenal fatigue = bad juju.
Regardless of if you’re a HSP or introvert, technology is a problem. I would say that HSP/Introvert folks might be even more off-kilter than their less sensitive and extroverted sisters thanks to burnout and technology. But it’s primarily a human problem.
On top of that, if you’re like me and live that freelance / internet-work life than you may find yourself working constantly without taking a break. At various times throughout my career I’ve found myself taking no weekends, working through lunch (I mean, lunch is work for me a lot of the time) and even skipping meals because I’m so focused on my tasks. Early on in my blog life I would work from the time I woke up to the time I went to sleep. It was not a healthy pattern, let me tell ya.
Even more essentially, I find burnout is often a result of losing faith in yourself. Self-doubt and that inner harsh self-critic are real assholes. I would say 99% of people struggle with their Doubting Thomas and Self-Critic in complete silence. But you know where those two beasties really come from? Fear. Fear that you’re not good enough, that you’ll never make it, that it’s not possible.
So how do you do it all without being a burnt out, stressed out, self-sabotaging mess?
Actionable Tips for A Happier Blog Life
When you’re just starting out, squeaking out a voice on the internet feels like trying to make a pool out of the Grand Canyon one bucketful of water at a time. Mostly, it feels like you’re talking to yourself. And once you’ve reached a certain amount of notoriety (with plenty of elbow grease and a lot of luck) you have infinite emails, comments and notifications to attend to. There’s a whole lot of outgoing energy, and for a long time not much of that energy comes back to you.
So, here are some tips and lessons from my journey that I hope will make you a healthier and happier blogging human.
- Schedule in Self-Care. Put it in your google calendar if you have to. I generally do my self-care stuff mid-day when I take a break. E.g. exercise, stretching, reading, self-massage or going for a walk. Although in the Summer I’m a big fan of the evening wind-down. I’ll pour myself a rose-mint iced tea to sip while watering the garden. I’ll put on some chill music and do a couple sun salutations before starting dinner (which because I love cooking is part of my self-care). Check out my 43 essential self-care tips for highly sensitive people. It’s full of gems that work for everyone.
- Make sure you get at least 1 no-work, no-internet day in every week. I take Sundays off to be completely lazy. I sleep in, cuddle with my husband, cook food just for fun (aka no writing down recipes or photography), watch movies, read, go for walks, do yoga and garden. Without this one day a week to reboot I get pretty edgy.
- Journal your heart out. I started practicing Morning Pages from The Practical Art of Creativity over a year ago and it’s significantly impacted my life. All you do is write three pages right when you wake up to clear out all of the unconscious junk lingering in your brain before you start your day. I get some of my best insights and ideas from this practice. And writing down my dreams and thoughts when I’m still sleepy helps me to connect with my unconscious feelings and beliefs. Which in turn makes it possible for me to process my life and move past stuck aspects of my inner life. All essential for living that productive/happy creative boss life.
- Turn your phone to “do not disturb” or “airplane” mode while working. There is absolutely no reason that you should be required to be at the beck and call of the whole world while you’re in the midst of manifesting your unique genius. Did DaVinci have to check an iPhone every 10 minutes to maintain his status?! NO. Don’t sweat the notifications. Just do the work.
- Set a timer for checking and updating social media and emails. I do 30 minutes for Instagram. 30 minutes for email. 5 minutes for twitter. 15 minutes for Pinterest. Do your posting, comment responding, DMing and heart-ing of friends posts. Then you’re done. Watch as you suddenly have 4 more hours in your day to do whatever the hell you want. Take a bath. Walk the dog. Shave your legs. Write that novel you’ve had in your head for years.
- Stay organized during your week so that you avoid over-working yourself. I admit, this one is the most difficult for me. I love my work and my projects so I definitely over schedule myself. But the better I am about organizing my task list, the more time I have for my just-for-fun projects. Everybody has different needs when it comes to an organized work life, but the only thing that works for me is writing down lists of my tasks in a journal and my Get to Work Book. Then I organize them according to how I want my day to look. And then I assign time frames to the tasks. So next to update instagram I’ll write 30 min. And next to write blog post I’ll write 11am-1pm. And so on and so forth.
- Be real about the work that gives you energy vs. takes your energy away. I am absolutely the first one who will say dammit, I can do it all and ain’t nobody gonna take that away from me! But then my husband is like but did you keep up with all of your accounting and taxes last quarter? And then I’m like well, no, but that part is no fun! At which point he rolls his eyes (lovingly). As much as I like to believe I am a blogging wonder woman (I still maintain this belief) I have to be real with myself: I love the creative parts and I hate the logistical parts. This is me pleading with you to please god, delegate the things that you hate about your work. Don’t drag yourself down into the pit of despair because you literally cannot be a chef, photographer, writer, web designer, marketer, invoice manager, contract negotiator AND a friggin accountant. Know you’re strengths and celebrate them. Then hire a CPA. Or a Virtual Assistant. Or an intern. You get the idea.
- Don’t worry about your STATS. I used to check my stats constantly and it drove me nuts. Try taking a week without looking at them. Continue to do your work as usual. Trust me, it’ll make you feel better.
- Protect your boundaries AKA it’s ok to say no. Not every project, partnership or opportunity is going to be right for you just because it’s on the table. Learn to differentiate between your desire to grow your blog/brand and you’re desire to work on an individual project. A good rule of thumb is: if there was no promise of exposure or growth, would you still do it?
- Say yes to the things inspiring you. This one is my favorite! I’m a firm believer that there there is no such thing as wasted time if what you’re doing is inspiring you. If you suddenly have a craving to learn skateboarding, do it! All roads lead to Rome. Ahem, I mean, all of the tools you learn in life will become applicable to your journey as a creative. So if you take up skateboarding, you’re gaining body awareness, developing radical self-reliance, learning to take worthy risks and pushing yourself beyond what your conscious mind agrees you can do. You can apply all of those skills to the creative life (and just a generally badass life, I think).
- Develop an unflagging belief that what you desire is indeed possible and in fact going to happen (aka Visualization). It’s not magic. It’s psychology. Watch this video. Become invincible.
- Keep being honest and vulnerable. Share your successes and your struggles. Chances are there are about one million people out there feeling those same feels. Bottling up your emotions and hiding your true self will not only make you angry and resentful; it will also make you terribly boring. The core of media is storytelling. So stop being furiously bland and tell us who you really are!
- Acknowledge your burnout and do something about it. It’s inevitable that this will happen. We all go through this, whether you’re hustling with 2k Instagram followers or 200k. I find the best way to deal with this is to schedule a few weeks a year for no-blogging vacations (or stay-cations). I like to do road trips, camping trips or romantic getaways with my man. If you can’t do weeks, schedule a bunch of weekends off. Send the kids to grandmas and get jet-set. Or… make a pillow fort in your living room, spritz your whole life with rosewater, order Thai food delivery all weekend and crush the entire first season of GLOW.
To all of my introvert/HSP’s out there trying to do blog life, let me just say: you’re in good company!
Being an introvert has never been an issue for me as a blogger. In fact, most of the successful bloggers I have befriended over the years consider themselves introverts. Not all, but most. This doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. Extroverts need person-to-person interaction to be filled with energy. Introverts need alone time to be filled with energy. Blogging is a very solitary life — as are writing, photography and many of the arts.
Personally, I work alone about 90% of the time. When I work with people, I’m usually on photoshoots, maybe working with one other creative director, stylist or model. I get a ton of energy from photoshoots with models and from working in small groups, which often makes me think that I’m a bit more of an extrovert than I’ll admit. But it’s important to remember that introverts need human contact just like everyone else.
Then again photography is a very controlled and solitary art. Even when you’re collaborating, the actual product — the shot — is completely in your hands. And holding the camera gives me this superpower where I can shoot and be silent and observe without having to small-talk. Just like taking walks alone, it always makes me feel more present and connected to Great Spirit (what you might call God).
If anything, the biggest problem that introverts/HSP’s face is protecting their privacy.
I deeply believe that vulnerability and truth are essential for good art, whether that’s writing or photography or painting or what have you. Asking true questions and revealing true answers are the core of storytelling. So, when it comes to blogging, my solution has been this: show rather than tell.
I describe details. I create vivid images. I outline a memory or the present moment using concrete descriptions. The table was marble and hot to the touch. The flying bluejay cackles as a kid with red sneakers bikes down the street. In this way I can express truthfully without rooting around in my closet full of skeletons… I mean… my closet full of … cake plates.
It’s also important to know when a moment of opening up, of true vulnerability will connect you with your audience (even if it’s just your friends and family). Will sharing your story of grief making you more connected to a certain portion of your audience? Undoubtedly. Will telling your followers a story about how you’re ex-boyfriend told you he’s dating your sister now do the same? I mean, probably but it might hurt way too badly right now to share. What I’m saying is, there are ways to maintain privacy on the internet and still express vulnerability. Your blog doesn’t have to be your diary.
(Remember the days when bloggers used to protect their partners identities with pseudonyms? Like “me and mr B went to the market.” And now people can just google your whole life so there’s no point… talk about privacy issues!)
For bloggers, I consider being Highly Sensitive to be a huge asset. HSP’s tend to develop refined sensibilities in a number of areas because they need to in order to function. For example, my dad (also an HSP) is extremely sensitive to the aesthetic of his environment (clutter / unintentional spaces make him feel claustrophobic). So he’s developed many of the skills necessary to be a professional interior designer. That’s not what he does for his job, but he’s good enough to be a pro.
I would say, figure out what you’re personal sensitivities are and use those highly attuned sensitivities in your work. If you’re sensitive to light, play with refining the use of light in your photos (I suggest using natural light always). If you’re sensitive to aroma, consider playing around with developing some DIY body sprays or whipping up particularly aromatic desserts (that’d be quite a niche!). Embrace your unique sensitivities! They make you wonderfully you.
What blogger self-care rules do you live and die by? Do you use any apps to make your life easier? If you’re an introvert/HSP do you find any practices particularly helpful for dealing with blog life? Let me know in the comments! And you have a burning question you’d like answered, send me a message via my contact form.