You’re done. Now what?

You’ve finished that big project that you were so excited to start, and thought you’d never finish!

The collection is hung. The quilts are finished and shipped to the grandkids. The flower garden is planted and mulched.

Now what?

You know there will be more work to do, but what is this strange feeling you have?

What’s the word…anticlimactic, aimless, down in the dumps…

Did you know that there is a word for it? There is! Psychologists have known about it for a long time.

“The Post-Project Depression.”

Yeah, they really DID give it a name. (Did you hear my eyes roll?)

Many authors and creative types go through it after “birthing” whatever their pursuit might be, whether it’s a sculpture, play, painting, novel, or a big show or an opera. (It’s similar to “post-partum depression.”) They just don’t anticipate feeling so exhausted, depleted and out of control.

Well, I have to admit, I’ve been going through a bit of this myself! Oh boy!

The online version of Creatively-U has launched and now the January cohort is rolling along. It’s what I’ve been living and breathing for a long time and have always wanted. Now that it’s rolling, I am feeling, well, a bit blue!

So, I checked in with other creatives and was curious to see what they thought about it.

There’s good news: it isn’t really true depression. It’s a normal reaction from running on adrenaline and fumes for so long to get something that we love DONE! We’re totally obsessed, and our focus narrows down to the details right up to the finish line.

For artists, there are tons of cleaning supplies and paper towels scattered, and paint to be cleaned up. For authors, there are drafts to sort, research materials to file, decisions about what to keep and what to toss. And for all of us, there’s probably a relationship or physical environment (a way of saying the house is filthy!) that we’ve ignored for quite a while! Not to mention that a huge hole in daily life has suddenly appeared. What am I supposed to do with all that time I used for the project?

Sound familiar?

If so, let me offer several tips to help you navigate the “post project depression” (whatever it might be).

1. Don’t ignore how you feel. Allow yourself to experience the emotions that come at the end of your project, even if it’s a big success!

Dustin Was writes, “It’s natural, too, to feel sad, disappointed, even depressed at the end of a big project, even one that’s a resounding success. The things we do define us as people, and the biggest things we do are the biggest part of us; losing them, even by choice and design, is hard.”

So let yourself feel all those mixed emotions. It’s part of the process. Who knew!

2. Evaluate your project.  Ask yourself some questions and take stock. We call this a debrief – kinda like the military! Ask yourself about what went right and what went wrong.  what went right? Also ask yourself about the best and worst thing about this project. What did I enjoy and what did you dislike about working on it? Would you do it again? Would you do it differently next time?

Also check your non-emotional reactions. Has your status, income, or perspective changed because of it? Either way, how do I feel about that? How would you answer, “What’s next for you?” if asked?  It may be too early for that one!

3. Congratulations are in order. Celebrate your accomplishment, then rest! Recognize that all the attention to detail and the adrenaline rush got you to the finish line. Give yourself some time to just breathe and “be,” before you start another big project. Take up that long-lost gym routine, watch your favorite movies, finally sit and read those books. Do whatever works as “down time” for you. You absolutely deserve to give yourself a break.

4. Look for what inspires you. When you’re ready, find what moves you anew. Allow yourself to get excited again ONLY after making sure you have rejuvenated and refreshed, and given yourself ample space, time, and the care you need. Then make sure it’s something you can expect to stick with through the tedious, messy middle that every project goes through before achievement.  

5. Plan your next project. Give yourself time to plan your next project. Here’s why having an intentionally fuzzy answer to “What next?” can come in handy. If asked, how about, “I have several ideas that I’m considering, but I’m still thinking.” Think about it for as long as necessary before jumping in.

So, I guess it really is a “thing.” I’m going to take a little time to reflect on my finished project.

If you’re in the same spot, take these tips and use them to come out the other side. See how you could build on the achievement you’ve already experienced. Then, get ready for the next big thing. Just be prepared for the post project slip. It’s normal! Who knew!

Become Creatively-U! Find more purpose and meaning in your day!

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