Hello, how are y’all doing in your part of the world? Who here thought that as we entered this period of self-isolation that you would have all this time to work on your creative projects and work on your business, only to find out that you’re actually just as busy, if not busier, than before? Well, you are not alone.
My name is Justine and I’m an ideas junkie, a recovering perfectionist, and a burnout survivor. I also teach lettering as a means for practicing mindfulness. And I’m here today to talk to you about chasing the unicorn of self-care and why is it so hard to slow down even during a time of pandemic.
I wanted to talk about this topic because even before everything started happening. I was already feeling the call to slow down. And so when we got the orders for self-isolation, I was excited for a hot minute. I thought I would get to have all the space and time to dial down only to discover I was binging on Zoom calls, webinars, free online classes that were being generously offered, and I had this sober realization that if a global pandemic can’t get me to slow down, then my inability to rest is an internal issue.
And I know that I’m not alone in this – I did a poll on my Instagram stories asking you guys what, you know, how many of you are feeling inspired with all the creative ideas. 100% of the people who responded to that said ”yes.” And then I also asked, ”But who here also feels the pressure and the guilt of not executing all of those ideas or fast enough?” And again a lot of resonance with that. And I know that a lot of you are feeling that called a slow down but we’re also, there’s a lot of messages going on around us– make the most of the opportunity now, pivot and offer all these new products, be there for your people, now is not the time to step down and be silent.
Self-Care Is A Unicorn
So there is a lot of pressure and it’s no wonder that we are struggling with self-care and I call it a unicorn because I think that we all crave it. It is sparkly and attractive. We know that it’s good, but it’s still a bit elusive to us. So let’s talk about some of the layers and multiple reasons why it can be such a challenge to practice mindfulness and self-care in a time like this.
So, on the one hand, entrepreneurs, we are optimus. We see opportunities in this time of upheaval. We see pivots and things, new offerings that we need to be offering. We got to pay the bills and we’d like to help people. We want to do good and it feels good to channel our energy in a positive way and, fundamentally, we love doing what we do. That’s why as entrepreneurs we started our businesses because we enjoy using our gifts and our passions to serve people and the world, right? It’s life-giving.
So here’s the thing with that. Let me introduce you to a word. It’s called you “eustress” which is the word to describe positive stress. So this is kind of like the adrenaline that you feel when you’re working on a project, working towards a deadline, for example, an event, or something that you’re planning and you use that stress in a positive way.
But here’s the thing–your body actually needs to recover still even if it was enjoyable to you because your body interprets eustress the same way that it interprets and processes negative stress. So you need to replenish that tank, even if it feels good when you’re expending it. And then if that wasn’t enough to have that internal drive that we have to want to pour out, there’s also the external pressures that we have.
Let’s be honest, our culture often glorifies busy and busyness and entrepreneurial culture is very hustle, hustle, right? And so when that is taken away from us and we are all in our homes right now, we find ourselves at home struggling with with the lack of connection, the loneliness, the stress, and the uncertainty of this time.
There’s a lot of uncomfortable fears and feelings during this time. And so it’s no wonder we are turning to a comforting distraction that is easily available, even good things, like, learning new skills and having virtual coffee dates with new friends.
What Kinds of Rest Do You Need?
So the first area is to think about the different kinds of rest that you need. If you think about the metaphor of a full color printer you need four cartridges: cyan, yellow, magenta, and black in order for it to print optimally. You need at least some levels of ink to full levels for it to print brightly and vibrantly, and when certain tanks are running low the quality suffers a little bi, tand then when one ends up being empty completely it can’t even go.
1. Physical Rest
So the first tank to consider for yourself and your life is the physical tank. So this is if you’re hungry, you need to eat. If you are tired physically, you’re rubbing your eyes and you’re yawning, you need to sleep in order to replenish that tank. How are you fueling that tank physically?
2. Creative Rest
So the next tank is your creative, cognitive, and intellectual tank. So this is your “zone of genius.” Wherever you spend the main portion of your work time, whether that’s creating product or serving up services in your area of expertise, it’s helpful to take a break away – that’s different in contrast to your norm. That will help fuel your creative process.
So for example, if you work with your hands and you’re a maker and you create products, it is helpful to say go move your body or stretch a different part of your brain. If your main work is creating digital products and information products and you’re typing on the computer constantly, then it might be good to work with your hands or move your body. Whatever your norm is, it’s finding something that is in contrast. The creative process, if you actually study books and articles about this, one of the steps is actually just stop and forget about it because that actually allows the creative part of your brain to kick in. Have you ever noticed that you have some of your best ideas right as you’re falling asleep or you’re in the shower because you’re not thinking about it and that’s that creative tank coming alive.
3. Social Rest
And then there’s your social tank. What is the combination of your social interactions and connections and times of solitude? What’s the balance in combination that is helpful for you that you find you’re fueled?
If you’re living in a space with your spouse and kids for example, it might be a flurry of activity and you might need to ask for a little bit of, a little pocket of alone time, for example. If you’re doing this isolation on your own you might need to actually reach out a little bit more for those virtual coffee dates and phone calls for your social connections. Whatever your needs are, be aware of them and ask for them and create that space.
4. Mental Rest
The next one is a big one. It’s your mental, emotional and psychological tank and I want to talk about how times of transition require extra energy and *emotional marginal* space to process. So, even in the best transition, so for example, you’re getting married, you’re starting your business, you’re moving to a new city, these are all wonderful things, but you are still leaving another season behind where you, especially if you’re leaving good things behind, you still need to – there’s grief and loss in turning away from that old season and moving to a new one. And there’s extra energy that’s required in embracing all the new stuff in figuring out where all the new stuff in a city is, or negotiating new rhythm if you’re just moving in with a new partner, for example, and so it requires space to do that.
And then when you add on the challenging transition that we are find ourselves collectively in right now, it’s no wonder that we need energy to process that and so if you felt like you’ve been inspired, but you’re also struggling with the energy to execute those, give yourself some space and compassion there.
I know last week I was leaning into the carb-loading pizza delivery and binging on webinars and things. That was part of my denial and just kind of numbing myself emotionally. Now starting to move out of that and being more intentional about processing that–journaling, praying, meditation– whatever it is that will help you to process the grief and the loss of your normal and the usual social connections that you’re used to, processing the fear and the uncertainty of this time that we’re all in right now. This is really just about honoring your feelings and giving them the space they need and giving yourself a lot of self-compassion in walking through this part.
5. Spiritual Rest
So the last one is your spiritual tank and we really are living in a perspective-shifting time right now, and it’s an invitation and an opportunity for us to slow down and revisit and reconnect with what’s really important to us and how we want to express our values and show up in our lives.
There’s a lot of research that has gone into what makes happy and fulfilled lives and some of the common denominators and ingredients are having practices of mindfulness. Things like celebration, and gratitude, and play, cultivating meaningful social connections and engagement, places where we are vulnerable and seen and heard, and we are reciprocating that with others, having a greater purpose outside of ourselves.
And Viktor Frankl talks about this one in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” having a redemptive view of suffering. Right now, we do need to find sources of hope and resilience and practices that will help us in walking through the challenges, and the suffering, and the loss, and the grief, and the heaviness of what we’re feeling collectively versus maybe some of the challenges of the temptation to fester on the uncertainties and worry about the things that we can’t control. Now Is the time that we can slow down and visit those important but not usually urgent things.
So my question for you is what is the gauge level reading on those different tanks for you? And what are the different kinds of fuel that you need to fill those different tanks. And so this framework is something you can use to check in with yourself every day, especially as we navigate the ups and the downs, certain days are up, other days are really down, and what is it that you really need right now? And which tank is running on empty and needs a little more attention? And, so, once we become aware of those needs, we can articulate them and either meet them ourselves or ask for help and let people know what our needs are.
I also wanted to give you a simple framework that I find helpful when I’m moving from one season to a new one. So I first started using this when I was recovering from severe burn out and I took a sabbatical because I knew that life needed to change on the other side and it doesn’t need to be that dramatic.
A Simple Framework
It could be that you’re a wedding professional coming out of a summer season. It could be that you are a product maker coming out of the Christmas and Black Friday sales season, and there’s a bit of a lull afterwards and this is a good time to engage this framework.
So the first one is to rest. So, that’s them looking at the five tanks that I mentioned earlier giving yourself full permission, no judgment, a lot of self compassion, and acceptance for whatever it is that you need to fill your tank and let go. It’s lowering your expectations for productivity, understanding that you’re not going to be doing that high level of output because you are managing this transition. So as you refill your tanks up then you have energy to engage in intentional reflection. What season did you just come out of? What season do you feel compelled and called to move towards? This is a deeper dive on a more holistic view, revisiting your values, your vision, what’s your definition of success, in a more holistic sense the kind of person you want to be, the way that you want to be doing your work and showing up.
So for example, when I look at my business last year, externally, all the numbers were awesome. There was a lot of output and productivity, but if I’m really honest I was really tired on the inside and a lot of that hustle and that productivity was coming from a place of scarcity, of wanting to be seen, feeling like I was competing, and fear of missing out, and wanting the accolades. And so that driver was not healthy and, so, but, don’t get me wrong, productivity and achieving goals externally is not a bad thing, but if I’m relying on that as a form of escape or validation when something good goes out of balance and it begins to carry a weight and a purpose that it wasn’t intended to, then there needs probably is an invitation to revisit how your relationship with that thing.
As you evaluate and you are able then to emerge to the next season which is to respond with intention and we all have been given this opportunity, our social calendars shut down just like that, and how are we going to choose to come out of our isolation? Are we going to just go back to autopilot and fill up everything just like it was before or do we want to curate our commitments and create a new rhythm moving into this new season.
So I invite you to grab your journal or notebook open that voice memo app, or invite that friend for virtual coffee date so you can verbally process together, grab the freebie that I’ve created to help you and ask those questions of what do you find truly restorative and replenishing for your tanks?
And if this just seems a little too difficult right now because you’re literally just surviving your kids, you’re keeping your business afloat, and you want to stay friends with your partner during this time, then grace upon grace to you. Take what is helpful. Leave behind what’s not. You can always come back to this stuff later. And please know that you are worthy of rest.