How I’m Experimenting With Scheduled Rest

Planner

Over the past few months my energy levels have been quite up and down. Every so often I feel like they’ve stabilised but after a week or two I have another slump. Earlier in the year I realised that one reason for this was my 100 Days of Hand Lettering project.

I worked on 100 Days of Patterns last year with no problems but this year I didn’t set any boundaries for my project, which resulted in me trying to create a finished (often digitised) piece of work every single day.

That would have been exhausting for anyone but it’s a really bad thing to do when you live with a chronic illness that limits your energy. I was planning my weeks and making sure I only did 1-3 things each day but sometimes just one of those things would take hours to complete and I wasn’t taking that into account.

So from this week I’m doing 2 new things:

  1. Planning my days in 1 hours chunks of time
  2. Including rest time in my plan

One hour chunks seem like an easy way to divide up the day, and it might be that some things that I do don’t take a full hour. But it creates a bit of breathing space so my plan doesn’t feel too regimented. So I might put ‘drawing’ into one chunk of my day but only spend 20 minutes drawing, giving me the rest of that hour to potter or pack my art materials away. I’m working on the assumption that things will take much longer than I might assume and creating room for that.

Something that I’m not very good about including in my days is rest. Now and again when I feel tired I’ll decide on the spur of the moment to take a nap but I don’t take pre-emptive rest. In other words, I don’t rest as a way to avoid overdoing things, but only when I feel like I’ve already done too much.

So my focus this week is to schedule (and take) one hour of rest every single day. That might be a nap, sitting down with my feet up, doing some very gentle restorative yoga (lying down) or something else that allows me to take a break and relax. 2 boundaries I’ve set for myself with this are:

  1. My rest has to be for at least 1 hour
  2. It cannot involve any screen time – so no watching Netflix, or scrolling through stuff on my phone.

I’ll re-assess things at the end of this week and see what worked well and what could be improved. Right now I don’t have a planner so I wrote down all the things I want to do in my notebook and then created a wall chart for the week.

Scheduled rests feel like a good way to take better care of myself right now. Rather than trying to produce as much work as I possibly can, I’m focusing on trying to keep myself as well as I possibly can so that I’m able to live and produce work in a healthier, more sustainable way.

What could you do to take better care of yourself this week?

By | October 30th, 2017|Life, M.E|0 Comments

Relearning (yet again!) the Importance of Self Care

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?

By | July 19th, 2017|Creativity, Life, M.E|4 Comments

ME Awareness Day 2017

Today is M.E Awareness Day. M.E (sometimes known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or C.F.S) is a physical illness that I’ve lived with for around 12 years. It’s a relapsing and remitting illness but the symptoms, which include fatigue, exercise intolerance, brain fog, headaches and muscle pain are always there to some degree. There is no treatment for M.E and it’s often unpredictable.

For example, over the past few days I’ve been experiencing quite a bad relapse of my symptoms. It’s not the worst I’ve ever known but it’s the worst in a long time, and has left me with very bad headaches, dizziness, worsened fatigue and muscle aches.

Looking at a screen doesn’t help too much either so I’m trying to write this as quickly as possible. I’ve not been doing anything out of the ordinary that could have triggered this and I haven’t been under an increased amount of stress so it’s been a bit of a surprise.

One thing about M.E/C.F.S is that it’s an invisible illness so in a room full of people it’s unlikely that you’d be able to tell if any of them has M.E. And even if you did identify them they might still appear to be perfectly OK. They might not look tired or weak or in pain but you’ll probably only see a snapshot of their day/week.

A lot of people with M.E are able to be out in the world but not always on a regular basis. Usually a single day/afternoon of socialising will have taken a lot of planning and will be followed by a day or (usually) more of recovery time. There are also a number of people who have such a severe form of this illness that they are either house-bound or bed-bound.

Last year I wrote about a campaign called Millions Missing, which is a silent protest to raise awareness about M.E/C.F.S and to call on governments to fund useful research into a cure. That protest is happening again today all around the world and you can read about it here.

Today in London for the first time, the fountains in Trafalgar Square will light up blue to mark M.E Awareness Day, so if you are in that area this evening I think there will be people there providing information.

If you have never heard of M.E or don’t know much about it, please take a few minutes today to find out a bit more and share this post with others to help spread awareness of the illness on behalf of the millions of people in the world whose lives are affected by M.E. every day.

By | May 12th, 2017|Life, M.E|2 Comments