The Writing Sparrow Episode 12 | How to Prevent Stress and Burnout with Kristina Naydonova

This week I had the privilege of talking to Kristina Naydonova, who published her debut novel earlier this year aged 12! She’s now 13 and showing us all how it’s done.

Here are Kristina’s self-care tips  for preventing stress and burnout:

  • get enough sleep
  • drink enough water
  • eat healthy meals
  • meditate (this is the app Kristina recommends and this is the app I mention )
  • practice mindfulness
  • keep a journal for your successes and assess failures to make tomorrow better
  • try art therapy
  • Your body and mind will make it clear when you need a break. Don’t ignore them.

You can find out some more about her on her Amazon US author page or go follow her on Instagram 

Listen to the Episode

Read the Transcript

Sarina Langer  00:08

Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at Let’s get started!

Sarina Langer  00:29

Hello and welcome back, friends and Sparrows. It’s the 23rd of November 2020, and this is Episode 12. Today I have the great privilege of talking to Kristina Naydonova- I’m so sorry if I’ve just pronounced your name very badly.

Kristina Naydonova  00:45

No worries, you pronounced it great.

Sarina Langer  00:46

Thank you, thank God. She is the youngest author and most inspiring young lady I know. If you don’t know, Kristina has published her debut novel this year, The Black Sisterhood Files, when she was 12 years old, which proves that you’re never too young to start writing. Like me, she’s a big advocate of self care to prevent burnout and stress, and I can’t think of a better time to discuss these things given all the anxiety in the world right now. And also the fact that NaNoWriMo can easily drive a writer to exhaustion. So this is a really tough month for all of us, let alone the whole rest of the year. So welcome, Kristina, thank you so much for coming onto my podcast.

Kristina Naydonova  01:26

Thank you so much for having me. It’s great to be here today and get the opportunity to chat with you.

Sarina Langer  01:35

I’m very excited to have you because as I said just now, you were only 12 years old when you published your first book. That’s amazing.

Kristina Naydonova  01:42

Thank you so much, really appreciate that.

Sarina Langer  01:45

I mean, of course like, well pretty much everyone, I was at school at that time, as are you. And I don’t think I could have done anything like that at that age. I mean, I think around that time, I was sort of between schools, I was just moving on into high school, and that wasn’t an easy time for me at all, so that you still find the time to also write a book and publish it to me is just absolutely… You’re basically Superwoman to me.

Kristina Naydonova  02:13

Thank you, I really appreciate that.

Sarina Langer  02:16

So congratulations on publishing your first book this year.

Kristina Naydonova  02:21

Thank you.

Sarina Langer  02:21

 How are you finding the author life? How’s it been for you?

Kristina Naydonova  02:26

It’s honestly a lot more different than I expected. But what I would say the best aspect of it is having the ability to connect with other authors and other aspiring authors. Because I have also had the great chance to connect with some aspiring writers over Skype and over Zoom calls and give them some advice on what it takes to publish a book, to write a book, and to market a book. So I would say it is quite different than my expectations, but it’s been wonderful thus far.

Sarina Langer  02:54

Oh, that’s really good to hear. Because I think, I think especially with your first book, lots of authors have really high aspirations of becoming famous over night.

Kristina Naydonova  03:06

That’s not how it works, yeah.

Sarina Langer  03:07

No, not at all. And I think it’s really good and positive to see that you haven’t let that not happening put you off; although, you are probably a lot more successful already than most authors I know so early into your career.

Sarina Langer  03:21

I mean, you’ve been on different podcasts, and I think you’ve been on TV at some point as well.

Kristina Naydonova  03:21

Thank you.

Kristina Naydonova  03:27

Yeah, one time back in June.

Sarina Langer  03:30

That’s amazing. How did that come about?

Kristina Naydonova  03:32

Thank you. So I actually reached out to a local studio of CBS six, and they accepted my query to be on one of their programmes.

Sarina Langer  03:43

That must have been very exciting. I mean, I’ve never been on TV, so you’ve already done-

Kristina Naydonova  03:47

Really exciting. I must say it was like a dream come true.

Sarina Langer  03:51

I bet it was. I mean, I’ve published six or seven books now – enough to lose count, apparently – but you’ve already… I feel like you’ve already done more in your first short few months of being an author than I have done in my four years. So honestly, hats off to you.

Kristina Naydonova  04:11

Thank you so much. I mean, I spent almost every single day of the summer for hours working really hard on marketing and reaching out to podcasts and TV broadcasts. So yeah.

Sarina Langer  04:22

What would you say are you enjoying the most about your new author career?

Kristina Naydonova  04:28

I definitely would say as I mentioned before connecting with other authors and speaking on podcasts and different programmes, because I get to share my story and help others out in the meantime.

Sarina Langer  04:39

That’s always a really nice thing to do, and I find that social media like Instagram especially is so fantastic for meeting other like-minded writers and authors in your genre, but also in, well, pretty much every genre. So I think… well, I think I’ve seen you around on Instagram a few times, it’s where you’ve reached out to me to be on this podcast, and feel quite honoured that you reached out to me because of how much you’ve already done. I mean, to me, you’re such an inspirational young woman.

Kristina Naydonova  05:07

Thank you. That means so much to me, considering I love your podcast. And it’s so exciting to be here today.

Sarina Langer  05:13

You can’t see it, but I’m blushing. That’s so exciting to hear, thank you. I mean, you must still be going to school alongside as well. How are you juggling all that?

Kristina Naydonova  05:24

So I actually still have virtual school because of the pandemic. It’s definitely been difficult because the teacher, the teachers really just do not give us slack. And they continue to assign just as much homework and classwork as they would during regular school. So it’s been a difficult, so it’s been a bit difficult these past couple months to juggle schoolwork, social life and my book because during the summer, I was free to work as much as I wanted since there wasn’t school. So I would just say I’m trying to practice mindfulness and a healthy balance of all in my life.

Sarina Langer  05:54

That sounds great. I’m actually in a very similar boat there as you. I mean, I, I work in a university library, but I work term-time only, so I get the summers off as well. And possibly but longer than you because University terms are not the same at all as school terms, I fear. So I really get how nice it is to have that summer to just completely focus on your own things.

Kristina Naydonova  06:18

Yes, definitely.

Sarina Langer  06:18

I think it’s so good for mental health as well. But of course, not everyone has that option, so I’m really excited to talk to you a bit about self-care today because honestly, with how this whole year has gone down, I don’t think anyone could have seen that coming, and burnout is always a stressor for authors anyway. Because I think we tend to… I don’t know how you feel, but I always feel like I’m not doing enough, like I need to do more, like I need to write more words or publish more books, so that makes self care so important. So to get to the heart of our episodes, how are you looking after yourself?

Kristina Naydonova  07:03

So I’m trying to look after myself by doing just, you know, like the rudimentary things, getting, getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals, drinking enough water, but I think it also just goes beyond the physical measures, also mental measures. So I try to meditate every day and practice mindfulness, because I understand that, you know, stress can be very overwhelming sometimes. And things such as just sitting down to breathe for just a couple minutes in complete silence can be really, really advantageous.

Sarina Langer  07:32

That’s really great advice. I try to meditate more often these days and to take more time to just reflect on what I’ve done, because it’s- it’s such a good-

Kristina Naydonova  07:42

Yeah, also- I’m sorry. I would say also journaling helps just to journal out all your thoughts and feelings over the day, to get it all out on paper.

Sarina Langer  07:50

It’s funny you should say that, because I have, I have a journal specifically for writing progress. So I think the point of that was to sit down every day after I’ve written to just write down how it’s gone and how I’m feeling about what I’ve written. I’m not gonna lie, I keep forgetting I have the thing.

Kristina Naydonova  08:08

Yeah, yeah. So for journaling, I usually just every single day, at the end of the day, I try to journal my successes of the day, my failures and how I can reflect on them to make tomorrow better.

Sarina Langer  08:20

I think that’s really good advice. Because of course, as writers, we tend to, we tend to write a lot anyway. So I think for us, it’s maybe only natural to start journaling and write down our feelings. And of course, it’s private unlike our books, so no one will ever have to read what you put into that, you can be completely honest with yourself.

Kristina Naydonova  08:40

Yeah, definitely.

Sarina Langer  08:43

Um, if I may ask, what are your hobbies? Do you do anything besides writing something, maybe else that’s also story related? Or do you do anything that’s, that’s got nothing at all to do with books and stories?

Kristina Naydonova  08:56

Yeah, of course. So I’ve always thought that literature, music and art have some sort of a very deep connection between one another, so I actually play the piano regularly, every single day, as well as tennis and sometimes even indulge in painting even though I’m not the best at it. I also like to read.

Sarina Langer  09:14

I always wanted to pick up painting, but I am not very good at that or drawing.

Kristina Naydonova  09:22

But I guess it really depends on the style you practice. For example, for me, abstract art has always been the easiest, but like realistic art has always come very hard for me.

Sarina Langer  09:33

That sounds really fascinating. I mean, I know that art is incredibly good for therapy, but I don’t know, I weirdly always… I’m never sure where to start with painting. How do you… What would you tell me? How should I start if I wanted to paint something with honestly no experience whatsoever?

Kristina Naydonova  09:53

So I would just say harness your creativity into the painting, just I would say sort of painting whatever you want, but there’s just random blobs of colour on a canvas that will at least get your mind going and get you to a spot that will actually, you know, in the end create a substantial painting.

Sarina Langer  10:11

That sounds really interesting. I’m gonna have to try that at some point. When do you… When you paint… Sorry, more about painting. How do you approach it? Do you try… When you sit down to paint, do you try to paint something specific, or are you just seeing where the paintbrush takes you today?

Kristina Naydonova  10:34

I kind of just let my mind carry me away, to be honest, because I guess when I paint or actually think about what I’m painting is a reflection of my mentality and what I’m thinking at the moment. So it helps me understand myself better.

Sarina Langer  10:45

That makes a lot of sense to me, because I, that’s roughly how, how I approach writing, you know- sit down, I try to clear my mind, and I’m just trying to be there with the book. I know roughly where it needs to go, but, you know, I try not to overthink it. So the way you’re approaching painting to me sounds very relatable. But also for something I really struggled with. I always feel like I need to have a goal. But yeah, I will, I will, well, I will try that, and if I paint anything at all that doesn’t burn my eyes too much, I’ll have to send it to you.

Sarina Langer  11:25

So as we’ve already said, this year has been hard, which makes self-care a necessary priority, possibly more important than ever before, certainly in our lives. Do you have any tips for anyone who’s struggling right now or this year in general, or someone who feels like they don’t have the time for self care?

Kristina Naydonova  11:47

So I would say always put self care first if you ever feel if you don’t have the time, because if you feel that way, you’re not doing something correct, because your mental health should be a priority at all times. I actually really look up to Arianna Huffington CEO of Thrive Global Huffington Post, who says that a car cannot run without gas. She’s like, we cannot run without energy. And it’s important that we feel ourselves energy and energy, but also positive energy, because that’s what keeps us going. That’s what’s gonna get us the best results. So as I did say before, it lies in both physical and mental self care, physical in terms of, you know, exercise and getting yourself out in nature to take walks sometimes, eating healthy, drink a lot of water, getting enough sleep, and mental lives in terms of positive affirmations, meditation, maybe just journaling, taking a couple moments just to breathe and reflect on yourself and etc.

Sarina Langer  12:42

I couldn’t agree more with all of that. I started walking more now as a result of me going back to work. I started walking in and walking home, which takes roughly 50 minutes each way. And I can tell if I’ve had a stressful day at work, by the time, by the time I’m home, I’m in a much calmer headspace.

Kristina Naydonova  13:01

Yeah, I definitely agree. Yeah, I try to take walks out in nature at least once every day for at least 15 minutes, because I know how much it helps just stimulate and clear my mind.

Sarina Langer  13:12

God, I’m just so impressed by you. I’m sure you will keep this up very easily anyway cause you’re building those habits now. And I think really, it’s all about habits, isn’t it? Once you’re used to it, it’s much easier. It’s always starting something new that’s difficult.

Kristina Naydonova  13:26

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I actually read this great book, it’s called Atomic Habits. I’m sure you’ve heard of the, I’m sure you’ve heard of it before. It’s a quite popular book. Yeah, it talks about you, you know, how you start developing habits, your age, and those just stick with you for the rest of your life as long as you uphold the practice of them.

Sarina Langer  13:44

That’s, well, it’s more great advice. I feel like I’m repeating myself now, but you’re full of wisdom. I think there’s this misconception as well about habits is that that you have to be young to start and that once you reach a certain age, it’s impossible for you to learn new things. But I don’t think that’s true.

Kristina Naydonova  14:03

That’s not true.

Sarina Langer  14:04

I mean, for you, you’re at a perfect age anyway to start new habits and really get into the, well, into the habit of them. But I’m 30 now and have… Two or three weeks ago, I started writing every day for just 15 minutes, which to me is a very new thing. And I never thought that would work for me, because 15 minutes is such a tiny amount, but I now feel weird when I don’t do it a day, so I got into that habit quite easily. And I’m getting so much more done. I’m so much more productive.

Kristina Naydonova  14:38

That’s good. It’s really good. Yeah, I would definitely say there is no actual like, you’re too young to start this or you’re too, you know, old to start this because, I mean, frankly, an 88 year old gymnast won a segment of the Olympics one time, and that just goes to show that you’re never too old, never too young to just go after your dreams and start building those hobbies and… I’m sorry, not hobbies but habits and practices.

Sarina Langer  15:03

Very well put, I think, possibly one of the more… well, no, I mean, clearly it works for you, and I think it works for me quite well as well, but I think meditation is a really good way to approach that, because it helps you slow down and gain a bit more perspective. And I know when I meditate first thing in the morning, I’m then in a much calmer headspace for the whole rest of the day and I get more done as a result. But when I first looked into it, I had no idea how to start. What would you recommend for people who might be interested in starting meditation, but like me, also have no idea where to begin?

Kristina Naydonova  15:45

So I would actually say start in the evening, because that’s going to help you improve your sleep, and you will be in a better headspace to do it again in the morning, and so on as repetition cycle. And I actually have a great app recommendation, it’s literally just called Meditate. It’s a great app, it has a lot of cycles for, you know, beginners, intermediate and advanced level meditators to help you get into that practice. So I’d highly recommend that. I used it when I first got into meditation.

Sarina Langer  16:11

Oh, I had an app called Meditate. I wonder if you use the same one?

Kristina Naydonova  16:15

Probably, yeah. But it’s a really great app. It’s helped me a lot.

Sarina Langer  16:18

Well, if that’s the one that I’ve had then I second that, it’s been incredibly helpful. And then, when you meditate, do you, do you use music to help you relax with that? Or do you have a guided meditation? Or do you prefer to just sit there with yourself and a bit of silence?

Kristina Naydonova  16:35

When I began to meditate a couple months ago, when I was first just starting to get into that habit, I used back meditation and like guided meditation. But now that I’ve kind of gotten the hang of how to do it by myself, I prefer to just have white noise. And it really varies for everyone. I know people who, you know, like to put on music on their phone or have a guided meditation, even if they know how to meditate individually. But for me, I just, white noise is the best way for me to actually gain tranquillity while meditating.

Sarina Langer  17:03

That’s a bery good idea. I tend to have, I have an app of various meditation tracks that are just music, there is no talking or any form of guided meditation. And I’m slowly working myself down the list. It’s called… it’s probably again just Meditate, because I feel like a lot of them are quite simply named, aren’t they?

Kristina Naydonova  17:28

Yeah, yeah.

Sarina Langer  17:30

Um, where is it? I could have had this ready. But to be honest, I didn’t think we’d talk so much about meditation. Okay, well, I can’t find it right now, but I’ll be sure to put it in the show notes. And then if you could send me the link to the one that you’ve mentioned as well, then we can get a list of self care tips going in the show notes, which I think would be very helpful.

Kristina Naydonova  17:53

That’d be great.

Sarina Langer  17:55

To wrap up, if you could give people one tip regarding burnout and stress prevention, what would it be?

Kristina Naydonova  18:05

Um, I would say just refer to what I said previously, to always put yourself first. And your body will tell you when you need a break, and it’s important that you listen to your body and to your mind, because it will not deceive you, it will not lie to you. If you need a break, it will make that explicit. You’ll be walking around all day just tired, unmotivated. And that’s when, you know, you have to take a break. And when you’re relaxed and you’re in that state of, you know, just ready to go back into the gist of things, your body will let you know that as well, so just listen to yourself and don’t deny if you really need a break.

Sarina Langer  18:38

That resonates with me a lot, actually. I know… mean by now I’ve burned out two or three times, so I know exactly how I feel when the next burnout is coming, but to start with, I always thought – God, I was so dumb – I always thought I could push myself and just try to work a little bit longer.

Kristina Naydonova  18:57

I thought that too. Yeah.

Sarina Langer  18:59

And you know, it just, it doesn’t work. Because as you’ve just said, your body will tell you when you need to stop.

Kristina Naydonova  19:06

It’s so wrong. I feel like we’re all deceived by this perception that the only way we’ll have success is by working like 12 hours a day without sleep. But that’s just not true. Because our body needs the fuel of positive energy in order to actually function properly.

Sarina Langer  19:21

Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. And, yeah, thank you so much for coming on here and talking to me about self-care! Thank you very much.

Kristina Naydonova  19:29

Yeah, thank you. It’s been great to talk to you. And I really, really love your questions and how we delved into all these different, you know, like segments of self care.

Sarina Langer  19:38

Thank you so much. I’m glad to hear that. Hopefully, our listeners have enjoyed it too, and I’ve learned a lot. Thank you so much!

Kristina Naydonova  19:45

Thank you so much for listening.

Sarina Langer  19:48

If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at Until next time! Bye!

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Transcribed by Otter

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Sarina Langer