Nicole Decsey here. I am writing to you today to help myself as much as you. The hardest thing in my crazy life and maybe yours is scheduling and trying to make everything fit.
Tell me, when you finally have that day off, that day to do nothing, do you end up sleeping it away? You have a headache, don’t want to get out of bed and genuinely feel sick, out of nowhere? Or do you spend it getting little things done that you haven’t had time for?
If it’s the first option, then maybe you are not properly taking care of yourself. If it is the second option, then you probably need to surround yourself with people who calm you down and stop that voice in your head. For me, it is both. But either way, there is an art to having a balanced lifestyle. An art that I regret to say I have not yet mastered. But maybe we can figure it out together.
So, where to start?
I would start by scheduling time for yourself to relax. Make it a part of your schedule and something you have to check off your to do list. This way, you can feel accomplished about doing what you planned to do during the day. Be it napping or sending emails. I have always found that physically marking things off your list can make you feel accomplished no matter how insignificant it might seem at the time. Those little insignificant things can amount to a lot. It’s just as important to do a workout as it is to relax and do nothing. We want to relax and not crash, which means calming our minds and finding ways to rejuvenate. This is different for everyone, it could be doing yoga, listening to music or anything else that puts your mind at ease. For me, I am most relaxed when I am watching TV, reading, or simply just being with other people. Relaxing and working, you can’t have one without the other.
The next thing we both need to remember is sleep. This is the number one way to make sure you are ready for the day. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute says “sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. The way you feel while you are awake depends in part on what happens while you are sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and to maintain your physical health”. Recently, I have become most “productive” right before I go to bed. But that isn’t conducive to me getting a good night’s sleep and at that time of night I’m not so sure that I’m producing my best work anyways. To conquer the inconvenience of staying up too late, we can set a few alarms to force ourselves to stop working. First, a warning alarm as a reminder that you have an hour or 30 minutes left and then a second alarm when it is time to stop completely. If you start going to bed earlier, then you can wake up earlier refreshed and ready to get things done before you start your day. Changing your sleep schedule won’t happen overnight, but it’s never too late to start training ourselves to get the most out of our sleep.
One thing that always helps me is using a reward system. If you set a goal of what you want to accomplish and reach that goal, then it is time to reward yourself. Not necessarily with food or presents, although those things are always options, but rather with relaxing in front of the tv or taking a nap. This way that time off, like when we scheduled it into our routines, does not feel like time wasted. Instead, it has a purpose. It is part of the progress we are making and possibly even the reason we have been so productive.
Then it comes to monitoring the size of your workload. If you are like me, you have the tendency to spread yourself thin and say yes to everything. But the reality is, that’s not going to be feasible for very long. Our bodies and minds get to a point where they can no longer function no matter how determined we are to keep going. Obviously, say yes to what you can and what makes you happy. But if it’s not something you are dying to do, chances are you should be saying no to it.
Saying no is hard, especially when you are an artist working gig to gig on top of your day job that keeps you afloat between the gigs. We have to find a balance that lets us do everything we want to do while still doing what we need to do. A balance of working at your part time or full-time job and making the time to take the performances that fulfill your passion. It’s a balance that I am still looking for. I have a feeling I will be looking for this balance for the rest of my life. But that is the work, that is the grind. Freelance workers are not the same as 9-5ers, everyone struggles, artists simply struggle in a unique way. We are in a constant state of uncertainty as to where our next paycheque will come from and how much will be on it, we don’t get benefits and we get paid for 50% or less of the actual work we do. But no matter what path you choose to take, be it dance, accounting, sales, teaching, or anything else you want to pursue in life, it will always try to grind you into dust. It is up to us to fight the pressure and make it work.
You may never figure it out, but every day you can find new ways to get yourself out of bed and keep your nose to the grindstone without chopping it off.
Goodnight, get some sleep.