Writing your first blog post after a long break is a bit like getting into a cold pool—you just have to take the plunge! So here I am ? After five months away, I’m back and I’ve got so much to share about where I’ve been and what I learned. It’s way too much for one blog post, so to keep things simple, today I just want to talk about why I decided to go offline and press “pause” on my blogging life.
I know most people reading this aren’t bloggers but I think these ideas are fairly universal and applicable to anything we take on (from careers to hobbies or even relationships) so I hope you’ll find some value whatever your circumstances. It’s so easy to get caught up doing what “we’ve always done” but sometimes it’s necessary to step back for a bit. Here are four signs that told me it was time to “press pause” and take a break for rest and reflection.
I LOST SIGHT OF WHAT I WAS TRYING TO ACHIEVE
Back in 2015, I started Simply + Fiercely for two reasons. First and foremost, I wanted to share the story of how simple and intentional living changed my life. At that time, I was at the tail end of a long season of personal growth (more about that here and here) and as a result, I was bursting at the seams with inspiration. I was in awe of how my life had recently changed and I wanted to tell everyone what I had learned.
The other reason I started S+F was to challenge myself. I’d actually been blogging on and off for nearly 15 years but had had never really committed to it and I was curious what would happen if I did. Could I write a blog that people actually wanted to read? And if so, what would happen? I didn’t have any specific goals in mind but I knew I wanted to try being a “real” blogger and see what would happen.
To my surprise and delight, S+F quickly grew beyond anything I’d imagined. Within six months, tens of thousands of people were reading it monthly and I was connecting with like-minded souls from all over the world. It was exciting and I threw myself headfirst into “blogging life”, reading tons of articles, taking courses and even attending in-person conferences. I learned about editorial calendars, SEO, social media marketing, etc. and my readership kept growing and growing.
This is when things started to get complicated. I’d learned that I could create a “real” blog but now that I had one, what did I want to do with it?
The truth is for the past few years, I haven’t really been sure. Part of me would like S+F to be a profitable business because I’ve invested so much time, energy and— to be completely frank— money. (And for those that are curious, S+F is not a profitable blog. I do sell an online course but overall I lose thousands of dollars each year, an expense I pay out of pocket.)
But how could I do this without sacrificing my values? And was it what I really wanted? After all, another part of me was drawn to the idea of downsizing S+F, keeping it as a simple hobby blog or possible even shutting it down altogether.
I wasn’t ready to answer these tough questions so for a long time, I kept running this blog on autopilot and used my never-ending to-do list to distract myself. But deep down, I knew something wasn’t right and that eventually, I’d have to invest the time and energy into making some big decisions.
I STOPPED ENJOYING THINGS THAT USED TO BE FUN
When I first started blogging, I loved it. It was a creative outlet where I could express myself after a long day at my desk job. It was exciting to connect with people and even now, there’s nothing like the feeling when someone tells you that your writing has made a difference in their life. ❤️
Beyond the writing, it was fun to learn new things. Dorky stuff, like how to market your blog on Pinterest or how to approach other bloggers for guest posts; it put me out of my comfort zone but just enough to feel challenging in a good way and I loved it! I was excited to come home at the end of the day and open my computer.
But somewhere along the way … the love faded. Things I used to enjoy started to become painful tasks on my to-do list. The worse part was how I felt about my writing. Instead of speaking truthfully from the heart, sharing lessons and stories that genuinely excited me, I felt myself focusing more and more on writing “good blog posts”. It was starting to feel forced and I was uninspired. I began procrastinating and thinking of any excuse to avoid opening my computer.
Still, I was in denial until my husband pointed out that a good chunk of the stress in my life was because of this site. I tried to protest, telling him that I enjoyed it … but as I said the words, I realised they weren’t true and I was left wondering what had changed. How had something that had been so fun become so painful? I wasn’t sure but this was definitely a sign that a much-needed break was in order.
I STARTED SHOPPING MORE
For those who don’t know, I’m a reformed shopaholic and in the past, shopping was the “crutch” I would turn to when I was struggling to deal with uncomfortable feelings. The short-term high from buying something new would help me drown out any unhappiness I felt in my life. It was my way of self-medicating; some people use alcohol, others find comfort in food, but for me, it was shoes (and the rest!).
Anyway, this all changed in my early thirties. I learned about minimalism and was able to recognise how I used shopping to make myself feel better and for the most part, I learned to be more mindful with my purchases.
But as the saying goes, old habits die hard! I’ve noticed that when I’m stressed or something in my life is simply “off” that I’m drawn back to the shops. It started small (just a “few” things for the baby) but it reached the point where I was making regular, weekly trips to the secondhand shop near my house. Once I realised how often I was going, experience told me that there was something wrong behind the scenes that I needed to deal with.
I WAS “ESCAPING” ON SOCIAL MEDIA
The final sign that told me I needed a break was I caught myself spending waaayyyyy too much time on social media. It wasn’t directly because of the blog (as in, I wasn’t always doing blog-related social media work); instead, I was using it to procrastinate and distract myself from my life.
Now, to be clear, I have mixed feelings about social media. I don’t think it’s always a “bad” thing and when you use it mindfully, it can be an amazing tool. I’ve met a lot of friends online (some meetings have even led to real life friendships!) and I’ve also learned about blogging, mindfulness, zero waste living, and more.
But several months ago, I definitely wasn’t using social media mindfully. Instead, I was using it to escape, procrastinate, and compare myself to other people. It was the dark, “rabbit hole” type of online browsing that only leads to wasted hours and self-doubt. It felt yucky, like a dirty habit, but I couldn’t seem to help myself. Every time I’d sit down to blog, I’d end up on Facebook or Instagram instead.
WHY IT WAS SO HARD TO TAKE A BREAK
After spending several years learning and writing about intentional living, I knew from these signs that I wasn’t on the right track. My logical brain knew the value of taking a break for self-reflection but I still felt so much resistance in my heart and it was hard to overcome.
First of all, I’d invested so much of myself into this blog and I was scared of what would happen if I walked away for a bit. Would I lose everything I’d worked so hard for? It was the same fear I’d felt in the past when I’ve considered leaving a job or relationship. There’s a momentum we build up in our lives and sometimes it’s scary to let go; instead, it feels safer to just keep going with the flow. Of course, I’ve learned facing this fear is almost always worth it, but that doesn’t make it any easier to do!
The other reason I struggled with taking a break (and I’m a little embarrassed to admit this) has to do with my feelings about self-worth. For the most part, I’m a stay-at-home mum now and, to be honest, I’m still coming to terms with this. It’s something I could write tons about (and possibly will in the future) but the short story is I love, love, love being home with my daughter but my brain still struggles with being “just a mum”*. This blog, along with a bit of freelance work I do on the side, validates me in a way and I was scared of losing that.
(*To be clear, I know that there is nothing wrong with being “just a mum”, which is actually a horrible thing to say. The problem is I’ve internalised a lot of external expectations and I’m still working on unravelling these from my own core beliefs— if this makes sense!)
FINALLY STEPPING BACK
If you’ve ever travelled or even just taken a long holiday, you may have noticed how you see things differently when you remove yourself from your everyday routine. There’s a certain clarity that comes with distance and you often discover things about yourself that you somehow never noticed before.
This is how I felt once I finally pressed pause on this blog back in April. I was sick over Easter, which forced me to take a short break … which in turn became five much needed months. This time away helped me see that the path I was on wasn’t sustainable and it was time to make some much-needed changes.
I’ll be writing a lot more on this topic in future posts, sharing more details about what I’ve learned and about what the future holds, but for now, I hope you found some value in this story. It’s often difficult to know when it’s time to take a break (and even harder to actually make it happen!) but it’s an important part of living a fulfilling, intentional life.
Your thoughts? Is there anywhere in your life where you need to press pause? As always, I invite friendly conversation in the comments! x
photo credit: Vlad Bagacian // Used with permission