When I taught full-time, there would come a time during the semester when the push and pull of a full teaching load would take its toll. Mentally drained, physically tired, and emotionally spent, like clockwork, my body would tell me that I was in need of a time out. This would happen around December, just in time for winter break. After a few weeks off, I would often return refreshed, renewed, and reinvigorated to start a new semester.
As most of us know, breaks from freelancing don’t quite work like that. Yes, we are prone to the same burnout or fatigue that others experience. And, yes, expending numerous intellectual, creative, and physical hours can lead to exhaustion. However, we often don’t have the luxury of PTO (paid time off).
Does this mean that we should just suffer through? Absolutely not. Being the best freelancer possible requires being well-rested and giving oneself a chance to tune out the distractions and static that can drain us. It also means that we may need to plug into sources that recharge us and give us a renewed sense of purpose.
So, realistically, what does this look like? Here are three things that I love to do when freelancing fatigue kicks in. All of them are either reasonably priced or free.
Try a "staycation"
When is the last time that you explored your city? Have you ever decided to pretend to be a tourist and to go to some of the attractions that others visit when they come to your town? Better yet, when is the last time that you got out of the house and stayed in a local hotel? Staycations are an excellent way to check out without having to take on the added expense of travel.
Sites such as expedia.com, hotwire.com and travelocity.com make it relatively easy to book 3 to 4-star hotels at discounted rates. You can also avoid expensive hotel parking fees by taking Uber, Lyft, public transportation, or a cab. Wear some comfortable walking shoes and prepare to explore your city. Leave your laptop and other work-related gadgets at home. The point is for you to relax. If possible, splurge and take advantage of the hotels’ amenities. Remember, you deserve it!
We are entering into that time of the year when the weather is (slightly) more predictable and you don’t have to wear a bulky coat to venture out. National parks can be amazing, but don’t overlook the jewels that just may be in your own backyard. You don’t have to hop on a plane to take full advantage of this relaxing activity. In other words, have you thought about visiting a local or state park?
Many of these parks have minimal entry fees and they have observatories, natural trails and hiking paths that make for an excellent full-day’s agenda. Rich with both physical activities and opportunities to be mindful and to reflect, hiking and walking are great ways to take your mind off of work. Take a book or take a journal to write and to unwind, but do not take work-related projects. Put your phone on vibrate or silent and focus on the awesomeness of your surroundings. Let nature recharge you.
I wrote about this earlier this year when my company did a day of service at a local transitional housing facility. We are going back to do a cover letter-writing and resume-writing workshop for the residents. The key to engaging in successful volunteer opportunities is to think about your skillset, gifts, and talents and to find organizations that are a good match. Volunteering is an excellent way to share your gifts with the community.
Ask yourself: Are there organizations in my city that could benefit from what I have to offer in-kind? Whether it is a one-time volunteer event or a long-term relationship, giving back is an excellent way to not only help but to engage in something that is bigger than you—being of service to others and being connected to members of your community.
When you find yourself on empty and you need to refuel, try one of these strategies. The key to dealing with burnout or fatigue is recognizing when it's coming on. Perhaps you are feeling irritable or you are short tempered or you are not as motivated or inspired as you typically are. It is ok—it’s just your body’s way of telling you that you need to slow down and take a break.
With some planning and consideration, taking a few hours or even a day or two to step away from the desk can actually be incredibly rewarding. The reality is that you have earned it, so make sure that you are taking the time to get the rest, relaxation, and reconnection that you need.