Tuesday, July 1, 2014

When Writing Makes You Feel Tired, Anxious, or Stressed

Tell me if you've ever felt this way... I needed to write some blog posts for my new blog. I needed to work ahead and schedule several posts because of my upcoming travel plans, but the next several posts I had planned had me stymied. Writing them made me feel tired, anxious, and stressed.

As you probably know, I started a new blog back in March. I had agonized over whether to start another blog, because while the topic is a passion of my heart, there's the whole thing of keeping up with it. Posting regularly. A blog is a monster that must be continually fed. (Tweet that!)

The posts I had planned needed research. I was pressed for time. Getting them written had me feeling anxious. Pressured. Tired.  (Tweet that!)

Does this ever happen to you in your writing?

I think it happens to everyone. And this can apply to more than just writing.  (Tweet that!)

Whether we're talking about a job that you're passionate about, a ministry, a service, a volunteer position, or something else, when doing the next thing makes us feel tired, anxious, or stressed, this is a symptom...not the problem. It's a symptom a greater problem.  (Tweet that!)

What I'm not talking about here are those places in our jobs / ministries / services / positions that we love that require hard work. There is a portion of hard work in every endeavor. And I don't mean this post to be a reason or means to avoid the hard work of doing what we love to do or what we must do.

What I am talking about is when the task ahead of us doesn't seem like it should be this hard. Or in the past we loved it, but something has changed and now it has become stressful. Tiring. Anxiety-inducing. Can you relate?

I had to stop and think about what was going on. Why were these particular posts causing me such stress?

I started asking myself questions.

Had I grown tired of my blog already? No, not really.

Did I still feel passionate about the topic? Yes, definitely.

Was the blog still on track with my passions? Yes.

As I considered these questions, I realized it wasn't the blog. It was these particular posts. I didn't have time to do the research. I wasn't sure about what I wanted to say without doing that research. I needed to find some facts. I wanted some resources to back up what I thought. I didn't have the time.

So what did I do? I chucked my plans for those posts and brainstormed some new ones.

I immediately felt better. My energy returned. I felt excited about my new topics and knew I could write them quickly, in the time I had available, and get them ready to post before I traveled.

I can address those other topics that had me stymied at another time when I can do the research and address them in the way I have in mind.

With these relatively minor adjustments, my stress left.

It took this anxiety and stress for me to remember some check-points I've learned over the years but had forgotten. Obviously there are times when we cannot adjust the topics, assignments or deadlines we have to complete our work. But often we can make adjustments even within those assignments and deadlines. If you're feeling tired or anxious about your work -- whether it's writing or some other work you must complete -- ponder these check points and see if you can make some adjustment. It might make all the difference.

Check Point #1:  Ask,  How does this project make me feel?

(Tweet that!)

I don't usually go by feelings. I'm a thinker and I think relying on only feelings can often lead us down a bad path. However there are times we need to pay attention to our feelings because they are real and are probably trying to tell us something.

If you're asked to take on a new task or position, this is a great question to ask yourself.  (Tweet that!)  Often, especially in all-volunteer organizations such as churches, those who "do" are asked to do even more. It can get out of hand.

That leaves us with trying to sort out which requests we should say yes to and which requests to give a firm no to. A real dilemma at times.

When we ask ourselves how this request makes us feel, we often know the answer to that immediately.

If a project makes you feel excited and energized, (while considering all the other factors such as schedules and other obligations) this is a project you might want to say yes to.

But if the project makes you feel tired, anxious, or stressed, then it is most likely not within your passions and gifts. You should probably firmly say no. We can all do things well that we don't particularly like to do. Just because we can do them, and can do them well, doesn't mean we should do them. (Tweet that!)

You hereby have my permission to say no! Yeah. No kidding. Tell them, "Dianne said I should tell you no."

You're welcome.

(Okay, really, you don't need my permission to say no.)

Sometimes the tasks that make us feel tired, anxious, and stressed are things we assign ourselves, tasks we think we have to do. Maybe you do need to do that thing. But maybe not. Take a step back and reconsider. Do you really need to do that? Do you really need to do that? It could be that task would be better done by someone else. It also could be that other person is itching to do it, because it fits with their interests, experience, gifts, and talents. Let them!

When someone is doing what they are not "called" to do, it's a double mistake because that also means the person who is "called" to do it isn't. So step out of the way and let them do it. You'll be happier. And so will they.

Check Point #2: Do not do what someone else can do.

(Tweet that!)

If you have an area of expertise... If you have grown in your gifts and talents... If you are overworked, chances are there is someone else who could take on some of the tasks you are doing and do them just as well...or even better.

Sort out tasks you're doing that someone else can do. List them. Perhaps there is someone in your life who would like to do these for you.

Can someone else take care of your e-mail--or at least some of it? Can someone else post to your social media for you? Make phone calls? Surely someone else can take out the trash. Who else can do the laundry? Clean the bathroom? Vacuum? Load the dishwasher?

If you have the means to hire an assistant, a housekeeper, a teenager, these are great tasks to assign them.

Check Point #3: Do only what only you can do.

(Tweet that!)

You are unique and talented. Only you can do what God has assigned only you to do.

Only you can write the story that's in your head.  (Tweet that!)

Someone else may be able to write an article on the same topic, but it won't be the same as if you wrote it.

Only you can write the blog post you have in mind. You're the only one who can conduct that interview the way you intended. Only you can ________________________ (fill in the blank).

Sort out the tasks you are uniquely qualified to do. What is on your to-do list that no one else in the world can possibly do because of your unique experiences, point of view, training, etc? While there may be a lot of things you can do like no one else in the world, that doesn't mean you should do them all. Which are most important for you to actually do? List these things. Prioritize them.

Once you have that list, check each against Check Point #1. Does it energize you or make you tired? Does it excite you or make you anxious? Do you look forward to all the hard work to get it done, or is it all just stress?

Hopefully, considering all these things will help you sort where your energy is being sapped by jobs you should not be doing. Hopefully these exercises will also help you to sort out and focus on those things you need to be doing to make your positive stamp on this world and make it a better place.

Because we need you. You are beautiful. You are unique. You have been placed here in this time for a purpose. You are here "for such a time as this."  (Tweet that!)

We need you. We are all the poorer if you don't achieve "your thing." We are all the richer if you do.  (Tweet that!) So I am cheering you on as you step out boldly to accomplish those things that are uniquely yours. I can't wait to see what you accomplish!

I'm thinking I should type these Check Points out and hang them up in my office so I don't forget them again. Hopefully with them right there in front of me, I'll be reminded daily and will catch myself before I get so stressed when something isn't working for me. Then I'll be reminded of my own words and what to do when my writing makes me feel tired, anxious, or stressed.