Right now I’m in the middle of an M.E crash. I think it had been threatening for a while but I kept ignoring (or not even noticing) the signs, which never works out well! Sunday was probably the worst day and it was probably the worst my symptoms have been in a very long time.
I really started to notice that I wasn’t feeling well about a week ago, which is right when I finished the 100 Day Project. In retrospect, I think the way I approached this year’s 100 Day Project was unwise. I took on too much and didn’t allow myself to slow down when I needed to.
Last year’s 100 Days of Patterns was pretty manageable because I worked in pocket-sized sketchbooks and wasn’t looking to create a technical repeat pattern every single day. This year’s 100 Days of Hand Lettering often became so time-consuming that I would spend almost an entire day digitising my work to create a finished illustration. That would be too much for most people but is definitely too much when you already have very limited energy.
Next year I really need to think it through carefully. First of all I need to decide if I’m going to do the 100 Day Project at all, and, if I do, how best to approach it to avoid wearing myself out.
The closer I got to the end of my hand lettering project the more excited I was about the prospect of finishing. Both for the achievement of completing 100 days, but also because I was desperately looking forward to having more time and space in my day. If I’d been more sensible I would have recognised this feeling and allowed myself to slow the pace or even stop. In other words, I could have given myself what I needed right away.
Once I did stop my energy slumped even further and now I have no choice but to slow down, which is not a good situation to be in. It would make a LOT more sense to be kinder and more gentle with myself on a day-to-day basis, which might mean that I produce less work but am able to take better care of my health, and avoid a boom and bust cycle.
I’ve missed a lot of my beloved weekly yoga classes lately too because I’ve been too tired or run down to go. I often use that as one of my benchmarks for how my health is and somehow I didn’t notice that this had slipped – and that maybe I could do something about it.
To take better care of myself as I recuperate I’m spending less time absorbed in work (actually no time at the moment!) and making sure to do things like sleeping more, staying in my pyjamas until lunchtime, taking my vitamins, meditating each day and listening to podcasts while I potter around at home.
I’m still doing something creative most days but I’m not forcing myself to do that and I’m using a pocket-sized notebook. I’m allowing myself to use it with no big expectations, just experimental doodles for fun.
So, although I’m pleased with most of the work I created during my 100 Days of Hand Lettering, I’m also disappointed that I allowed it to take priority over my health. It was my own project so I could have stopped, slowed down or changed it at any time but I didn’t. I know my own body better than anyone but I ignored the warning signs it was giving me and now they’ve caught up with me.
But what I also know is that this period of low energy will pass – they always do. I just have to create the right situation for that to happen and once it does I also need to take some time to really prioritise my health, and work in a gentler, more sustainable way.
Funnily enough I read Lisa Congdon’s blog post a while ago about how she is slowly recovering from burn out after working at a hectic pace for a very long time. It’s not quite the same as what I’ve experienced over the past couple of months but it did resonate with me at the time, although obviously not enough for me to avoid overdoing things in my own way!
What’s your approach to self-care and how do you balance your work and other important priorities in your life?