"Maybe I should just quit": Managing Overwhelm

I guarantee you that every successful creative person on the planet has had this thought. When things just get too hard, and there’s too much coming at you at once, it’s inevitable that some protective part of your brain will pipe in with a ‘solution’:

“I should just move back home, get a day job, give up the dream, take the easy way out.”

Sometimes we catch the thought early on and can see it for what it is: fear. But sometimes we don’t notice it right away, so it starts to take hold and come up with all sorts of justifications:  “So-and-so has a ‘normal’ job, and they seem pretty happy, maybe I could be too.” “How do I know I’ll even make it anyway, maybe this is all a waste.” “I’d have so much more free time if I just got a 9-5, then I could do my art on the side.”

Oooh have I been there. When I was pursuing acting full-time, it felt like every time I’d start to get some momentum going, I’d tip quickly from “There are so many cool things happening in my life and career!” to “I’m so overwhelmed by everything in my life, I have to pull back”. And though I’m much more resourced now, this voice still pops in at least once a month when things are particularly challenging and I’m asking myself to take a big leap into the unknown.

So what do we do when the urge to give up feels overwhelming? How do we keep the faith and keep moving forward toward our creative dreams? Here are my suggestions to keep on keepin on.

Because the world needs you, the WHOLE you, the one you discover when you push past the fear and don’t give up on your potential.

1. Take a break.

I know you’ve heard this one before, and for good reason: we can’t solve a problem from the same state of consciousness that created it. When we’re in a state of overwhelm, we can’t find a path through because everything feels like too much. So take a break. That might just be one hour where you do an activity that gets you into a state of flow, or it might be a long weekend of camping in the woods where you completely and entirely ignore your work. Whatever it takes to get you up and out of your current mindset and nervous system overwhelm.

2. Remember your mission. 

Then, and this next part is key, reconnect with your mission. The logistics of your creative career are what feel confusing and overwhelming. The heart and soul behind it, I guarantee are not the problem. So after your break, the first thing you need to do is reconnect to your mission. Call up a friend and ask them if you can tell them all the reasons you became an artist. Start journaling about what led you to pursue a creative career to begin with. Think about what change you want to make in the world through your work, and then feel your mission in your body, instead of trying to figure anything out. Let the passion and the purpose come forward, and I guarantee the “how” will figure itself out.

2. Cut yourself some slack.

This work is hard. This life is hard! Especially when we’re feeling like we’re all alone in our struggles. So do your best to call in some self-compassion, and spend as much time as possible with other creatives who’ve been through the fire.