"Why am I burned out? Because I’ve internalized the idea that I should be working all the time."
Writer Anne Helen Peterson went viral this January with her longform exploration of generational burnout in Buzzfeed, "How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation." But burnout – a feeling of overwhelm from endless to-do lists with seemingly little reward -- isn’t limited to Millennials.
Constant connectivity, and the subsequent exhaustion, affects all of us in 2019. According to Wired, Gen Xers spend more time on their phones than 18-34 year-olds, and Medium reports that Baby Boomers spend 27 hours per week online, most on social media. The same technology that helps us stay connected with the people and ideas we love makes it hard to disconnect.
And as our workplace model shifts from the traditional 9-5, leave-work-at-work office job to something more fluid, featuring remote work, constant connectivity (and the expectation that employees will answer emails and texts even on nights and weekends) and the relentless hustle of the gig economy, the work-life balance is a struggle we’re all dealing with, whether we like it or not.
Enter the solace of the hobby.
"No matter how good you are, no matter how intense you are and no matter how much you enjoy your job, stepping away relaxes the mind and gives you a new perspective," Jim Bird, CEO of worklifebalance.com said to the Miami Herald.
In a world that emphasizes keeping busy, it can be hard to give yourself permission to hold still. When you engage in a hobby that’s clearly not related to your work, you can scratch that gotta-be-doing-something itch, but still feel like you’re stepping away from the daily grind and giving yourself some much-needed stress relief.
How to Build Hobbies into Your Self-Care Routine
The first step, according to Marlee Grace, blogger and author of How to Not Always Be Working, is actually to think about work.
“The best way to create healthy boundaries around work is to get clear about what your work actually is,” Grace notes. Get started by making a list of things that are work to you – this could be something as simple as “answering emails” or “grocery shopping,” or as complex as “creating presentations” or “negotiating with clients.”
Then, once you have a firm sense of what work is to you, you’re better equipped to identify the spaces where you experience pure relaxation and creative freedom.
The Inky Box
Remember, the hobby you choose should be one that supports your mental health. If you landscape for a living, gardening may not sound like a fun hobby. If you’re sick of cooking dinner every night, baking may not be your jam -- but you might love learning a new language, making a podcast, or spending time outside.
To find the hobby that’s right for you, think about the things you loved as a child, and that bring you irrational joy now. Then, with your well-being top of mind, carve out some you time: for your busy hands to make your work, as well as your heart, feel light.
Ready bring joy back into your self-care activities? Here are some fun new hobbies that can reenergize your routine.
Fiber artists praise their craft as “meditation with results.” Put your hands to work and soothe the mind with a low-stakes, tangible-reward craft like knitting, crocheting, embroidery or macrame. Make crafts just for you, or give them as gifts: it’s the perfect hobby for those who want their relaxation to result in new, beautiful pieces of art.
Happy Hook Crocheting
If the thought of going to a yarn shop makes your mind reel (double-pointed needles or size G hooks? organic cotton or homespun alpaca? Help!), dip your toe into the wonderful world of fiber arts with a beginner-friendly, intentionally curated monthly DIY subscription box. Each contains a distinct project and exactly the tools you need to complete it – waste not, want it all.
For crocheting, it’s hard to beat the adorable projects in Happy Hook Crocheting.
Journaling and Scrapbooking
“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train,” quips Oscar Wilde’s Lady Gwendolen in The Importance of Being Earnest. (He also noted that “Memory is the diary we all carry about with us.”)
Celebrate the sensation of your own life by blogging, scrapbooking, letter-writing or journaling, lauded by the American Psychological Association as a powerful tool for therapy and building self-esteem. Stock your writing desk with a subscription to Scrapbooking Store, the calligraphy-friendly Inky Box, or stationery-forward Scribe Delivery, which stocks you with a new notebook and pen as well as pencils and other supplies. Get writing!
Sometimes the best way to cut stress out of your life is to nurture life anew. De-stress while beautifying your space in one fell swoop by getting into gardening. This thousands-year-old (yes, really!) practice is a great way to step back from your day to day and reconnect with nature, even on a small scale. And if you don’t have an outdoor space to dig in the dirt, try container gardening to invite a breath of fresh air into your apartment, work desk, or window box.
My Garden Box
You can hop down to your local garden supply store, or, if your green thumb is a little shy, easily sow the seeds for your new hobby with My Garden Box. This monthly subscription box contains a new, Pinterest-worthy planting project curated specifically for your growing zone and comes with care instructions for each plant. It’s simple, beautiful, and will have your space Instagram-ready in no time.
The reasons to get into yoga are too many to list. Besides the physical flexibility, blood pressure reduction and core-building power of this ancient art, yoga is a gift for the mind. Giving yourself permission to practice a solitary art that’s solely for you and your health is a deeply satisfying, soul-nourishing addition to any self-care routine.
Do a Shot of Yoga!
If you’re feeling intimidated or don’t know where to start, bring monthly inspiration into your life with a subscription to Do A Shot of Yoga! This monthly package earns its exclamation point by bringing you yoga supplies as well as yoga books, wellness and lifestyle magazines, and more. Plus, this subscription connects you to a community of like-minded souls from yoga newbies to experienced practitioners, so you never need to embark on your journey alone.
Games and Puzzles
Realign yourself into a no-work, all-play mode with games and puzzles. Game time gives you clear permission to step into a work-free zone. Plus, puzzles and games help you sharpen your mind and think outside the box, all while bonding with family and friends.
Finders Seekers Mysteries
Check out a local escape room or game shop, or let the gamemasters deliver the puzzles straight to you with Finders Seekers Mysteries. Each monthly box features a different city and different cryptic clues. Does learning count as work? That’s up to you, but the fun and shared laughter are surefire self-care.