What's your best advice for getting centered?

It's me, Jen. I need your advice, insights & words of wisdom...

On Monday 6/19 at 12 PT, I’ll reply to my favorite piece of advice in the comments section below & gift that person a $150 Jenny Pennywood shopping spree.

Even if you decide not to comment, you cared enough to stop by & that matters...

Deep Knowing by Jen Garrido, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 52 x 48"
Deep Knowing by Jen Garrido, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 52 x 48"

I'm feeling a little burnt out

This year has felt like a closed loop of circular thinking. It’s like my head is in an orbit I can’t escape. I’m not depressed, but my headspace is spinning. These days (most days), I feel burnt out. Ups & downs are part of my process, so this feeling isn’t so new but I am just so tired of it.

My burnout has a backstory

Let's travel back to the early 2000s. I had just graduated from grad school & was teaching art at a small, private K-8th school. It was an amazing job. Or, it would have been had I loved teaching. I didn’t love teaching, but oddly enough I always thought I’d teach. During those same years I taught, I also waited tables & was an affiliate artist at the Headlands Center for the Arts where I was just beginning my art career. 

After several years of juggling jobs, my art career began to unfold. At 30, I decided to let go of teaching because if I didn’t try to do art full time, would I ever? It was the right choice. I think. My career was up & running until 2008 arrived & the economy crashed. Suddenly, the relationships I had worked so hard to build ended due to one thing or another. So, I decided to create Jenny Pennywood as a way to explore textile design. Fast forward to today & it’s as though I’ve been living a double life & hustling ever since the crash. 

My deep desire to recenter

Recently, it dawned on me that for 20 years & counting (essentially my entire adult life), I’ve been incredibly persistent in setting goals & assigning myself tasks with the simple intent of getting somewhere. In many ways, this has been an organic unfolding marked by key moments in time where things seemed to be coming together. But if I’m being honest, I’ve mostly struggled along the way.

Fast forward to today & it’s 2023. Here I sit, drowned in a deep desire to recenter. But, what’s next? 

I love the work I do, I love Jenny Pennywood & I certainly love painting. In fact, I always want to paint more. I’m cool with the struggle in some ways, but I would rather it be a side dish rather than the main course.

What's on the other side of the struggle?

Have you ever been stuck? How did you climb out? What was your key turning point? Is there a version of life on the other side of the struggle, where there’s still struggle, but not so much? Comment below & share your story, struggle, words of wisdom, best advice, tools, habits or something else altogether that you think I should know. Whatever it is, I want to hear about it. Thank you for caring. XO, Jen

Share your advice in the comments section below by Monday 6/19, Noon PT. Best advice wins a $150 shopping spree because why not add a little sweetness to the misery?!


  • Val says...

    Wow, I’m late to the party but am loving reading all these comments. I relate. I think it has to do with middle age and the unrealistic expectations of the society we live in to do too much- be an artist, constantly innovate and “produce,” parent, earn a living. It’s unrealistic but we’re caught in it because we have to live within capitalism . I’m at a turning point myself and have been thinking a lot about how the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves can be updated- what would it be like to let go of them and try something that we really want to try, even if it doesn’t fit with the old story?

  • Tasha says...

    Currently also feeling burnt out while juggling three littles and looking for new work. There are moments where I feel incredibly lost and purposeless- but I remember a line in the book Gilead where the narrator asks himself, “what is the Lord asking of me in this moment?” Regardless of any religious context, I like to ask myself this question. What is most important to me in this moment, what is something that I need to learn or grow from in this season? I try to guide my decisions and thoughts based on these answers. Still lost as hell, but I’m learning to embrace the process. :)

  • Jacquie says...

    Using fingers on phone- so I’ll be brief. The middle passage by James Hollis is my go to book. This is a normal hard stage of life- what you describe is spot on for this complicated developmental stage. I recommend that book, hrt, radical self care, psychedelic therapy and humor.

  • Jen says...

    HI! This is Jen of Jenny Pennywood! After much consideration, I’ve chosen my favorite comment! Thank you all for your responses and I’m really excited about the comment section of Mind Vacation! I had no idea how it would go and I’m happy so many of you got into it. THX AGAIN!!! xoxo JEN

  • Emily G says...

    As a doctor and mom of three, I got extremely burnt out during the pandemic and also began to question my life choices.
    I’m still figuring this out. Exercise, good sleep, therapy and an SSRI help. On the days that’s not good enough, my cure for feeling down is to do something nice for someone else.
    Maybe try teaching again? Consider taking on apprentices from under resourced neighborhoods/backgrounds? Or just random acts of kindness?

  • Maia DeGaetano says...

    Go where you are feeling called, stay where you are put, and give it all you’ve got.

  • Anne says...

    Hi Jen! Our bodies love to stay in predictable and comfortable cycles even when they don’t serve us well, hold us back, make us feel stuck or inadequate. I’ve found the following to help me stop being my own worst enemy. Still a major work in progress over here, but these are life-changing tools that I hope can help you as well.
    1) Nervous System Regulation (I’ve done this intro course https://www.myintegrativetherapist.com/nervoussystem101 and am considering doing The Library program over here https://www.jennahamm.com/courses)
    2) Constitutional Homeopathic Care (My homeopath is Kellie Mox who is great https://kelliemox.com/one-to-one/)
    3) Practice Gratitude (instantly puts things in perspective and gets your mind right)

  • Lauren says...

    I’m writing this from a chair I purchased from you in 2019 – I believe you said it was first you upholstered. I bought it at a time when I was stuck in a way I never had been before, when I didn’t know if I could forgive my husband for a comment he made that struck a nerve so sensitive and deep, I had never spoken about it to anyone, including him. A mixture of careful planning and joyous spontaneity had guided me through many seasons of life, but I could not find a way forward this time. It truly felt like I was stuck in a maze and every path I ventured down hoping for a solution for how I felt turned out to be a dead-end. I felt both lost and trapped.  
    What broke the cycle for me was reading a book related to my situation that wasn’t a self-help book but that helped me to understand myself better. It helped me to understand I was not alone in my experience and that ways in which I thought I was flawed or broken or not good enough were actually the norm for so many. It helped me to understand that my feelings of shame, self-loathing, regret, and inadequacy were not my fault or my faults. I hope that just reading the comments of all those who have experienced something similar to how you are feeling – and all of those who have or are working to emerge on the other side – is a reminder that you are not alone in how you feel, but even so, you are deserving of exploring these feelings. So often, what we experience as personal shortcomings are the result of broken systems larger than we are that we cannot on our own fix, but we can do things to make sense of them and how they impact us. In my situation, the person I needed to forgive wasn’t my husband but myself. By giving myself that compassion and starting to heal, I became free from the maze and navigated a path forward that felt right to me. 
    My advice is to take what serves you – from these comments and other places – and leave behind what doesn’t. Make modifications as needed; find entry points that feel true to you. An example of this for me was deep breathing which, as a person who lives in California and is on social media, I heard so often it lost its meaning. After a scary incident that had shaken me, my therapist asked if I had taken deep breaths which I had not. I had always thought of deep breathing as a psychological tool, but she explained that in the moment of the near-accident, my body was flooded with adrenaline and cortisol (which I knew) and that by taking deep breaths, I was getting more oxygen into my system which would help to dilute those other hormones (which I had not known or considered.) This was a reframe that helped me not just adopt a habit because someone said to, but to understand it in a different way that made sense to me. Now when I feel stress or fear, I understand what is happening and why and how I can help navigate myself through it even though that doesn’t mean it’s straightforward or easy. 
    While she works in a different medium, I often find so much wisdom in the work and words of Sonya Renee Taylor. Sonya announced at the beginning of this year that she would be ending the ongoing work she has done around her book, “The Body is Not an Apology” after 12 years. She feels her work there is done because the book and movement have spread, and now there is an entire community that can take those lessons forth and it doesn’t need the same stewardship from her. And then, unbeknownst to her, the book was mentioned on the Showtime series, Couples Therapy. That could have been an excuse for her to be pulled back into a project she was ready to close, to think about how this could expand her platform, increase sales, and gain notoriety. All of that would have been understandable and valid, but it proved her point – her work was out in the world having an impact and would continue to help people and it did not need her at the helm. I was reminded of this when thinking about your fabric-by-the-yard, the way you have put something beautiful out into the world that people can use to make their own pieces, perhaps purchase it to have their own furniture upholstered or learn a new skill to have the napkins they’ve wanted. Perhaps your next collaboration isn’t with a company but with your customers. Perhaps that builds the space for you to revisit your art outside of a capitalist framework. To make art without thinking about a customer, but just to explore. To paint and repaint over the same canvas. To try new materials. To experiment and make things that are just for you, for now. 
    While you search for answers, it’s still so important to continue to ask questions. After leaving a series of jobs that had me incredibly burnt out, I was offered a position at a well-known company and even though it was everything I had just decided I never wanted to do again, I considered it. I remember thinking, “this would look SO good on my resume.” But I stopped and asked myself – who is it that is reading this resume? An imaginary person at some large conglomerate that I would be miserable working at? Having a strong resume was so important to me for so long, but it was no longer the key I needed to unlock the things I wanted and I was able to let that go. What are the questions you have or that you’re scared to ask or answer? Identifying those may unlock more than the answers themselves. 
    I mention the chair I got from you because it is the place where I take monthly photos with my son; we did his 4-month photos today and your work is the backdrop to us marking his growth. When I bought it, I didn’t know where it would go – maybe a nursery? Someday, maybe it would be an accent chair for when we had friends over? But I didn’t know then if my marriage would last, I didn’t know if I wanted to have children, I didn’t know that six months later I’d be trapped inside my house for two years looking at this beautiful chair, unable to host guests. There is so much we cannot know about what is to come, so much we can’t imagine. But what we can do now is give ourselves grace, seek support from others and community, and take deep breaths. 

  • Ash says...

    Your work is such a huge part of our home. Pillows, napkins, tea towels, hats, bandanas, jackets, pjs, totes, etc. It’s all so joyful and special. But I have noticed a pattern over the years of you being afraid to embrace that you are so good at textile design. You are an artist AND a textile designer. They don’t cancel each other out! You make my favorite art and my favorite textiles so there!

  • Stephanie says...

    First, this is going to sound like the kind of advice I would have absolutely hated a few years back. Here goes anyway! MOVEMENT. Physical movement. Not exercise per se, but for some reason moving my body more/ with more deliberation has unlocked various mental and emotional blocks in ways that are still shocking me. My favorite movement is guided by Kara Duval, but I’m sure there are lots of other great people out there. I spent so much time trying to work out problems in my head that I completely forgot that I had a body that needed to process. Anyhow, I hope something shifts for you and that someone gives you the nudge need!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published