If you follow me on Twitter, you probably have seen the survey for my book “The Part-Time Artist“. In this survey, one of the question was about the biggest problem with having an artistic career and a job-to-pay-the-bills. Many people replied “energy”, and how they felt so exhausted after their day job. It meant that they couldn’t really allocate any energy to their art.
I completely get that! So today I’m going to talk about ways that I use to prevent this.
It may seem very basic, but eating well is a key to feeling more energetic. Three years ago, I changed my diet from eating mainly pre-prepared stuff, lots of meat and lots of fats, to a more homemade meals, half plant-based diet. I am not going to bore you about the specifics of the diet, because this is not a blog about that subject, but if you are curious you can research the term “flexitarian” which is the closest to what I eat on a regular basis.
There are pros and cons to this. The biggest disadvantage is that I have to cook every other day, so it takes time from my writing. I make big quantities so that I don’t have to cook every day, but it is still a significant amount of time per week, especially when you add the shopping and the meal planning.
However, the biggest advantage is that I feel much MUCH better than I used to. I had lots of stomach and digestion problems, and they have really reduced. It also helped me feel more energetic during the day, and when I get sick (like the cold I have at the moment), it rarely knocks me out completely. I used to have to take days off for a simple cold, and to drag any illness for weeks. It doesn’t happen anymore.
A good way to start this is to observe what you eat. Perhaps make a list, and see if the food you ingest serves you or not, and how it makes you feel afterwards. And a very importantly: meal planning is the key if you have a very tight schedule like me!
This is something we all know: if you sleep well, you’ll have more energy. However, like many people, I don’t necessarily apply it. I used to have insomnia when I was a teenager, where I couldn’t fall asleep at all. Nowadays, I have the opposite problem: I can fall asleep quite easily, but I wake up many times during the night. This is partly due to my back problems, of course, so there isn’t much that I can do.
What I can change however is how much time I allocate to sleep. I am a night owl so I tend to go to bed way too late. In the summer, it is not a big issue, but comes the winter and that means that I feel sluggish all day. Lately, I’ve been forcing myself to go to bed earlier, and it seems to work.
Now this is going to depend on many factors: if you are a night owl too, at what time you work starts, how you feel in the morning, if you have a correct bed,… but it is important to take some time to examine your sleep. Chances are, if you feel like you have no energy most days, it is because you don’t recuperate enough at night.
Stress can deplete your levels of energy more surely than anything else. I have a stressful day job, and I know that sometimes, no matter what I do, it is going to demand a lot from me. I am not a specialist on stress, but I used to come back home in a state of anxiety and I would be good for nothing after work. Recently, I have started meditating when I’ve had a bad day, and it felt like resetting my brain from the stress of the day.
I am by no means a specialist in meditation, so I usually use a short guided one that I find on Youtube (there are hundreds of them). I have also recently been advised about a very simple breathing exercise that I do when I feel overwhelmed:
There is one more thing that is impacting my level of energy and how I feel in general: the lack of light. Winter is a hard time for me, I always feel less energetic and my mood gets very low. Until last year, I hadn’t really identified that pattern, but then I started reading on seasonal affective disorder. It ticked all the boxes of what I was feeling every year, from November to at least February.
So last year, I took a step and I bought a lamp that is meant to treat this disorder. And it worked! I took the habit of using the lamp for half an hour while I eat breakfast. It gave a me a good boost to start the day, and I felt less like everything was dark and depressing. I am definitely going to use it this year again, and I recommend it if you have the same symptoms every year!
If you want to buy the model that I have on Amazon:
(The link shown above is an affiliate link, as I am part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. More information here. It is only on Amazon UK as I can’t seem to find the same model on Amazon.com.)
As a part-time artist, I will always be more in demand than “normal” people. Therefore I need to keep a eye on how I spend my energy. If you are in the same situation, I recommend that you spend some time thinking about the four factors that I’ve described above and see if there is something that you can improve.
It is not fun to feel exhausted all the time, so I hope that this can help you towards getting back your creative energy!