You should see me come autumn.
Autumn is my favorite time of year here in Tennessee, but also my busiest.
I usually drop about 10-15 pounds in autumn because I'm running around shooting and going to meetings... and usually I forget to eat. This all changes come editing/office season in January, of course, but autumn usually takes its toll. If I'm not careful, the end of October rolls around and I am a skinny white ghost with weird little circles under my vampire skin that hasn't seen the sun in weeks.
These are my best tips for finding rest in busy seasons; as we all wind down from the autumn chaos and make space for the Christmas season.
1) Make time for simple rituals.
Some months I don't go to yoga, to the gym, or on many walks. And I've learned to be okay with that, because photography is my gym. Hauling twenty pound bags of gear and walking hills for a few hours with cameras hanging off me is a pretty good workout.
But I never pass up the opportunity to make a cup of french press coffee or a pot of really strong Irish tea. To take twenty minutes and bake oatmeal cookies. To mindlessly internet browse at night to shut off my brain. To buy some new plants for my house. To lay on the floor listening to music when my brain won't stop speeding along to do lists. Speaking of which...
2) Make to-do lists.
I buy a new Paper Source 18 month calendar every July. I never can seem to get behind iPhone calendars because I like to make a mess. Scribble things out, bullet point my life and split my days into sections. Erase it all when it all goes to pot, pout for twenty minutes on Sunday and start over the next week.
The trick for me has been to get a two-in-one calendar with two calendar styles... I can see my days in a traditional grid with the whole month in front of me, then flip to a specific week where it's all broken down. It keeps my brain from spinning out when the waves of busy-ness hit. And when the waves of busy-ness hit (and they be coming!) you've got to-
3) Make and keep priorities.
Really honing in on what's important to you keeps the chaos from taking what's most important away from you. Busy seasons are a part of life and we should never beat ourselves up for getting caught in a whirlwind, but priorities keep us from losing our core.
Here are five of my non-negotiables...
God. I may not be there every time the church doors swing open and that's okay some months, but I need God and His people in my life every week in some form or format. And I need to spend time alone with Him. Practicing spiritual discipline has been the greatest thing I've done to invite God into my life.
Healthy Eats. Vegetables are my body's jam and when I forget that, I start feeling exhausted and blah. Slipping some carrots into my lunch or throwing down some spinach and beans brings me back to life.
Media. Specifically, meditation podcasts, audiobooks and music. They keep me sane and my brain engaged in concepts not related strictly to work. Stories, silence and sweet sounds. It's all I need to keep making great ideas come to life and connecting with people every day. Usually, this looks like audible books, podcasts and new music in the car and a quick youtube meditation in the middle of the afternoon.
Sleeping. I've learned that being in tune to my energy levels and natural circadian rhythms with thoughtful intention allows me to set a comfortable pace for myself. I've also learned that sometimes I go through periods of high productivity, followed by seasons of rest. I stopped judging myself and assigning meaning to my sleep patterns and just go with what works. For example, some weeks I only get six hours a night (I function best on nine.) While it's never ideal to skip sleep, I can usually cheat the system by sleeping late one morning a week. Being in tune keeps me from getting too tired.
People. I really need to say hello to the people that I love a few times a week. I've learned to invite people into my life a little more organically since I've moved into my new home. For example, if I'm already cooking dinner for me, it's easy to slide a little more food in the oven and feed someone else who is busy and tired too.
But really. At the end of the day, all strategies aside-
It's about being gentle with yourself. It's okay to be busy. No matter what that news article told you about stress, overwork or whatever (those pieces make me more stressed out to be honest) being busy is a sign that you have things to do.
Business is a sign of life and purpose. And having life and purpose is so. wonderful.
And being kind to yourself is the best way to find rest in the middle of a hurricane.