Taking the time to slow down is important. It sounds like a given, and I feel somewhat trite even writing that sentence, but if you’re anything like me it falls heavily under the “easier said than done” category.
Over the last few months I’ve been a bit of a ping pong ball, ricocheting off of a slow several months into an opportunity to be very busy and make something big for myself. At first I was amazed at how much I could take on, and it felt like I’d had this vast, untapped potential for getting things done. As you might expect, just about the time you feel limitless is when you’re about to hit a wall of hard limits.
“No problem,” I said at one point, “I’ll just make it a point to chill out on the weekends and do things that inspire me to recharge my batteries.” It did help, and it was easy to engage with these things since a year prior I’d started making lists of activities and places that I could draw inspiration from. I used the word ‘batteries’ as an analogy, but began to realize the mistake in that thinking as the weeks moved forward.
Creativity is not a battery you can charge up for two days and feed off the reserves for five days afterward. There is no guarantee that the next day there won’t be something so draining that it depletes the creativity stores much faster than anticipated. If you’d only planned to recharge a week from then, you’re on a burn out trajectory. Creativity, and energy levels in general, need to be nurtured regularly.
Okay, battery analogy over. So why am I telling you all this? Aside it being a good opportunity for me to reel myself back in, there are some actionable tips that have helped me quite a bit in recent years. Tips that, if you’re feeling like what I’ve described, might help you too.
What makes you feel good?
It sounds like too obvious a question to bother with, and when we’re told to make a list of these things it may feel ridiculous. “I know what I like; I won’t gain anything from listing it out,” you might say. I thought so, too, until I did it.
Creating a list of things that inspire you, reduce your stress, or just make you feel good in general both helps you prioritize these things, and can also help you rediscover things you’ve been forgetting. You might get lucky and have an “aha” moment, one of those “I haven’t done that in forever but I remember really enjoying it.” If you really enjoyed it before, you should absolutely knock the dust off and do it again.
The things that end up on this list are things you should strive to incorporate into your life every day. Chances are you’re not doing them nearly enough. You’ll feel the difference immediately, and if you don’t you need to re-evaluate the list. Be honest with yourself — what things are really important to you?
What things drain your time, energy, and happiness?
Starting this list may open the floodgate. People tend to be better at listing annoyances than positives, but that’s okay in this case. Include things you do, places you may keep finding yourself, or people you tend to be around. What are the problem areas?
This list functions as the opposite of the former: chances are these things are happening way too regularly. Some of them you may not be able to avoid, and you’ll just have to grit your teeth through them. For the things you can avoid, make a conscious effort each day to cut them out. Many times the only way to avoid these things is to know ahead of time what your alternate path is going to be, as following the same old routine may invariably lead to more of these soul-sucking things.
Committing to changing your routine or making more “me time” is important, but I think the reason we often fall short here is we’re disorganized in our attempt to schedule ourselves in. Know exactly, or as close as you can, what types of things need to happen regularly for you to feel your best. If you find that making time for a walk every day gives you a lot more energy and sense of well being, for example, don’t let bullshit stop you from taking that walk.
Some things you may enjoy but come to realize aren’t good for you. Maybe you like to watch the news every day to stay informed, but find that the sheer negativity of it often sours your mood for the following few hours. If you don’t want to give activities like that up, at least re-structure your day so that activities that require a mindset you know you won’t have afterward aren’t coming afterward.
What are some techniques that have helped you blow off steam?