By the time you’ll be reading this, you will JUST be coming off of busy season. Ready for a breather and can I just say… You deserve it! Fall for photographers is like tax season for accountants… early mornings, late nights, shoot, edit, shoot, edit, shoot edit until eventually thanksgiving passes and we are finally able to take a deep breath, do all of our own Christmas shopping on amazon prime and hopefully enter a season of rest.
But as busy season comes to an end and we enter what is traditionally know as the “dead season” I want to chat a little bit about rest.
Rest doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s easier for me to feel insanely proud of my long hours and over-the-top work ethic.
I thought my dedication and hustle was commendable. Being busy was my badge of honor… Until it wasn’t.
Here is my story…
Last winter, my job almost killed me.
I had just finished busy season and was trying to get our family ready for Christmas vacation. And that’s when the headaches started. I tried ever medication and wholistic therapy possible to get rid of this. But it was unlike any headache I’ve ever had before.
Over the following months everything got worse. Blurry vision, body numbness, and debilitating headaches were my normal. At one point I was rushed to the ER and my blood pressure was stroke level high. I’m only 29. They immediately began to run EKG’s, MRI’s and all the other things you can imagine.
Fearing the worst, my husband and I sat down with my doctor and he basically said this, “Ariel… Your body isn’t being killed by a brain tumor, a heart attack or a stroke.
“Your body is being killed by your inability to rest.”
HOW DID I GET HERE?
Relieved and also irritated… I went home and had some serious conversations with my husband because deep down I knew my doctor was right. Not only was I EXHAUSTED every minute of the day but my creativity was depleted… and even worse… my family was beginning to resent my job.
I was constantly working. I woke up early and stayed up late. I couldn’t sit through a movie without checking emails or messages. Even if I wasn’t working on the outside, my mind was distracted, thinking about my next new marketing tactic I should try or a new post I should write.
I had no idea what was wrong with me. I felt helpless and drained and I wanted to prioritize rest and other areas of my life I had been neglecting but if I’m being TOTALLY honest, I felt like I couldn’t stop.
But I knew that if I wanted to overcome this, I had to find out why.
We are a unique portion of the population that we actually love our jobs (most of the time, at least). In fact, sometimes we love them so much that forget to eat (12 hr. wedding days, anyone!?!).
But if at some point passion turns into obsession, that’s when we need to beware.
We have to remember that just because we love what we do doesn’t mean it’s the ONLY thing we should do. Our job is not our identity.
While it’s awesome that we are passionate about our work, its NOT awesome that we can’t pull ourselves away from it. If we allow our passion to become our identity we begin to give up more things that don’t fall in the scope of that passion. Things like rest, sleep, friend and family time. But at this point, our work no longer our work… it’s our life.
It’s no secret that we as photographer’s struggle with work/life balance.
Our atypical schedules combined with the fact that we have to do every single thing in our business puts a lot of pressure on us to maximize every minute of our day for our business. Not to mention that even when a session is done, our job is still just getting started.
But really, it all comes down to the fact that we are afraid. We are afraid because we are believing lies.
Lies like these:
- “We must be busy to be successful.”
- “This picture must be “perfect” before we put it out into the world.”
- “Unless I live an adrenaline pumping existence, constantly running from one place to the next, then my days our meaningless.”
- “If I don’t respond right away, they will hire someone else.”
- “If I don’t do ___________ then I will NEVER be as successful as that person.”
3| It’s In Our Roots!
According to the International Labor Organization, “American’s work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.”
That tells us that “rest” isn’t just a photographer problem its an American problem, too.
For decades our culture has worshipped workaholics. We praise them for their hustle and hard work. In fact, psychologist Bryce Robinson called workaholism “the best-dressed mental health problem.” Not only is it praised by others but it provides us with short-term rewards along the way.
As photographers, we have adopted this mentality and begun to look at everything through the lens of productivity. But really… it all comes down to this…
The reality is… if we want to have the best life, the best business and be our best selves… we cannot view rest as optional. Rest is not something we do when we have the time for it. Rest is something we MAKE TIME FOR.
I can practically see you rolling your eyes at me through the screen. “I have kids to feed! Bills to pay! A million things to do! Clients to respond to! Content to write! Photos to Edit! How in the world do you expect me to rest?”
Here’s the thing, i’m not saying that you neglect all those responsibilities and kick your feet up to watch all 9 seasons of friends for 4 days straight (though that sounds awesome too). I’m suggesting that you begin to implement changes in your life and in your business that prioritize rest. Changes that recharge you so that you can handle your daily commitments, your relationships, your overall health and wellbeing AND your job with much more vigor and energy.
Tip #1: Days Off
How many days you work in a row does not prove your worth.
So stop believing the lie that busy = successful.
And while we’re at it, busy also doesn’t equal productive! I know your to-do list is overflowing but it’s time for you to schedule days of rest on your calendar and guard them with your freaking life. I mean it, no last minute sessions, website updates or answering emails.
Would you let your camera lens be dropped on the ground multiple times? Of course not, it’s time to treat yourself with the same level of respect that you treat it.
We must realize that rest isn’t considered indulgent and its definitely not something to feel guilty for. It’s okay to wake up some days and think “today is a day that I need to give my body rest.” Everyone deserves a day off and you, my friend, are no exception.
Tip #2: Organize
Time management is something else, am I right!?!
It’s hard to make time for ourselves when we are in charge of doing EVERY SINGLE THING for our businesses. But i’ve found that these two practices have helped drastically! \
1| I sit down every single Sunday and map out my plan for the week ahead. This practice forces me to stick to the schedule i’ve set for myself & be intentional with every single minute so that ultimately, working “smarter and not harder” isn’t just a mantra, but my reality.
2| As a human who thrives on spontaneity, organizing my days did NOT sound attractive. But when I sat down and began to bulk my days, my life became drastically easier. Mondays, I work on courses. Tuesdays, are Shoot Days. Wednesdays, I take off. Thursdays, I write content. Fridays, I do sessions. Saturdays, I do sessions. Sundays, I take off.
Tip #3: Unplug
Once a day, make it a practice to completely unplug and do something that is not work related. Put your phone down for a couple of hours, step away from the computer and do something that re-energizes you and fills YOUR cup.
Whether its a simple bath or shower, listening to a non-business related podcast, binge watching a new Netflix show, playing a board game with your kids, going on a walk, working out, having coffee with a friend, going shopping or taking a nap. I don’t care… adopt Nike’s tagline and JUST DO IT.Do it for your body. For your mind. For your business. For your clients. For your family. For your friends.
We are not designed to push ourselves to the limit every single day.
Need a little help? Some of my fave apps to help me stay unplugged include:
- Habit Lab – https://habitlab.stanford.edu
- Time Camp – https://www.timecamp.com
- Quality Time-https://www.qualitytimeapp.com
Tip #4: Perspective
In order to get to the root of the problem! We must change our perspective of rest. Rest is not idle and it’s definitely not a waste of time.
Sometimes rest is the most productive thing we can do.
When it comes to changing a mindset that we’ve had for far too long, we must focus on what happens if we DON’T rest.
- Crying and thoughts about quitting or self-doubt
- Getting easily irritated with client needs
- Wanting to throw our computer against a wall
- General state of apathy towards all things
- Feelings of being mentally and physically drained
- Living in “survival mode” (eat, sleep, work, repeat)
- Spending no time on what brings you joy
- Feeling a lack of creativity during sessions
- Neglecting friends and family
All of these are symptoms of not getting enough rest. Trust me when I say that my NEED for excellence (or, let’s call it what it is, perfectionism) makes walking away extremely difficult, but when I remember what happens when I refuse to rest, it makes walking away a TINY bit easier.
Tip #5: Unload
If you are having a hard time resting because your to-do list is a mile long. Do what I call my “mental unload” exercise.
First, you will write down everything you need to do. Make four columns and re-arrange all the items to fit into one of these columns.
- Delegate– Is there a task you can assign to your kids, a friend or your spouse? Or is there a way you can hire out any of this? Get creative and remember that it’s okay to ask for help.
- Eliminate- Some to-do’s feel necessary but when you REALLY look at them, they aren’t as necessary as you thought. At least not for right now, write it down on a “one day when I have time” list and LET IT GO!
- Keep- Some items on the list are obviously important. Just be honest with yourself about not keeping more than you can handle.
- Address- This column is for all the things in your life that are worrying you. I find that when I’m worried about something that doesn’t even have to do with my business (like all the fighting my kids keep doing), it still seeps in and affects my productivity. Write these down and then, address them on non-working hours instead of worrying about them.
Tip #6: Tell
Lastly, in order to make resting a habit for yourself. Find someone to hold you accountable. Maybe a fellow workaholic photographer who needs to learn to prioritize rest as well? A business coach? Your spouse? A best friend?
Have a monthly coffee date or go to a yoga class together! Take a daily walk together or schedule a weekly chat to check in on each other. The only rule is no working. Not even insta-stories you sneaky thing, you…
There’s a reason they say, “Old habits die hard.” But they die less hard when we don’t do it alone.
I hope you have a happy holiday season! Now get off here and go REST!