I remember a day a couple of years or so ago barely being able to drag my feet home fast enough before barging into my bedroom, flinging bags and belongings to the floor, and slamming the door shut. This was followed by me hanging up a big fat ‘DO NOT DISTURB’ sign. Well, I did that in my head before diving under the duvet; the sign didn’t quite make it to the other side of the door.
What was that about? I was freakin’ exhausted. Not even scraping the barrel. The barrel had a hole in it, I was burning through hot air. I didn’t have ANYTHING left to give. Laying on my bed was about as much exertion as I could deal with. Text messages beeping into the silence were met by extreme disinterest. At that moment it wasn’t a dead cert that they would ever be looked at, never mind answered this side of a new millennium.
I’m not sure how long I slept, but it was long enough to feel human again, I can tell you. I’d never felt so depleted. It was a combination of early starts, long hours, social activities, and other demands. I can do a lot on a little sleep, but I have to watch that I don’t go beyond my limits.
Understanding our warning signs allows us to put some checks and balances in place.
Here are three of mine:
When I feel like I’ve got too much to do and have the urge to sit on the next bit of available floor and just stare into the horizon.
When I’m not actually getting anything finished and contemplating the name of my imaginary friend’s first born feels rather more compelling than, say, something that has a more pressing deadline.
When I find myself flitting to the fridge when I’m not hungry. This is really about trying to find something to stimulate me to stay awake. However, faced with a gnarly root of fresh ginger and not much else (I think the fridge has gone minimalist), the door shuts about as fast as it was opened.
I’m getting better at just going to sleep and waking up earlier for a sprint finish instead of circling the runway all night. My only exception is if I’m in creative flow and don’t have to get up early the next day. I might then work late because I find being in creative flow energising and rejuvenating. Other times I might just step away for a while.
I’ve realised (finally) that taking time out from a project, even if it’s for a few days, can be the very best thing for a more desirable end result.
What if you need to stay up late due to a deadline or other urgent matter? Here are some simple things you can do.
1. Eat a high raw/real foods diet and free up some creative energy. I eat this way and on the whole I stay away from sugar and most grains, strictly so when I’ve got a lot on. I need less sleep, and I sleep more deeply.
2. If you do start flitting round the fridge, make yourself a hot drink of a soothing herbal such as rooibos or tulsi (holy basil) to satisfy the need for something to do/eat. Plus both are very calming on the nervous system. Or, for a cold alternative, have a huge jug of iced water on stand-by to which you’ve added generous slices of lemon, cucumber, and/or a handful of fresh mint leaves. Both visually appealing and gently refreshing.
3. Aim to have an early night the next day to redress the balance or plan some extra sleeping time in the diary as soon as you can.
4. Burn some natural essential oils such as lemon, grapefruit, or peppermint. They smell beautiful and naturally uplift without the wired feeling you can get from sugar or caffeine.
5. Breathe. Take regular, deep belly breaths on the hour to keep cortisol (stress hormone) levels down. This will also help to keep you in creative mode and focused on the work at hand.
Knowing and respecting our limits forms a loving boundary around our creative endeavours.
Which limits do you need to acknowledge and plan for? Any tips to share?
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p.s. I’ve written a book about eating, creativity, vibrancy, self-expression and more. Details here: The Art of Eating Pretty for Body, Beauty, and your Bold Art. If you enjoy Scoutie Girl then it might be right up your street.