Inspire in 2017
I don’t think I did a word of the year last year – or, if I did, I didn’t record it. I have a feeling it might well have been ‘Mindfulness’ if I did do it. I spent the year cutting back on lots of extra responsibilities and commitments and concentrating on finding my own strategies for dealing with stress and anxiety, as I recognised in August/September 2015 that my almost two years of dizziness, numbness and other disturbing symptoms had been down to being in an almost constant state of stress.
I was very successful in this and have only had momentary flashes of the big symptoms (dizziness and numbness) over the past year and a quarter. I have a recognisable early symptom (my tummy goes rock hard!) that warns me if I’m starting to feel stress and haven’t realised it and then have a variety of techniques to calm myself.
It’s no longer a case of removing any causes of stress. I was fairly quick to recognise that this is impossible and that, however easy we manage to make our lives, there will always be something that will cause stress or anxiety – perhaps not for everyone to the same degree of course. For example, I swapped stress over getting the reading done for meetings or the anxiety over speaking to strangers for stress about getting the children to school on time and anxiety over talking to people I’ve known for years! So, now it’s more about recognising what is causing the stress and anxiety and either accepting that it is stressful, but will be over soon, or reassuring myself that it’s not something to worry about. When it’s an insurmountable stress or anxiety, I then use the calming and mindfulness techniques – one of the best ones is just stopping and concentrating on breathing; feeling the breaths going in and out, experiencing the smells that come when breathing through the nose, the noises or the silence, and so on.
Other techniques include doing a worry tree – a bit like a spider diagram of everything in your life at the time and offshoots of what you’ve been thinking about a lot there – might be children’s school applications, a political campaign, money issues, work deadlines, etc. etc. Often just writing them all down in a big brain dump makes me feel calmer, but it can also point and one thing that’s particularly worrying me, and then I can think about that and work out how to reduce that worry.
In general, making sure I do some free-flow painting and drawing regularly (ideally daily!) is an amazing help to my overall feeling calm, as is walking the dog, particularly in the evening.
What I’ve been trying to concentrate on more in the last month or so of the year (and I’m still needing to work on it more!) is to reassess my priorities. I have a tendency to put work at the top of all priorities. Deadlines would consume me and would fill my thoughts, even when I wasn’t at my desk. I suffered a constant overwhelming need to always give 100% (in fact, a desire to give 125%!) to clients, because why would they ever come back if I didn’t meet every deadline and never ever make a mistake and always come in under budget, and so on and so on. (And actually that need to give more than perfection is something I’ve had in most areas of life. While a parent governor, I never missed a single meeting and the one time I was late, I agonised about it for a week or more afterwards. Other people on committees or working groups in other areas of my life would cancel at the last minute, not do the actions they’d agreed to, forget to call someone they were supposed to call, but I could never ever let anyone down!) And I wouldn’t be able to give my full attention to other areas of my life, until I had met a particular deadline – even if it was a personal deadline I’d set myself. I wouldn’t listen properly to Chris and the children because my brain was full of whether someone would get some files to me on time to get them out to someone else in time to get them back and not have the project slip…
What I try to do now is to be in the moment as much as possible with whatever I’m doing and not to think about it (whatever it is) at other times. So, work is for the times I’ve sat down to do work and not to worry about while cooking dinner or doing the school run. When I’m talking to or spending time with the children, or with Chris, I try to put my phone away and put my other responsibilities away, too (unless we’re specifically talking about any of them, of course). (Yeah, I’m really rubbish at putting the phone away, but I am getting better!) When I’m out canvasing, that’s what I’m doing and that’s a time to talk and think about politics – I don’t have to spend every waking hour worrying about Brexit or about whether I need to get some campaign leaflets printed, or whether I can manage to attend an interest-sounding meeting.
My priorities at the moment are, in order:
- Politics and doing good
- Reading and writing
- Work and finances
The order may well change over time and I might push some things out and add new things. Making sure the top priorities get attention first, doesn’t in any way mean neglecting the others. In fact, I’m finding that it helps me be more efficient and able to concentrate on work, because I know I’ve met or am going to meet my other priorities. I’m still falling over a bit on the work one – and find myself trying to finish something because I really really want it finished that day, and then end up rushing dinner, or skipping a dog walk, or not having to time to paint. I’m doing it less and less, but it’s definitely still a work in progress.
So, whether or not I picked ‘Mindfulness’ for 2016’s word of the year, I think that’s what it was.
This year is ‘Inspire’ and I feel that this relates to all areas of my life and my priorities.
I want to inspire my children and family – to show them how it is possible to enjoy life and to be fulfilled, to show them that learning new skills is worthwhile, to lead by example in getting involved in causes that are close to my heart, to show them that you can succeed if you know what you want and work out how to get it, and in many other ways, too, I’m sure.
I want to inspire people all over the world with beautiful patterns – to give a bit of happiness every day from a splash of colour, of a black and white image they can calmly colour themselves. I want to inspire wonder and curiosity in illustrating for children and understanding and clarity in editorial illustration. I want to inspire people to go out there and show their own art and submit their own art to competitions or to brands.
I want to inspire hope in people who have lost theirs. Hope that we can build a better future for us all. Hope that we can provide food and shelter and education to all, irrespective of their upbringing or personal circumstances. Hope that work will pay. Hope that everyone can have the time and money to spend with their families, or doing what they love. Hope that the daily grind will one day be a small portion of people’s lives and that the rest will be filled with joy and love and wonder.
I want to inspire calm and mindfulness in others, if only by giving an example of how I have found my own, but perhaps in other ways, whether through art or writing or just chatting about it.
I want to continue to inspire confidence and calm in my editorial clients.
Oh yes, and I want to keep finding inspiration myself – in all areas.
So, here’s to 2017, may it shine light into the darkness that marked much of 2016 for the world.
Happy New Year!