Tag Archives: stress

Stress & burnout: a post by Kristen Lamb

This afternoon I read the following post, which says so much of what I feel. It’s a good reminder of things I knew, but also addresses burnout. It’s such a good post I am reblogging it for your benefit, from:
We Are Not Alone —  Kristen Lamb’s Blog

Stress & Burnout—How to Get Your Creative Mojo Back

Image courtesy of Eflon via Flickr Creative Commons

Image courtesy of Eflon via Flickr Creative Commons

The past few years have been just brutal. My grandmother who raised me was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and it was just one crisis after another and it just never…freaking…let…up. I felt like I was in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu being crushed all the time, but not allowed to tap out. Then, on Independence Day (ironically) my grandmother finally passed away.

I really never appreciated how much her declining health was impacting me until she was gone. It was like I was wandering around in a fugue state only aware that my knees hurt. Then out of nowhere a hand lifted off the 500 pound gorilla and I could breathe again. I never noticed the gorilla, never noticed the lack of air, only the knee pain.

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So now I am in the process of rebuilding. I plan on taking a couple days off to just rest and get away from all the work that piled up for me to do. Hit my reset button, so to speak. But I figured blogging about this might help some of you who are struggling, too.

Burnout can come from all directions—family, job, marriage, illness, death. Sometimes we are not even aware how hard we have been hit until something radical changes (for me, a death). We are the frog being slowly boiled alive, oblivious that maybe we should jump out.

Writer’s Block

The words won’t flow and you think you might have worn out your thesaurus function looking for another word to say “the.” You might be your own worst enemy.

Writing can be therapeutic. True. But, our creativity can also be one of the first casualties of too much stress, which makes sense when we really study what is happening to us when we’re under too much pressure.

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Biology 101

Have you ever wondered why you can’t remember half of what you said after a fight? Wondered why it seems the only time you can’t find your keys is the day you’re late for work? Been curious why you said the stupidest comments in the history of stupidity while in your first pitch session with an agent?

Yup. Stress. But how does stress make perfectly normal and otherwise bright individuals turn into instant idiots?

Basically, the same biological defense mechanisms that kept us alive hunting bison while wearing the latest saber tooth fashions are still at work today. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems work in tandem to regulate the conscious mind. Sympathetic gears us for fight or flight. Parasympathetic calms us down after we’ve outrun the bear…or opened that rejection letter.

In order for the sympathetic system to do its job effectively, it dumps all sorts of stress hormones into the body—DHEA, cortisol, adrenaline—to enable that super human strength, speed, and endurance required to survive the crisis. The problem is that the human body thinks in blanket terms and cannot tell the difference between fighting off a lion and fighting with the electric company.

The human brain is divided into three parts:

Cerebral Cortex—higher thinking functions like language, meaning, logic.

Limbic/Mammalian Brain—used for experiencing emotions.

Reptilian Brain—cares only about food, sex, survival.

I believe that writers (and people in general, for that matter), could benefit greatly by truly understanding stress and the affect it has on the mind and body. A brain frazzled to the breaking point physiologically cannot access information contained in the cerebral cortex (higher thinking center). Thus, the smart writer must learn to manage stress.

And for the purpose of this blog, I am referring to bad stress so there is no confusion.

Modern life may not have as many literal lions and tigers and bears, but we are still bombarded with their figurative counterparts all day, every day. When stress hits, the body reacts within milliseconds.

Welcome to Stress Brain

This is me right now *head desk*

This is me right now *head desk*

The sympathetic nervous system floods the body with hormones, increases heart rate, pulls blood away from digestive and reproductive systems, etc. And, most importantly, it diverts blood supply to the mammalian and reptile brain at the expense of the cerebral cortex. Apparently the body feels your witty repertoire of Nietzsche quotes are not real helpful in lifting a car off your child.

Thus, since the mammalian brain is in high gear, this explains why it is not uncommon to experience intense emotion while under stress. This is why crying, when confronted or angry, is very common. It is also why, once we calm down, we frequently wonder why we were so upset to begin with…mammalian brain overtook logic.

This is also why the gazillion action figures your child leaves littered across the floor suddenly becomes a capital offense two seconds after you accidentally set dinner ablaze. Your emotions have taken front and center stage and knocked logic into the orchestra pit.

Another interesting point…

When the sympathetic nervous system prepares us for fight or flight, our pupils dilate. The purpose of this is to take in as much information about a situation as possible. The problem is that, although we are seeing “more” we are actually seeing “less.” The body is totally focused on the cause of the stress. This is why, when we’re running late to work, we see every clock in the house, but cannot seem to find our car keys.

This also explains how, once we take time to breathe and calm down, those keys have a way of magically appearing in the same drawer we opened 763 times earlier (while screaming at the kids, the dog, the cat, the laundry….). Poof! Magic.

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Once we understand and respect stress, it seems easier to give ourselves permission to go on vacation or truly take a day off. It is a matter of survival. When bad stress piles up, we physiologically are incapable of:

1) Being productive.

That book proposal will take 15 times longer to prepare because you keep forgetting the point you were trying to make in the first place.

We will wear out the thesaurus function on our computer looking for another way to say “good.” Face it. Stress makes us stupid.

2) Making clear decisions.

We won’t be making decisions from the logical part of our brain, so eating everything in the house will actually seem like a good idea.

3) Interacting in a healthy way with our fellow humans.

The new trees for your back yard might never get planted because your husband will be too busy plotting a way to bury you under them.

The most important lesson here is to respect stress. We must respect its effects the way we should alcohol. Why do we make certain to have a designated driver? Because when we’re sober, we think clearly and know that driving drunk is a very poor decision. Yet, the problem with alcohol is it removes our ability to think with the higher brain functions. Stress does the same thing. It limits/obliterates clear thought.

That’s why it is a very good idea to have people close to us who we respect to step in and 1) force us to back away and take a break, 2) convince us to take a vacation, get a pedicure, go shopping, hit the gym 3) give us a reality check, 4) take on some of the burden, 5) run interference with toxic people.

Like great violinists take great care to protect their hands, we writers would be wise to do the same with our emotions and our minds. So when the stress levels get too high and you start seeing it seeping into your writing, it is wise to find a way to release stress. Take back the keys to your higher thinking centers! Take back that cortical brain!

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Exercise, read, pray, meditate, watch a movie, laugh, do yoga, take a walk, work in the garden. Most of all…write. But do a different kind of writing. Write without a care in the world. Ever wonder why experts advise us to do freewriting when we hit a wall?

Seems counterintuitive, but it is actually super smart when you think about the biology lesson we just had. If we can just write forward, without caring about the clarity or quality, we often can alleviate stress rather than fuel it. This freewriting can calm us back into the cortical brain so later, when our head is back on straight, we can go back and clean up the mess.

Which is exactly what I will do…after I go for a walk.

What are some ways you guys deal with stress? How do you overcome writer’s block? Have you been through caregiver burnout? How did you recover? Hey, I am a work in progress too😀 .

I LOVE hearing from you!


A reminder: The above is reposted from Kirsten Lamb’s blog you can visit HERE.    Please visit her blog and leave her a comment, too.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! 🙂

a funny ad about dads and family values

It’s been a busy, stressful week and month – for me. I haven’t been able to even think about writing a decent post and haven’t finished a book review.  Today we are going to a special intimate wedding in a beautiful little town on the ocean. 

I will be back as soon as things settle down a little. In the meantime, here is a very funny ad which you may have already seen, but I think it’s worth sharing.  It is promoting family values in a funny way.  Enjoy!

Blessings to you all.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! 🙂





Caregiver Stress Management; challenge updates

Hi All, I hope you had a great day. This is a short post in my effort to do my post for the day.

I participated in a Caregiver Stress Management workshop this afternoon with a friend, one of my daughters, and several other ladies. It was worth it, although I left feeling more stressed than when I went in. So then, why would I feel it’s worth it? Because it pointed out to me that I am not handling my life situation (caregiving and everything else) as well as I thought I was.

Oh I’m doing what I need to do to be sure things are running smoothly here at my dad’s, and I am treating him with love and respect (because I love and respect him), and he is not neglected in any way. What I am not handling well is caring for myself, mainly in that I don’t organize my time well – which has always been a problem for me. The hang-up is I can’t stick to a schedule very well or for very long. On my respite time what I want to do is write. And walk. And read. And nap. Then I feel guilty about doing my own thing … resulting in not getting much done at all and I feel guilty about that! We are blessed to have lots of help here, and I feel guilty about that. There’s more, but … if I were to tell you, then  … you guessed it! … I’d feel guilty about that!

On to NaNoWriMo report … zero words written.😦 I’m still hoping and looking forward to after tomorrow to change the nothing total. I’m having a busy first half of the week.

Day 5 of PiBoIdMo: I wrote one idea today for a total of 10. I could likely come up with more but I stopped at the requirement this time since I am very tired and hoping someone will soon ‘retire’ so I can get some sleep myself.

This wraps up my post for today in NaBloPoMo!

Did you do anything fun or educational recently that helped you realize something important?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!🙂


Happy New Year!

How can it be? Another new year is soon to begin!

new_year_icon_554642012 has been a mix of many things in my little world. This blog has captured much of it and has been a source of relief for me, a way of venting, sharing, seeking, growing. Through blogging and writing I have been blessed to meet some very special people who have become my long distance friends.

As my dad’s condition steadily worsens, and my husband’s healing is continuing, our hope is for the strength needed as this new year brings whatever surprises and challenges it holds for us as a family.

In looking back over 2012 I wonder what I accomplished.

  • I blogged, and yet never enough;
  • read books .. again never enough;
  • introduced books and their authors to you on my “Have Read” pages;
  • wrote book reviews for you – with more waiting in queue with their authors; (I’m sorry family things had to take priority)
  • offered exciting book giveaways;
  • offered some writers’ helps on my page of the same name;
  • wrote several drafts for children’s books, thanks to 12×12 in 2012, but not as many as I had hoped to, and I missed out on the community there that so many writers found helpful;
  • added more to my novel in National Novel Writing Month in November, and have almost completed the story;
  • had thought to take on Picture Book Ideas Month that I so enjoyed in November 2011, but had to sacrifice that one this year;
  • realized today that I missed out on signing up for the inspiring Month of Poetry for January 2013 as the closing date was December 29!  [Sorry, Catherine; :(  I had intended to, but it’s too late now.]

So what will the new year bring to this blog?

  • more book reviews;
  • more author interviews;
  • more book giveaways;
  • hopefully less whining.


For me this blog is not only about writing, it is about living. Perhaps that is not the way to do it, but with the way things are in my life now I struggle with keeping up and keeping going through all the stress. If you are faithful to stay the course with me I will continue to try to deliver. You can’t possibly know how much I love and appreciate you and the encouragement of knowing you are reading my words. My goal still is to write for children, and my hope is to keep on keeping on.

Now I wish you all a very happy and healthy 2013. May it be a year of fulfillment and accomplishments, pleasant surprises and inner joys, depth of growth and flourishing of creativity. Above all may you find Love in all the right places.🙂

Psalm 67: 1,2 – May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us, that Thy way may be known upon earth, Thy saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise Thee, O God; let all the peoples praise Thee!

Psalm 91 (the whole of it)

What wonderful things did 2012 bring to you? Is there anything you plan to do differently in 2013?


Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! 🙂

A B C’s: Alzheimer’s, Blogging, Cancer?

I have been missing in action again. Well, not really missing, but absent from blogging. It was not intentional. I just need sleep, I think.

Since NaNoWriMo ended I have been trying to do a little catch up on other things. This is my week home from caregiving (Alzheimer’s) and even though I have had some time, I’m finding it hard to accomplish much extra. My blogging has suffered (again!), and for that I apologize to you, my readers.  My stress level is climbing and I’m quite tired, but Christmas is coming and I have to get busy!


The added stress is that recently my dear husband was diagnosed with level 2 melanoma, skin cancer. (I had to pause before typing out that hated word.) My husband told me he doesn’t care if I talk about it here; he says many people know anyway, and it is what it is and will likely become obvious. I am sharing this information in the hope that Believers will pray for him. He has had one minor surgery, and on December 18 he will be undergoing a more involved one. After that one and before doing reconstructive surgery the surgeon will be searching for lymph nodes in order to remove some for testing. This all will happen within six hours on the same day. Test results are to come back four weeks later.

That happens to be my week at Dad’s, so I am working out details to have someone there in my place while I am with my husband for two days. Once he is doing okay then I’m back to Dad’s for the rest of the week. Plus, it’s going to be crazy trying to get everything ready for Christmas during all this. We have been attempting to get our shopping completed in preparation, and I got my ‘away’ gifts all mailed yesterday.

A fun thing for me is that on Saturday I met a new author who is a bit of a celebrity. She signed her book for me and after I finish reading it I will be doing a review here .. after the others I have lined up.

** If I told you I would read and review your book, please send me a quick email and remind me. I must have misplaced my list (can’t imagine how!) and really have to get a better system together. I hope you understand it’s been difficult to get into reading and reviewing lately. There are some exciting books lined up for me to review, though, and a couple of giveaways are included. Please stay tuned!🙂

I cannot end this post without saying that in the long line of people waiting for the signing of books on Saturday, three people behind me was none other than the lovely and talented author Laura Best! Remember my review of her book Bitter, Sweet and our interview? We had a chance to chat a little which was enjoyable for me, with comedy added since her husband was her “professional photographer” and quite a kidder.

I suppose most of this reads like a “woe is me” post. Admittedly, I’m feeling rather blue right now, but after a good sleep things should look a little better. Truly, I rely on the Lord although it may not seem like it right now. My human nature is to look at the situation and then have to remind myself to look to the One who knows all. One of my life verses is Romans 2:28: And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

I hope you are not stressing, but if you find life to be overwhelming … look to the One who knows all.🙂

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! 🙂





Thanksgiving and being thankful

I’ve been absent.  Did you notice?

My blog ideas have run low. Unfortunately, I have not kept up my writing of story drafts for 12×12 in 2012, either. My Muse is a little weary, I guess.

I’m behind in reading emails, sending responses to things, reading other writers’ blogs.  But wait, there’s more …

Because of a fall that happened on Labour Day, and from which I’m still recovering, I’m going for laser treatments on my knee. It may be another month before the healing is complete, but now there is much less pain and I’m starting to sleep a little better – for which I’m thankful.

Can anyone out there relate to the following? …

When on my alternating weeks at home I have had such a very frustrating time with my internet service. We have Fibre Optics at Dad’s, but the phone company we deal with has not found a feasible way to even bring high-speed out my way, and the dial-up connection is painfully slow. How slow is it, did I hear you ask? So slow that I have nearly nodded off while waiting for pages (even here on my blog) to load.

True story! The longer I kept dial-up, the worse the service became. How long could you put up with that? I don’t know how I did it for as long as I did, but it had become such a point of stress for me that I finally said NO MORE!

We now have wireless internet – for which I’m thankful. It’s been all of one day, I’m already feeling better, and I LOVE IT! There was far too much stress the other way. My blogging, business stuff, emails, Skype calling, everything … had become such a chore, and with being a caregiver now, too, I was about to walk over the edge. I am bordering on the blues leading to depression, and something had to change. The Internet c0nnection I now have at home is much faster, which gives me breathing space. (If you know anything about stress, depression, anxiety .. you will understand about breathing space.)

What bothers me is I’m so far behind – according to my own expectations – and it seems my weeks at home are not long enough. I just settle in when it’s time to go again. But that is my life now, for as long as it takes, and we can still make this work – for which I’m thankful.

The air has an Autumn chill, the leaves are changing colour, the Fall harvest is being gathered, and here in Canada it is Thanksgiving weekend. Today is a truly beautiful day – for which I’m thankful.

To close, I’m including a few images captured this morning. I thought you might enjoy these wonderful signs of the season. Descriptions are below.

1. Morning fog rising off the river – a view from my deck                     
2.  A showing of colourful leaves above the river
3 & 4.  Cortland apples (for pies) – given to us yesterday by a neighbour
5 & 6.  Three varieties of squash from my parents-in-law’s and our garden
7.  Only sunflower that grew for me this year; seed dropped by birds in planter! Bloom’s end.    
8. Leaves changing colour on a tree in our yard.


 Let’s all be thankful for God has blessed us.


For what are YOU thankful?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!

How do you want to be remembered?

I’ve been thinking about memories and the impressions we make on others.

Family health issues, and being a part-time caregiver for as long as we can handle the stress that comes with it, has caused me to think about memory. As memory slips away from some people, I’ve been pondering about the impression we leave of ourselves on others’ memories.

I had a very discouraging day recently, and I was rather rude to a store clerk. It’s not the way I always am nor do I want to be thought of that way, so when I got home I called the shop and apologized to that lady. She didn’t ask for my attitude, nor did she deserve it. One bad day, one bad mood, is not how I want to be remembered.

So, what DO I want people thinking when I come to mind?

Am I patient, kind, pleasant to be around? Or am I moody, snappy, seeming to have a dark cloud hanging over my head?

Am I cheerful, helpful, loving? Or am I angry, irritable, sullen?

Do I handle disappointment with grace or do I let it take me into a sour mood?

What impression am I making as my path crosses someone else’s today?Are they glad of the encounter, or do they wish they had not met me? Did I make them feel blessed or did I leave them with an ugly hole in their heart?

Attitude is very important, and I have discovered that it really affects everything. I am working on mine.

How about you? Have you ever thought about the memories you are leaving of yourself? How do YOU want to be remembered?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! 🙂