We are now in October—one month since my last post. I’m trying desperately to avoid beginning yet another blog post with an apology for my long absence. I think it’s to myself that I owe the apology more than anything. I enjoy sharing with my smallish blog audience, and it’s almost “a sin and a shame” that I allow life and busyness to get in the way of my own personal “time outs”–especially since I need them most during the stressful, busy moments.
Last week nearly broke me. Nearly. I approached October, bracing myself for the challenges that I knew awaited me, but I did not expect to be “blindsided” by the loss of a friend to breast cancer. I forced myself to push on, but by the end of last week, I knew I had to find the time to pull myself together or I would not make it through the month without falling to pieces. This week is challenging me as well, so now I’m pulling out my survival strategies.
Last spring, Beckra, one of my Professors United pals, and I shared our tips for surviving the exhausting and trying moments of academia, but I’m realizing that the tips we exchanged can be useful for any stressful or frustrating situation.
Beckra sent her survival tips on beautiful postcards made from her own photography. Here are some of her suggestions:
- iZen Garden app for iPad/iPhone. Beckra recommends this because the music is calming, the quotations are interesting and “sometimes” beautiful, and there’s real pleasure in raking the sand with your finger. I downloaded the app, but haven’t checked it out yet.
- Let there be “pink” light. Place a small lamp with a pink light bulb in your office or home. Turn it on when you’re feeling stressed and it will calm you. Try turning all other lights off and just bask in the glow of your pink light.
- Listen to music. While doing some of her morning prep work, Beckra listens to Sonic Aid albums with the volume so low she can barely hear them. For me, it’s classical music. Not only is it calming, but it also improves my productivity level.
- Pause and breathe. “A moment of delay and a deep breath can change a lot of things.” Something to remember for those critical moments.
- Close the door. This allows you to focus and gather yourself.
I learned the “closing the door” strategy from a colleague at my former institution. She suggested it as a “thinking” strategy. She pointed out as long as my door is open, my attention will be divided–even if no one else is around. This was an important message for me. At the time, I was a department chair and an assistant dean, so there was always something or someone demanding time and attention. I’ve learned in recent years to close the door at work and at home–to accomplish tasks without distraction, to think and meditate, to quiet my spirit.
We often feel obligated to make ourselves available to others at all times, but some unavailability, as Beckra points out, “makes us better” in our roles when we are available.
- Make a conscious effort to smile–not for others– for yourself.
- Micro-rituals. Exercise small, quick rituals to disconnect from the stressor(s) and reconnect with other parts of yourself: listen to audio books for sheer pleasure while sweeping; take a walk to watch the sunset. Beckra writes, “Small daily habits are self-structuring and can have profound long-term effects.”
My favorite “micro-ritual”–a nap after work. Unfortunately, because I’ve often had so little sleep the night before, this leads to deep sleep, and hours later I wake up with everything undone and even more miles to go before I sleep again! I have to find a new ritual.
- Eye/Jar Journal. While traditional journaling is useful, sometimes you just want to get things out in quick bursts. For those times, Beckra uses an “eye/jar” journal. She made one for me!
Beckra stamped every page of a basic artist journal with “eye” or “jar” images in random positions–as you can see from the few images below. (Click an image for a closer look).
Beckra explains, the “eye” gives you permission to write from your own unedited “I,” and the “jar” gives you the opportunity to let go of some things and/or store up others.
I love this journal. I’ve had lots of opportunity to use it lately, and I appreciate the perforated pages that allow me to tear out and destroy my “unedited ‘I’ rantings.”
In many ways, Beckra’s strategies parallel my own survival strategies–music, something tactile, journaling–so tomorrow (because this is long enough), I will share those strategies that vary from hers.
For now, I’ll leave you with two more of Beckra’s beautiful photo postcards. She sends them randomly and unexpectedly, so they always make my day!
It’s obvious that she enjoys sharing the beauty she encounters from day to day, but I suspect that she also sends postcards that depict some of my favorite things.
Oh, check out Beckra’s blog: Every Day, One Good Thing.