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7 Self Care Ideas to Get Out of ‘Survival Mode’:

During times of stress and during busy periods it can seem impossible to get everything ticked off your to-do list let alone set aside time for self care (self care didn’t even make the to-do list!)

“When you think you are too busy to take a break, that’s when to take a break!”

We all feel like we need to squeeze out as much as possible from a day. Have you ever started to feel your head nod as you work late into the night, literally falling asleep as you work, yet you resist and try to push through? You sit yourself up a little straighter, squint at the computer screen and force yourself to focus. It works – for a few minutes before your head starts to nod again…

Yet never is this time productive. Caffeine can work for a while as can the adrenaline of a deadline but it can’t be sustained. You get ratty through lack of sleep, impatient with the kids, resentful at friends who seem to have ‘all the time in the world’. Even the work you love is no longer as enjoyable as it usually is. 

Our loved ones will tell us to take a break and when we find ourselves saying we can’t possibly as we have far too much on our plates, that’s when the alarm bells need to sound. Thats when we know we are operating in ‘survival mode’. We can’t sustain this for long periods without burning out. We need to take time for self care.

So, what can we do?
Here’s a list of a few ideas to try:

1. Take Care of Your Body

If you’re anything like me you don’t really like exercise. If it can be put off that’s great. I mean, who wants to climb out of bed earlier than they need to for exercise right? That said, on the days that I do manage to force myself up 20 mins early and get some yoga done I feel terrific for the whole day. I have more energy and focus and feel more balanced and better in myself.

  • Put on some “I’ve-gotta-move” music and dance, jog, ride your bike, or do yoga. There’s no need for a gym membership if that’s not something you can do right now or you simply don’t have the time for it. There are so many workout videos and apps available. Just pick something that you do enjoy and commit to doing it – even a 5 or 10 minute sun salutation is going to have a positive impact.
  • Eat. Yep, thats right. If you’re ‘too busy’ to eat, that’s going to lead to problems.   Have healthy snacks to hand to keep you going and eat before you get ‘hangry’!
  • Keep hydrated – its helps with concentration. Try lemon and cucumber or    strawberries and mint to give your water an additional lure and a vitamin boost. 
  • Routine – setting a routine helps you to stay focused and productive.


2. Take Care of Your Mind

Taking care of your mind does not mean you have to sit for two hours a day meditating. If meditating works for you but you ‘just don’t have time’, try just ten minutes a day. If it’s not your thing, just finding a way to simply ‘switch-off’ is what’s important. Do something you enjoy – go for a walk in nature (without listening to an audio book or podcast), reading a book, being creative in a different way to your work – cooking or gardening, playing a musical instrument or simply colouring or doing a crossword puzzle. 

Take a bath. Little beats a hot bath when you’re stressed.

Journaling or Artists Pages (link) can be effective at getting everything that’s in your head out of your head and onto paper be it ideas or worries. Once it’s out, it’s easier to focus and in turn deal with anything that irises.

Another variation on this is “writing to your intuition” which I learned form Jess Lively on her podcast, The Lively Show (https://jesslively.com/intuitionpodcast/) Sit down with a pen and paper, take a few slow, deep, breaths, and write out questions or nagging thoughts you are having. Pause after each one and listen for an answer to bubble up from within you. It’s hard at first, because you are trying to ignore what your brain is screaming at you as it tries to intervene, but listen to what answers or words come up from your gut or heart. This is such a wonderful exercises for tuning into your true self, and keeping out the mental enemies of artists: comparison, jealousy, lack of self-worth, confusion.


3. Rest and Review

Review your short and long term goals. Take a few minutes to decide what it is you want to achieve and list the top five most important things you can do to set you on your way and focus on those. Take note of past goals already achieved or the ‘little wins’ you’ve had. Be sure to pat yourself on the back and reward yourself in some small way. Each step is an achievement.


4. Disconnect

Give yourself time and permission to truly switch off. Put your phone to one side, switch off the computer and close the studio/office door. Find something that has absolutely nothing to do with work and do that – or do nothing!

Here’s one radical suggestion: for the first and last hour of the day, commit to being completely phone-free. After your alarm rings in the morning, don’t check emails or scroll through social media; don’t even look at your texts. Turn your notifications off.  I know! But I promise you, you are allowed to be off the grid for an hour. FOMO is real but the world will not implode in an hour. Own your time.  Have breakfast, coffee, shower, put some music on, but otherwise pretend your phone doesn’t exist. Let your morning routine be completely yours. Do the same thing for bedtime, or maybe alternate. Specialists say that turning off screens thirty minutes before bed helps you sleep better. 
(https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/electronics-bedroom-why-its-necessary-turn-you-tuck)


5. Slow Down

Mark out what’s important. Prioritise. Chances are, you won’t get even halfway through that never-ending to-do list anyway so why keep hammering at it? Choose the top 2 or 3 points for the day or week and focus on those. that way you’ll feel a sense of achievement when you tick  them off the list rather than frustration.


6. Organisation

Organisation and time management are key to keeping stress levels manageable.

Organisation = time saved = less stress

Dispel the myth that all artists are unorganised:

  • Write manageable to-do lists
  • Work more intentionally. Block out time slots for set tasks and stick to that time limit 

  • Communicate (with buyers, galleries etc. Get a clear understanding of what their requirements are and set realistic deadlines)
  • Out-source and delegate where you can. In the long run, spending a   little extra on paying someone to do a job that would take you alot of time pays for itself.
  • Turn off email alerts during lunch and dedicate a set time frame for   social media.

  • Use an artwork management system such as Artwork Archive to keep tabs on everything about your work.

  • Planning your day the night before. Review your days work and set a plan in place for the next day. This helps alleviate procrastination and gets you going more quickly with the tasks at hand.

7. Connection

Art is a very solo occupation. We can often feel very isolated both in the physical sense and the emotional one. Ensure you make time to connect – set up a support network of family, friends and other artists, join an art group. The support of the latter can prove invaluable at times of stress. It helps you realise that you are not alone and that there are others going through the same as you. Find the ones that lift you up and inspire you.

The time you spend on self care activities will actually be made up in the time you find yourself not procrastinating or getting distracted…or nodding off on a task!

Go on, try one or all of the points above and let me know how you go.

N.B. There is always wine of course, or your own favourite tipple! Just take the time to sip it slowly in a comfy chair in the garden with a good book, the sun warming your face, the dog at your feet…bliss! Who said self-care was hard?!