When you’re a blogger, you have to churn.
You’re churning out content, marketing copy, pitch emails, comments, and so much more. A lot of times what started out as a passion can slip into a source of overwhelm along the way, especially if you’re successful at it!
To address this ugly little issue of overwhelm, Wendy Toth, Director of Content for PetSmart’s lifestyle websites, petMD and PawCulture, reached out to super-successful blogger and author, Kaia Roman, to share her secrets for crushing overwhelm before it crushes us!
WT: Tell us a little about yourself.
KR: I’m a mother, a wife, a writer, a mindfulness teacher to elementary school children, and a lot of other things. My new book, The Joy Plan, covers the neuroscience of joy, as told through an entertaining memoir. Before I wrote a book, I started blogging for a number of health and wellness blogs, like mindbodygreen, Thrive Global, and Livestrong. In fact, my book started out as a blog post, but just kept going and going until it became a book.
WT: Many of us began our blogging or writing journey out of a sense of passion and excitement, but the constant workflow can get old. How do you keep the joy in it?
KR: In The Joy Plan, I talk about a brain behavior theory called resonant wave patterns. Those of us that have chosen writing, especially if we started doing it for a passionate cause, often gravitate toward the research and problem-solving brain wave pattern. Writing can be a soothing way for us to organize our thoughts and communicate our passions to a wider audience.
The challenge is to focus on the joy of the process of writing, rather than the stress of the deadlines or other pressures. Come back to the desire that drew your fingers to the keyboard in the first place—that “writer’s high” or rush of dopamine that we get when we finish a job that we not only enjoyed, but know will help someone out there in blog land.
WT: How do you balance the demands of promotion and putting yourself out there, with the need to do what I call the “real work”– the research and writing?
KR: While on the one hand, it’s amazing that we can communicate in so many different ways, we also face the pressure to do so. Many of us feel the pressure to be on all the social media channels, sending out emails, keeping up a blog, creating videos, and continuing to churn out constant content.
It’s important that we check in with ourselves regularly to make sure what we’re doing feels balanced and joyful, or if it’s tipping toward causing more stress than joy. At times, we may need to readjust how we’re spending our time and energy, or seek help and delegate when it comes to the ancillary work that keeps us from our true passion.
WT: If you could go back and give yourself advice from when you were just starting out as a writer, what would it be?
KR: Writers I admire like Elizabeth Gilbert and Anne Lamott talk about planting your butt in the seat and writing, every day, no matter what. Whether it’s good or bad, whether anyone else ever sees it or not, just keep writing. Write what you know, write from the heart, and back it up with research. Like anything else, good writing comes from practice, like strengthening a muscle.
WT: What’s one tool or tactic you use that bloggers can copy today, to help avoid overwhelm?
KR: Feeling overwhelmed is both a mental and a physical experience. When we perceive an event or set of events as more than we can handle, our amygdala (the fear sensor in the brain) activates and sounds the alarm throughout our bodies. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s important to recognize that you are having a physical response (your amygdala is active, your body is going into fight-or-flight mode) to a mental reaction (“I can’t handle this!”).
At those times, you really need to take a break and tend to your wellbeing first. Even a quick walk outside or mild indoor exercise can provide a shift in your mental, emotional, or physical state. It will induce endorphins, which calm the body’s reactionary stress response and provide motivation to move forward with your day.
Get some fresh air (amygdala-soothing oxygen!), give yourself a change of scenery, and see your situation from fresh eyes once you’ve had a bit of respite. You’ll most likely find that you can accomplish more, in less time, and with less angst, once you’ve taken a break. You’ll be ready to divide and conquer with renewed energy and a clear head.
WT: Last question. Many pet bloggers do their work for a cause, but even that can get daunting when you are faced with the scope of the issue again and again. Do you have any tips for facing this sort of fatigue?
KR: Make sure that your passionate writing about animals doesn’t keep you from your actual time with animals in real life. Get your fix of furry cuddles, volunteering, or whatever it is that fills your heart and emotional reserves (and also boosts your oxytocin levels!).
Most of us bloggers draw from our day-to-day life experiences to inspire our writing, so we have to make sure we aren’t writing more than we’re living, or we’ll have nothing left to write about.
Wendy Toth is Director of Content for PetSmart’s lifestyle websites, petMD and PawCulture. She has written for The New York Times, Parents Magazine, Weight Watchers Magazine, NBC, and more. You can find her on her image and confidence blog for overachievers, Power Suiting and on Twitter.
Kaia Roman is the author of the new book, The Joy Plan (Sourcebooks, July 2017). She teaches Mindfulness to elementary school students in Santa Cruz, California and is a blogger for minbodygreen and other sites. She writes about how she went from joyless and anxious to grateful and optimistic so she can remember how she did it if she forgets. For everyday joy and mindfulness tips, sign up for Kaia’s newsletter at TheJoyPlan.com. You’ll also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.