When life won't let you take a break.

(Unrelated to the topic at hand:For the first time in a while I forgot to take a shoe photo! I hate it when this happens :( Oh well, it happens) 

I want to talk about burn out today, specifically when you have to work through burn out. Unfortunately it's pertinent to my mental state at the moment, and has been on and off for many years.

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To me, burn out feels like molasses. It's an all encompassing feeling, which makes me physically and mentally feel slow and gluggy. The pit of anxiety and overwhelm likes to rear it's ugly head and I also tend to become withdrawn, irritable, and flitter between too much and too little sleep. For those who have experienced burnout before, this may sound really familiar (that being said, your feelings may be different) and for those of you who haven't experienged it, consider yourself lucky ! :) 

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If I worked a normal job, to cure these feelings I would take a few days off to destress, cut down on my commitments and focus on doing things I enjoy. This becomes twisted when big parts of your job fit into "this makes me feel good and helps me to destress". For example, I find the pre gig responsibilities and post gig aftermath pretty stressful sometimes, but the act of playing a good gig takes away the bad feels like nothing else. I also rely on the gig for income, further complicating the situation. 

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More often than not, this leads me to working through my burnout. I know it's not healthy and that it probably keeps the sads around for longer, but the alternative for me (which is immediately cutting back on creative projects) is far more scary. 

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There have been periods of burnout which have ended in spouts of depression where I've been unable to work work to even 50% capacity for (seemingly) endless months. It's almost like once I loose the momentum it's 200% harder to return to my fullest productive self. 

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Over the last 2 years, I've experienced a couple of burnouts which I've worked (as in not slowed down my job worked) my way through. As such I've developed a couple of coping mechanisms. My favourites are:

1) The brain dump. This is basically a "to do list, but it also includes human things such as "take some time out" "don't forget to breath" and "you don't need to worry/panic". For these lists I also assign different tasks to different days so I don't feel like the full list in one days work. 

2) Talking to friends/making last minuite plans. I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH how important friends are. I've recently reconnected with my closest buddies/found some amazing new friends after a really awful breakup earlier this year. Without these people to hang with, I would find myself staying in and wallowing much more frequently. (Saying this, once I return to "normal" I still seek out their friendship, it's just when I'm feeling crappy, I tend to not see anyone at all for weeks at a time and disappear off the face of the earth!) 

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3) Making a conscious effort not to beat myself up about productivity. If you can remember back to this year, this has been my only New Years resolution, and I've been doing pretty well at it! One of my mantras has become "you can only get what you have done today, done today". Whenever I feel myself slipping into "work guilt" I say this, either in my head or outloud. While it doesn't immediately solve the issue, it does help to calm my brain and make the feelings less strong/easier to work through. Along the same vein, every time I do a thing that's not feel sad and watch youtube I give myself a proverbial pat on the back. Whatever I'm trying to do may be small and insignificant, but the fact I did it, feeling like this is an absolute miracle. 

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4) I try to remember this feeling isn't forever. This helps to keep the burnout sads from becoming existential (which is a whole other layer of weird). 

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I'd like to conclude with something positive, but it's hard for me to think positively when i'm stuck smack bang in the middle of burnout. Real talk: Every time I "recover" from burnout I tell myself "this is the last time" but it never is. I suppose I'm scared that this cyclical feeling will continue my whole life. I'm also scared that one day the feeling will just swallow my whole (woah, that got dark quickly). That being said, I see so many people who are older than me functioning like humans should. I'm sure they've all been through periods like this, and look at them! Mental health. It's certainly a thing. 

LASTLY! I'd like to call your attention to my mailing list! https://mailchi.mp/edf9944672b3/the-emerald-ruby-mailing-list-signup It's a thing I have now because I don't trust the algorithmic gods to deliver the stuff I make to the people who want to see it! I'll be starting it up once I get back from my July tour, so if you'd like better access to my online life, feel free to pop your email in the thing! :) 

It's ok to not be ok - Guest post by Rachel Maria Cox

shoes This is my lovely friend Rachel Maria Cox. They're a brilliant musician and founder of a fabulous project called Sad Grrrls club, which was originally a collective of female identifying musicians, but has since grown to encompass artists and writers as well. We had an impromptu photo shoot the other day, and decided that it's about time they do a guest post! Rachel is one of the most wisest and passionate people I know. Thank you so much for your wonderful wise words <3

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I look at these photos, and there’s a lot that runs through my head. The first thing I notice is that I hate my teeth. They are yellow, which I know is a result of a combination of factors. I notice that I look skinny, and also that I do not look as skinny as I would like. I notice how bland my outfit this day was, mainly because my outfit choices are currently narrowed down by three criteria: can I wear it to work? Will it keep me kind of warm? Does it still fit?

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My name is Rachel Maria Cox and in three days I will embark on the first annual Sad Grrrls Tour. I am excited that something I have worked so hard for has actually come to fruition. I am also, perhaps appropriately or perhaps ironically, the saddest I have ever been. I have lost ten kilos in three months, 18 since the start of the year, through a combination of anorexic and bulimic behaviours that have made me isolated, physically sick, depressed and exhausted. I am constantly anxious, sad or both. Yesterday I cried for an hour straight on a train by myself, unable to stop myself. I am addicted to laxatives. And I am telling you all about this, not for attention or sympathy, but to let everyone know that THIS IS ALL OKAY.

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Last week it was R U OK Day. This is a great concept but a lot of people seem to miss the point and it becomes a constant reminder of how little most people know about mental illness. While I don’t want to go on a massive rant about how it’s not that hard to educate yourself on what to do/say (heck, the RUOK website had a really useful and simple guide to that), I will say simply this – it is no use to post a #ruok to your social media feeds and expect that to do anything. You have to A) care every goddamn day of your life and B) be prepared for those closest to you to say at any time in their life “I’m not okay”.  This year I have gotten a lot better at saying to the people I am closest to “I’m not okay. I need your help, here is what you can do”. It has taken me years of psychotherapy, five separate hospitalizations and ongoing support from my close friends and family to get me to this point. It is still a difficult thing to say. But I can say it. And no matter how far I still have to go in my recovery, I am proud of that.

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On R U OK Day this year, I realized it is liberating to admit that you are not okay. It means other people who are not okay approach you and say “I’m not okay either”. It means people who you rarely speak to say “I admire you for being so open about your struggles, because they are my struggles too”. It is okay to say you’re not okay, and by saying I wasn’t okay, I gave a few other people a voice to say “same here”.  This, to me, is what sad grrrls club is all about. This is why I started a movement for people who want to sing about how they feel. This is why I want to tell everyone it’s okay to be angry, sad, scared, anxious, mentally ill, physically ill, be yourself and be honest about that because it can, and often does, work out well for you. This has not really been about my clothes that much. I think Jenny won’t mind (I don't - Jen). RMC.