As I’m sure any school teacher will tell you, it’s a long slog from September to Christmas.
We fling ourselves into September with gusto, inspired and excited by our ideas, ready to make things happen in the last few months of the year. But then the days get shorter, venturing outdoors becomes less appealing, Christmas looms on the horizon and before we know it we’re exhausted, crawling towards the finish line.
The problem is often compounded because, if you’re anything like me, you’re so focused on your work that you don’t even notice just how cream-crackered you are! That’s why it’s so important to listen to your body and pay attention to how you’re feeling.
Spotting the signs that you may need to take your foot off the gas
This will be different for everyone, but here’s how I can tell something’s not right:
• I feel physically tense, particularly around my jaw
• My sleep suffers
• My head is full to bursting
• I start to feel resentful about the work I love (crazy, right?)
Your tell-tale signs will undoubtedly be different to mine. For instance, I carry tension in my jaw but perhaps for you the tightness is in your stomach. Perhaps you become more sweary than usual (guilty as charged!), more tearful, more irritable.
This stuff has a tendency to creep up on us, but do your best to pay attention. Once you’re familiar with your patterns you’ll spot the signs more quickly so you can do what you need to do to take care of yourself before things descend into serious melt-down mode!
What to do if you’re feeling exhausted
If you identify with the heaviness and tiredness that I often feel at this time of year, here are some things you can do that might help:
1) Put the things that nourish you back on your list. Whether that’s exercise, a walk in the fresh air, sitting with a cup of tea and a book for ten minutes, a five-minute meditation or dancing round the kitchen. Those are often the things we think we don’t have time for when we’re busy. But it’s precisely because we’re busy that we need to make them a priority.
2) Make an un-to-do list, giving yourself permission to NOT get things done. Can you let yourself off the hook with anything this week? Take a look at your list and get ruthless. Identify the absolute, ABSOLUTE essentials and then see if there’s anything you could let go. I chose not to write a new blog last week. My favourite slow living podcast (with over 2 million downloads) chose not to publish anything for a few weeks last month. Did the world stop spinning? Nope. Let go of any shoulds and your aspiration for perfection and cut yourself some slack.
3) Schedule a break. If you haven’t yet decided when you’re taking a break over Christmas, DO IT NOW! I get it – taking time off when you’re a freelancer (particularly when you’re just starting out) can be really hard. Fear around money or letting our clients down can lead us to procrastinate over taking a break. But the sooner you make a conscious decision about when you will and won’t be working, the easier it’ll be for you to switch off and relax. Tell your clients your plans for holiday season and protect your boundaries fiercely so you can start 2019 feeling energised and excited about the year to come!
4) Reflect, review, regroup. When you’re able to breathe a little more easily, look back and see if you can identify the patterns that got you here. Was it simply a busy season that couldn’t have been avoided? If so, don’t give yourself a hard time. Accept that sometimes life gets busy, but see if you can schedule some downtime to give you the chance to recover. Or perhaps with hindsight you realise you said ‘yes’ to things when you could have said ‘no’, you’ve got into some bad habits, or the way you’ve been working just doesn’t feel good to you. What could you do differently? (If balance is something you struggle with, this post about tilting might shift your perspective.)
5) Remove that which isn’t serving you. It’s not just about removing things that take your time, although that can be a great place to start. What about things that are taking up your precious headspace? Have you signed up for things you don’t have time to read? Delete them and unsubscribe. Are there things in your social media feeds that leave you feeling heavy? Remove them. Are piles of paper and clutter building up around your home? Stick your favourite tunes on, set a timer for 15 minutes and have a tidying blitz.
This is such a busy time of year. Over the next few weeks let’s cut ourselves some slack, choose NOT to get stuff done, ditch the guilt and focus in on what matters most (glass of mulled wine and a mince pie, anyone?).
How are you feeling right now? Energised and giddy with excitement? Or overwhelmed and shattered, crawling towards the end of the year? I’d love to know what non-essentials are going on your ‘un-to-do list’, so do share!
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