How I'm dealing with overwhelm
I've been going back through my blog as I know I've written about overwhelm before. It always happens to me at this time of year. Normally a few weeks later than this, around the beginning of July.
But this year, maybe because summer arrived early, almost skipping spring altogether, my overwhelm arrived; settling over me along with the humidity.
At the end of June in 2016 I wrote about 'too many emotions'. A post about how I struggle to cope with social media after terrible events. And in this post 'why does writing make me feel so guilty?' (which I wrote in August 2017) I talk about gaining clarity over a summer break.
And this post from July 2016: 'to just be' - well, I could have written this today:
"There comes a point where you have to just stop.
And that's my cue to take a deep breath. To take a look around. See the beauty. Watch the chickens, see how the chicks have grown, how they squabble, how the ducks love their pool, the flowers swaying in the breeze, the moths and butterflies settling on the wildflowers."
Because that's exactly how I feel today. I've even, rather hilariously, been outside this morning and taken pictures of the daisies like I included in that post.
And that post was written on 4th July. So, like I said, I'm a bit earlier this year. But then, so are the daisies.
I'm in a number of online groups. Groups full of fabulous women who are carving out careers for themselves as writers, photographers, film-makers, influencers, podcasters, illustrators. All manner of endeavours that they're doing online. And so many of them are saying they're not inspired at the moment. They aren't in the right head-space; that it's like walking through treacle.
And I feel exactly the same. In the past I've ignored these feelings and plodded on...only for me to end up burnt out and broken down. And utterly depleted creatively.
All of us, as creatives, need to refill our creative well.
So I've got smart. I don't ever want to go through that hell again. And there's nothing lazy about taking your foot off the accelerator and slowing down for a while.
The following are just a few things I'm doing at the moment. But before I do any of these things let me say this. I don't plan anything big within my business during the months of July and August. My e-course was released earlier this year, twice, and now, as the second release is coming to an end, I'm pausing it. I'm still taking on sponsored posts for Instagram and still writing but they're things that just tick along. In other words I'm not starting anything new. This is my thinking time of year. For re-filling my creative well. So hopefully come September I'll be thoroughly refreshed and ready to really go for the next stage in my writing business.
Anyway, back to those five things that help me:
1. Ignore the guilt.
I know this is easier said than done. Picking up a book or watching a Netflix episode during the day used to make me feel guilty. Sitting outside in the sunshine with coffee and cake would also. Filming the chicks whilst lying on the grass and walking around the field, watching the chickens, examining the fruit trees - well, I could only do that if I didn't have a to-do list. But today I made time for all of these.
And I enjoyed the silence. I enjoyed being on my own. And I felt no guilt. Because I needed it. And I've learned the hard way what can happen to my mind if I don't do these things.
I'm a working mum. I write most days and maintain a social media presence almost every day with weekends often taken up with work in the field, the garden, cooking meals, organising the house and preparing uniforms. Similar to many women.
If I want to take an hour or two doing nothing but read, film and watch the chicks then I blimmin' well will.
Baking is often something I do when I feel in a tizz. When I've been to the dentist and had a tough time. When I feel a bit discombobulated due to something that throws me in my life. But baking is something I also enjoy doing. Somehow the weighing of the ingredients, the mixing, pouring and spreading takes my mind off, well - everything. And I'm just concentrating on what I'm doing right there in the moment. It's incredibly freeing for the mind. It's even more freeing when I'm not taking photographs of every stage for Instagram Stories. When I'm doing it purely for myself.
3. Go outside.
I often think part of the problem for my overwhelm is being so attached to social media that I feel trapped by it (which I'll come to in my next point). Taking myself outside (and shock, horror - sometimes I don't even take my iPhone with me!) is soothing. Even if I have my phone with me I'm too busy watching the chickens and ducks and doing little jobs for them like re-filling the ducks' swimming pool or collecting the eggs or making sure the chickens have enough drinking water.
Or I'll walk around the field and look at the trees. Noting how the horse chestnut, the one we grew from a conker, has put on about two foot in growth just this year. Or how the plums are shining out on the tree and clusters of apples are growing on the crab and on the eating apple trees.
There is so much to see. A newt hiding in the grass. A spider, bright green, on the copper beach (I must look that up). There's so much to see and to learn about every day.
4. Remove Twitter & Facebook from my phone.
I do this on and off throughout the year. Often for just a few days. But during July and August I remove it altogether. And this year I've removed it already in the month of June. My iPhone is the device I carry about with me everywhere. It's there to keep me in touch but it can also make me feel trapped.
Or should I say, it's the apps I've installed that make me feel trapped. So removing Twitter and Facebook is one of the first things I do.
I might be on the school run and have arrived at school twenty minutes early. Instead of aimlessly scrolling through Twitter I'll pick up a book instead. Or listen to a podcast. Or write in my notebook.
Removing twitter from my phone stops me from that addictive scroll, scroll, scroll. Hundreds of voices being absorbed into my brain. Some shouting loudly. Some upset, some jumping for joy.
It's too much for one brain to handle. Can you imagine all those hundreds of people standing in front of you and shouting those tweets at you? What makes it any different because they're written down?
There's a good book written about phone addiction. It's called How to Break Up with Your Phone by Catherine Price. Definitely something to read, I think.
5. Listen to podcasts, take a course and read some non-fiction.
So, if I'm not aimlessly scrolling through my phone I find a couple of things:
- I've suddenly got more time available.
- My inspiration comes back. Seriously. Just a few days in to not having all that stuff on my phone (I upgraded my phone and deliberately left so many apps off it) I'm writing this blog post after an inspiration lull, I'm taking pictures for Instagram also after and inspiration lull and, this is the big one, I've realised the direction I want to take next in my writing/blogging career.
This is all because I gave myself permission to spend time outside. To bake. To read. And to explore. To research. And yes, I'm researching online but I'm doing it in a purposeful way and not in an aimless scrolling kind of way.
I found a class to take in Creative Live (I'm taking Joyce Maynard's Writing Your Story class. I'm half way through but throughly enjoying her style of teaching and learning a lot. If you're interested in any of Creative Live's classes I have a $15 off link for you.) I listen to this whilst tidying my daughter's bedroom or washing up. It makes rubbish jobs more interesting and it's nice to just absorb the information without trying too hard or with the pressure that comes from sitting and watching at my laptop.
I'm listening to Podcasts and finding new ones in the direction I want to go in. For example: How to fast draft your memoir: an interview with Rachael Herron on The Creative Penn.
I've subscribed to Rachael Herron, a writer on Patreon, who sends out inspiring essays.
And this is just the start.
Sometimes it's hard to take your foot off the accelerator. You feel that you need to keep going. But, for me, keeping going is detrimental.
Slowing down has, incredibly, given me far more inspiration. And I'm incredibly excited for what will come next.