Having physically recovered from my illness, and thankfully regained much of my clarity of thought, it was time to start working on the lethargy, malaise, and anxiety that have dominated the last month. Now, some of this stems from the UK lockdown, and will probably not be fully resolved while all of society remains in such an acute state of uncertainty*. But, there are measures I can take that I believe will make a real difference to my general happiness and peace of mind.
First-and-foremost, I started painting again! Painting has been one of the key forms of relaxation (and dare I say meditation?) throughout my life. Even as little as twenty minutes in a day can often make a real difference to my sense of calm and accomplishment. Knowing that I was in a delicate state, I deliberately selected an ‘easy win’, and broke open a pack of Frostgrave chronohounds. I knew that painting these guys would mainly consist of dry-brushing and washes, neither of which require too much concentration. Despite that, thanks to the amazing sculpts by Jason Wiebe, they look terrific.
I think the concept of an easy win is an important one, especially when you’ve been down or are struggling. If I had started with a big complex model, I’d have probably given up in frustration, but since these were easy, I saw them through, and got a nice sense of accomplishment that will help guide me into the next project.
I’ve taken the same approach to my reading. Instead of pulling one of the big, deep, non-fiction books off my shelf, I instead started re-reading The Gaunt’s Ghost series by Dan Abnett. This remains my favourite military science-fantasy horror series of all time. Last year, the 16th book in the series came out. I don’t know if it is the last one, but it certainly wraps a lot of things up, and the series could happily finish there. Since it has been about 15 years since I read the first one, I thought it was probably time to go through them all again. They are not demanding books, and having read them all before, I was able to blast through the first one and am deep into the second. Easy wins! Now I feel like I’m getting back in my reading grove.
So, my hobbies are going well, but I knew that I would also need to take a very hard look at my work. In truth, I probably expected way too much from myself this year anyway, and current circumstances have certainly made my start of the year goals unobtainable. So, I took down my list of writing projects from the wall, and I crossed out everything that wasn’t actually necessary. Essentially, I chopped my to-do list in half. I then created a new list with only those core items and put it back on my wall. Now, the list that used to sit there accusingly looks manageable. If things go well, I can always add back some of the other items at a later date.
Now, I realize that not everyone can modify their workload quite as easily as that, but I think everyone who has been affected by the virus, especially if they’ve gone into lockdown, needs to alter their expectations. They need to alter their expectations for what can be accomplished in a day, what they will accomplish in a month, and what they are likely to accomplish in a year. Businesses need to alter their expectations of what their employees can accomplish, even if everyone can do their job from home. At the moment, everything is just a little bit harder, everything takes a little bit longer, and the days are just a little more stressful
As someone who makes a majority of their income as a freelancer, I have to be a self-motivator. While a little bit of stress can be helpful for this, it is a very delicate balance. As soon as my expectations become unrealistic, the resultant anxiety interferes with my ability to get into the flow, and my work suffers.
So, if you can, take a little time and see if you need to alter your own expectations. If you can’t do it with your job, see if there are other aspects of your life that can be cut or reduced. Wisdom is in subtraction. And if you are struggling in certain areas, see if you can set yourself up for an easy win.
*For example, if things continue as planned, England will be opening schools to some classes on June 1st. This actually includes my daughter’s class. However, my wife and I have decided that our daughter will probably not return to school at this time. Thankfully, we are in a position where we can make this decision, as my wife isn’t working at the moment, since she is looking after our pre-school age son. I realize not everyone is in a position to make such a decision, even if they wanted to. For us, we just don’t believe that the measures the school will have to take to make it a safe environment will be overly conducive to learning. Also, there is no way the school can actually handle all of the students coming back and have social distancing in place. Frankly, they need some of the students to stay home if they can. Obviously, this is a situation we will continue to monitor.