I have my first photography exhibition coming up in a couple of very short weeks and that is filling with me excitement, anticipation and dread. I’m feeing quite vulnerable and that is causing me to be even more anxious and nervy than normal. Terry Pratchett (probably my most read and favourite author ever) describes the bursar of the Unseen University as a nervovore. That’s what I am right now, I am living off my nerves.
This is not a good way to live, my chronic illness does mean that mental and emotional stress has a direct and completely un-ignorable response on my body, if not now, then within a few days or even weeks. Of course, I can push through this, but having ended up essentially not being able to walk and using a wheelchair full-time I am really rather reluctant to do so.
Being invited to exhibit has really boosted my confidence and I have an artist-mentor as part of the project. You can read more here. I am now calling myself a writer and photographer as a result of this work. It has already sparked an additional 2 photography project ideas and because I am me I am thinking of turning all of them into a series of photography and written essays, which I hope to get published.
So, not only am I thinking of the physical exhibition, I am onto the book as well, and also trying to figure out how to get funding for the next couple of projects. This is on top of my client work, I’ve got an interesting research project at the moment, for a very large company looking at their products and the surrounding collateral and making suggestions for changes to their business model. And my ongoing retainer work.
Plus of course music and band, where I am a committee member and have lots of jobs to do.
Oh and I’m shortly hosting a poetry event, where I am the MC, the photographer and reading some of my poems if I ever get around to polishing them up in time.
Then there’s the ongoing work of running a business and dealing with the fall out of some very bad tenants in my flat (I’m a very accidental landlord) and UGH!
Right now, I am saying NO to absolutely everything. I’m not taking anything else on until I have cleared down my existing work and I am going to examine everything really closely before I take it on. If it’s not a Hell Yes! Then it is probably a no. I cannot let myself get overwhelmed like this again.
When I get overwhelmed like this it is really tempting to start reading lots of project/time management books, or books which help you reach your inner desires, but I’ve realised this is a very sophisticated form of procrastination. I have a good system, I am not starting work on any new projects. Even the ones I am pretty sure I am going to do I am just continuing to scribble all the thoughts in my capture system (a large A5 filofax) and then leaving them to compost. I’m working 20 minutes a day on business related admin, and tasks for my concert band and this feels like I am keeping on top of things.
I am not going to rewrite my whole getting things done system. I am just going to carry on as I am. I have a plan for probably the rest of the year sketched out in my mind. I may draw that up, as I find having things on paper, even if it is rough draft it helps to manage my anxiety.
How am I dealing with the anxiety and overwhelm? Making sure I do my basic routines to take care of myself – yoga/meditation/prayer and journaling first thing. Writing a blog post. Stopping at 12 for a 15 min prayer break. Having a proper lunch break. Each day either taking Buster for a walk somewhere nice (which involves driving at least 20mins each way), or for a swim. Eating a proper dinner – rather than a take away, and wrapping up the day with a proper prayer session. Ideally there is some time to moodle on my ukulele or piano, as well as a proper flute practice session.
Good grief, even typing that out seems like a lot. But this is why I only work part time. I need all the time to take care of myself, otherwise, it’s thinking I can fly and dried frog pills for me.
I am a fairly extreme case, but I am certain we all do this to a greater or lesser extent. Are you taking on too much? Have you actually written out all that you are doing at the moment and analyse if you can fit it in?