When I first started my business, it was because I had discovered creative projects to be incredibly life-giving, and I believed that was something worth sharing with other women. Life is SO BUSY for everyone. It’s just the truth. And we need things that replenish us. My husband and I are pretty aggressive about guarding our schedules and not overcommitting to things. Having experienced burnout in the past, I learned the importance of boundaries, rest and self-care the hard way.
But even though I am careful about what I commit to, life is still just BUSY. As I write this, I need to pull the dead plants out of my veggie and flower gardens, winterize the patio, prep my business for the holidays, deal with a host of necessary repairs and home improvement around the house (leaky ceiling anyone?), not to mention any outside demands on my time, plus regular cleaning, cooking, and maintaining relationships (and I don’t even have children!) I know you can relate to the weight of many varying responsibilities too, no matter what stage of life you find yourself in.
I maintain a day of rest once a week (which I’m a huge advocate of!) What this looks like for me is taking Sundays to not do anything that feels like “work”. Some of what this list includes is not doing anything for my business, house work and chores, or running errands. Many times I try not to even cook! Meals are simple, consisting of finger food, leftovers or eating out. Taking a day of rest on Sundays to go to church, nap, eat dessert, read a fiction book, or whatever else has been life-changing… But it’s not enough. Because one thing that brings me a lot of life is creating, just for fun, and I haven’t been doing it.
The result? I’m losing my passion for things I once loved. I feel mentally drained even though I’m physically resting on Sundays. I sense my emotional bandwidth narrowing and feel the pull to isolate. I recognize that none of these things are good, and so I know I need to take action.
Even as I write that, I wonder to myself what action I should take. I mean, how will I really find time to create, along with everything else on my plate? I need to take regular baby steps. And also not put pressure on myself to accomplish anything crazy. Plus, I need to recognize that it might take some time before I get into a groove and feel filled up again.
So, I will continue to take my day of rest, but here are some other things I’m going to try to do. And not all at once; these are just IDEAS. I hope they help you too if you are in the same spot that I am.
1. Cross stitch.
For my business, I create embroidery patterns rather than cross stitch patterns, so I love that this is a different kind of stitching that I can sink my teeth into. I have a cross stitch project that I’ve been meaning to finish, but rather than putting pressure on myself to get it done, I want to work on it little by little - 15 minutes here and there - (and enjoy it in the process) even if it’s just once this month.
One of the most fun and silly things I’ve done in my sketchbook is close my eyes and scribble around the page with a black marker. Then I open my eyes and color in the shapes. Simple and low pressure. Next thing you know, you’ve made abstract art!
3. Finish organizing my embroidery floss.
OK, maybe this activity isn’t particularly creative, but I have one of those personalities where organizing things makes me feel at peace. And I am organizing by color and thread type so that’s kind of coming up with a creative system. Plus, this project has been unfinished for a LOOOOOOONG time. A totally brainless activity while I watch a movie with my husband. And it’ll feel amazing when it’s done.
4. Bake something yummy.
I really love food. Making food is creative, so I love to cook and bake. But I limit the latter for health reasons. However, my day of rest is a special day, and I do special things for it, like baking. This satisfies my need to create and I get to have an indulgent dessert once a week too!
5. Go on a photo walk.
Being outside, especially in the woods, is pretty high on my list of things that are life-giving. Sometimes I just like to walk without being distracted with a camera, but at other times, taking photos can be a great creative activity to pair with exploring nature.
6. Knit a scarf.
I learned how to knit earlier this year and, while I’m still a newbie, I had a lot of fun making something I could use in the colder weather. I bought some yarn on sale a month ago and would love to pick this up again.
7. Take a creative class.
I just registered to take a monthly class in response to the funk I found myself in. I wanted help creating just for myself regularly and this project gives me the motivation to make time for it each month.
8. Make a handmade gift.
Making handmade gifts can be a great motivation to create, especially with the holidays around the corner. Last year I made homemade bath salts and sugar scrubs for people. I’m still deciding what to create this year!
9. Finish a sewing project.
Months ago I started sewing a pair of pajama shorts for myself. And I never finished. I got stuck sewing the waistband and it’s been sitting on my ironing board ever since. Ditto with some ornaments I started last December. (If you are the same, no judgement here!)
10. Plan a (different kind of) cookie exchange.
Cookie exchanges around the holidays can be a little overwhelming as we feel the pressure to come up with something amazing to share. It’s also a really busy time of year, AND while the cookies are undoubtedly delicious, my cholesterol cannot handle all the treats! But since I love to bake (see #4), I thought it would be fun to get a small group together, exchange cookies and then create small goodie bags of cookies to share with the people who work so hard during the holiday season. Think: delivery personnel, the mail carrier and people at the post office, first responders, even the poor gas station attendant that has to pump your gas in the cold (ok, maybe this only happens in New Jersey.) Is there someone with a thankless job you could encourage with a kind note and some homemade cookies? I think so, and I hope to do this with some friends in December.
OK, I’ve brainstormed my list! My desire is to engage in one of these activities a week as I get back into the habit of creating consistently for fun. I will probably start with the simpler things, and hopefully move to some of the bigger projects as I get my groove back.