Building a Mental Health Work Buffer

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week.

I would like to think that if you’ve made it here, you’re at least a little more aware of the omnipresence of mental health problems. You may have experienced the extreme stress that they can put on people suffering from them. In fact, the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is stress, so that’s a timely way of putting it.

I’ve talked a lot about the things I do already to combat stress – but I’m still very stressed. Last year, whilst I was midway through releasing Mundane Magic, my GP conducted a blood test to look into why I was exhausted all the time.

He found that I was so stressed that he could see it in my hormone levels – and, understandably, encouraged me to reduce my stress. I tried, but I also continued self-publishing a novel, so how successful I was is up for debate.

Today I would like to talk to you about something which I don’t do, and ought to for the benefit of my mental health: creating a work buffer. As always it may not work for your kind of work, and I’m not by any means an expert.

This is just something that I believe would be good for me, and might also be good for you. It puts future me as a priority. The me that might not have as many spoons on a day, and might need a bit of help from past me.

What’s A Work Buffer?

I publish to a set schedule. Blog posts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and Patreon posts on Thursdays. I also manage my social media accounts daily, and on Fridays schedule up the entire weekend.

So generally, I always know what my bare minimum is on a given day. Most of the time, even on a bad day, I can do that bare minimum. But I’m not thinking about preparing for bad days – I want to prepare for terrible days.

A work buffer for me would be a cache of blog posts or social media posts that I can dip into when I’m truly unable to produce what I intended to. It’s past me caring for future me.

Why It’s Difficult

But it’s hard. It’s hard because I have a set number of spoons in a given day. If you haven’t heard of the Spoon Theory, by the way, go and read it now. I’ll be here when you’re back.

So. I might only have enough spoons on most days to do what I have to. The idea of also doing the work for several days past is a lot.

I’ve had to do this before, when preparing to go away on holiday – but I’m not going to lie, it’s difficult. That’s why I haven’t done it much thus far. I fight every day to keep myself working and there’s only so much I’m capable of fighting.

If I push myself on one to get everything done and then create a buffer, I might be so exhausted the next day that I immediately need to use that buffer. If I’m going on holiday it’s not quite as bad – I get a day off to recover.

How To Manage It

That’s the what and the why – now what about the how?

Thus far I’ve been effectively waiting for a day where I have enough of a spoon surplus to be able to push on and write a second blog post, or a second poem, or whatever it might be. As evidenced by the fact that I’ve not yet done this, it hasn’t been the best strategy.

It’s not that I’m not thinking of it – I’ve been considering the idea of a buffer for a long time. I briefly had one in December when I copied a large number of my poetry backlog into WordPress – but then I used many of those whilst I was on holiday. Since then I’ve not managed to get a buffer back.

So instead I’m going to try something different. I’ve been writing down the starts of poems for a while in my Evernote, so I’m going to continue doing that. That way on a moderately bad day I at least have a springboard. Then for preparing entire blog posts, I’m going to think of an idea and then slowly add to it over time.

That means I won’t have to dump a whole bunch of spoons on doing it in one go. I can do a paragraph a day. A sentence a day. Even just a few words a day will add up, and eventually I’ll have a post that can sit there ready for when I truly can’t cope.

If you found this helpful and would like to read more of my posts on mental health, check them out here! Remember that my advice is no substitute for proper medical help. If you’re suffering or know someone who is, please don’t be afraid to reach out. Getting help can save lives.