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Burnout, Anxiety and Spaciousness

This blog post was first a newsletter. Not the newsletter that I had planned for the week, but I think it fit.

When I looked at my schedule earlier in the week, I saw that I had only two clients booked in all week. The rest of the calendar was a gaping hole, leaving me feeling a little unmoored.

My immediate response was to go into a scarcity mindset, worrying about why my schedule was so empty, why more clients weren’t booking. I considered hosting open studios in those unplanned hours - please, anyone, come in and see me!

Then on Monday, I went for a walk with my friend and told her about feeling worried about my schedule. We talked it through and came up with the word spacious. My schedule was simply giving me space to explore.

Something that I have noticed about my own burnout recovery is that spaciousness comes with an automatic urge to fill that space, and I had to learn how to let myself just exist.

For so long, being busy and highly ambitious and hyper-scheduled worked for me. Until I burned out. In grad school, my body just simply stopped functioning well and my stress response was always active.

Rest is what I needed. But when I took time to rest, I felt more anxious, guilty and stressed because I wasn’t “getting anything done”. It seemed like the opposite response of what I needed.

This is what I have witnessed with so many of my clients as well. Healing from burnout can increase anxiety and worry because to do so, we must fundamentally adjust how we show up in the world. We need to embrace rest and allow ourselves to slow down. It sounds a lot easier than it actually is.

It has been 3 years since I actively started repairing my relationship with rest and spaciousness, and the anxiety still fills me when I see those empty days in my calendar. But adjusting my expectations and calling those days “exploration days” rather than “unscheduled” days felt helpful. It meant that I didn’t schedule myself within an inch of my life, and connected with my intuition in how I actually wanted to spend that time.

Not working this week looked like: making a yummy salad, reading until 1 a.m., playing Stardew Valley, going to a yoga class, picking up tulips, snuggling with my cat.

And working looked like: finishing up some projects, hanging out in Wednesday Weaving Club and adding a Collage Night open studio to my schedule in a few weeks.

If you are curious about exploring your own relationship with Working vs Not Working, these are some of the resources that have helped me so much in my own understanding:

“How to Not Always Be Working” by Marlee Grace

“Laziness Does Not Exist” by Devon Price

“Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress-Cycle” by Emily + Amelia Nagoski

I am also really excited to read Tricia Hersey’s new book “Rest is Resistance: a Manifesto” soon.



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