A pile of burnt-out matches on a piece of concrete.
A pile of burnt-out matches on a piece of concrete.
“burnt matches” by areta ekarafi is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I’ve felt burnt out plenty of times. Having a creative career and a demanding schedule means I inevitably crash every couple of months. I find myself totally out of energy and at a complete loss for story ideas or inspiration. “I need a break,” I’ll tell my friends. “I’m burnt out.”

Recently, while reporting a story on the science-based metric used to actually measure burnout for BBC’s Worklife, I realized I’ve been using the term all wrong, and what I’ve been experiencing isn’t really burnout. As you’ll read in that piece, real burnout has three major criteria, and I only…


A blank white background, with an offset sign on the left reading “less is more.”
A blank white background, with an offset sign on the left reading “less is more.”
“less is more” by hooverine is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When I was just getting my freelancing career off the ground, I said yes to every single opportunity that came my way, and took every job I was offered. Many of them were a lot of work for very little pay. Some required me to use skills I didn’t actually have. There was a lot of “faking it till I made it.”

This is how a lot of freelancers start out, and back then, at that early stage of trying to make a living, it worked. If I worked long enough hours, and took on enough of those low-paying gigs…


A close-up of a microphone, with two blurry listeners in the background.
A close-up of a microphone, with two blurry listeners in the background.
“Microphone” by daveypea is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In April, I launched a brand new podcast. The episodes are roughly 30 minutes long, and feature me interviewing scientists and other experts, and telling stories about animals and nature. In other words, it features my voice — a lot. And that took some serious getting used to.

Like most people, I suffer from a little bit of “voice confrontation” — the term for hating the way your voice sounds on recordings. …


It only works if you do it out loud

Three versions of the same woman in a green shirt sit together around a wooden table.
Three versions of the same woman in a green shirt sit together around a wooden table.
Photo: winsmiss via flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Whenever I’ve got bad writer’s block, or I’m anxious about an interview, or I’m not sure how to approach a conversation with an editor—or, for that matter, a friend — I talk to myself. Out loud.

I like to go for a drive, or a walk, or even jump in the shower, and I just chatter away. I try out lines until I find the perfect opener for the story I’m stuck on, rehearse arguments, and brainstorm with my voice until my ideas come together.

Sure, anyone who happened to hear me having these full-blown conversations with, uh, nobody might…


“Cleaning Supplies at the 99¢ only store” by futurowoman is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Last week, I decided to paint my bathroom.

It seemed like a simple enough project. It’s the smallest room in the house, so it couldn’t possibly take long, I reasoned, to clean out and organize its cabinets and closet, then scrub, spackle, and sand the walls. And a fresh coat of paint would make it feel so clean: the pay-off was huge.

Days later, I’m still working on it; for such a small room, it really has been a disproportionate amount of work. …


An out-of-focused but totally packed weekly schedule
An out-of-focused but totally packed weekly schedule
“Busy schedule ;)” by lewro is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Most of us lost track of our 2020 planners sometime last spring. What did it matter? They were empty anyway. But now, as the ranks of the vaccinated grow, there are suddenly things to look forward to, trips being booked, and plans being made.

And while it’s natural to want to make up for lost time, loading up your social calendar with all the rescheduled events, postponed celebrations, and sorely missed get-togethers, it’s important not to overdo it. Too much obligation, especially after a year of very little of it, could damage our mental states and our relationships.

A 2020…


There are a lot of things Covid-19 took away that I want back. I want to get on planes. I want to sit on my friends’ couches and drink wine. I want to visit museums, eat pie at a diner counter, and run errands without having to think about how many people I might encounter, and whether there’s a clean mask in my car. I want to hug my grandfather, and take my great aunts out to dinner, and not be so worried about my parents all the time.

I want most things to go back to normal, but there’s…


A jumble of toy kitchen items strewn on a carpet.
A jumble of toy kitchen items strewn on a carpet.
“42c — Tiny Messy Kitchen” by TheBrownMike is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

For the first few months after the pandemic forced the whole world onto Zoom, I tried to look “presentable.” In the frantic minutes before a video call, I’d change my shirt, put on mascara, prop my laptop up on a stack of books to get the perspective right, and wedge myself into the far corner of my kitchen. It was not a comfortable place to sit, but it meant the background didn’t include the dishes in the sink, or the various detritus of life on the counters, waiting to be cleared off.

I’d spend the whole call monitoring the angle…


The next frontier of medicine is based in mRNA

Illustration by Virginia Gabrielli for Elemental

I can depend on my body. My muscles contract when I want them to — to carry me up mountains and down ski slopes, to pull my kayak paddle through the water, and move my hands across piano keys. When I drink my favorite red wine, my liver metabolizes the alcohol, and my digestive system handles all the carbonara I throw at it and then asks for more. My brain secretes adrenaline that protects me in dangerous situations and serotonin that reminds me how good it is to be alive.

My muscles, metabolism, and mind do all the things I…


How to dress for a pandemic winter

Illustrations: Sophi Gullbrants

Two Septembers ago, a South Dakota snowstorm caught me off guard. I packed light — too light — for a trip to the Black Hills, to participate in the Buffalo Roundup and Arts Festival at Custer State Park. Huddled in the bed of a pickup truck in the middle of a thundering herd of buffalo, wearing every article of clothing I had and still cold all the way down in my bones, I swore I’d never be unprepared for the conditions again.

This winter, as the ongoing pandemic makes it unsafe to gather indoors, you may find yourself spending more…

Kate Morgan

Kate is a freelance journalist who’s been published by Popular Science, The New York Times, USA Today, and many more. Read more at bykatemorgan.com.

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