Tuesday, 11 September 2018

How to deal with a post summer funk

The Summer holidays are over.  September, golden and gentle, nudges us back into our routines with a bang - early morning starts, school uniforms to be ironed, the morning rush...and after a long summer of not rushing about, it can feel like a bit of a shock to the system to suddenly be plunged back into normal life again.

This year my daughter started high school.  There was a fair bit of anxiety about the transition - understandably so - it's a huge leap and the last few days of the holidays were spent trying to help and reassure her about her first day.  
In the final couple of weeks, I'd noticed myself fighting the growing urge to go into the studio to paint, film classes and generally get back to what I love to do.  But there were family days out, picnics, uniforms to buy, places to go and there wasn't the time.  I kept a sketchbook close to hand for these moments, so that I could quickly draw out an idea or write a few notes about something that had inspired me.  My aim was to come back to this journal when school started again, fresh and ready to go.

Only this time, that didn't happen.

Sensibly, I knew that it would take a day or so to adjust to the silence that had fallen upon the house.  Six and a half weeks of bustle, chatter and laughter had been replaced by a quiet so profound you could hear a pin drop.  I was suddenly on my own, and as I realised this, the dawning of another truth also made itself known.

I had no inclination to paint at all.

I felt spent, all of a sudden and without warning I felt completely drained, and as detached as a boat from it's moorings, bobbing about in some strange and turbulent sea.  I didn't know where to put myself or what to do.
I gazed through the window of my studio and felt only apathy.  I didn't want to go in - couldn't bring myself to go in.

It'll pass, I thought.

But it hasn't.  At least not yet.  I couldn't understand it at first, recalling all those times I'd longed to go down, play with those buttery acrylics and cast the first wash of a new painting.  The feelings of anticipation had been akin to waiting for Santa as a child, and yet here I was feeling empty and with no inclination to do any of those things. 

There's a few reasons why this has happened.  First off, my happy, easy going summer has ended abruptly.  My family have returned to school and work, leaving me alone.  If I'm honest, I am struggling with the silence and my own company as I resign myself to the fact that Autumn is approaching with some speed and I now have a job to do.  Too much of a good thing can create the biggest weight of apathy when it suddenly comes to an end.

I then got knocked for six by a migraine which lasted into the weekend and really took the wind out of my sails.  

I was reading a blog post by my friend and fellow artist Claire Sheehan just yesterday in which she talked about how we can manage our peaks and troughs with self care.  I looked back over the previous week and realised just how much energy (both physical and emotionally) I had spent on various things, and how this had taken its toll (fatigue and migraine, I'm looking at you).  It sometimes takes a word from someone else to remind me that my own self care is also important during big life changes and transitions, and I realised that once again in an effort to tend to everyone else, I'd left myself behind.

The other thing I've decided to do to help myself is to just simply admit that I'm in a funk, and to give myself permission to be in it.  The fact that I know I'm in the midst of one (in that I can recall very clearly what it's like not being in one) tells my logical brain that they're not permanent and this will pass - and the very fact I'm writing a blog post is telling me I'm probably coming out the other side.  

There is often a temptation when you're in this particular state to panic, forge ahead, and rush about accomplishing nothing.  I'd consider making a list of things you do need to accomplish, to remove the fear and panic, and then give yourself an amount of time to fully feel your funk before starting to make headway with your list - one item at a time.  It might be that you have a day, a few hours or a week!  It depends how flexible your time is, but overall you need to acknowledge how you are feeling and give yourself time and space to repair and heal.

It's important to take a bit of time, resting might seem counter productive when you feel like you've got lots to do, but believe me, your future self will thank you for it once you're up and running again.

And so, I have my list, I'm easing myself gently back into social media and have started adding to my course notes which I started to compile in the summer.  I'm moving through the day as mindfully as possible, listening to what my body needs most and doing the best I can to provide it - be it a bowl of hot soup or a walk in the woods.  Taking ownership of this funk and working out why I'm in it has really helped me gain some clarity on how best to deal with it, and has reminded me that self care is always the most important thing that we can do for ourselves. 

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