Bullet Journalling, Healthy Habits, Mental Health, self-care, setting priorities

The Benefits of Unplanning

tempclosespirmaintNo, Renaissance Magpie isn’t closing, temporarily or otherwise, but I felt that this image spoke directly to what I did last week for myself.  It dawned on me that those of us preaching the good word of the Bullet Journal, productivity, mindfulness, and the benefits of forming and maintaining healthy habits never address the one true downside that all of this living better brings:  Spiritual Burnout.

Most of us have full and busy lives.  We blog, we write, we create, we work, we parent, and we try to build our own personal lives and realise our dreams.  We preach, we sell, we tell, we share…and inevitably, we crash and burn ourselves.

As I’d written in my previous post, the spring months have not been all that kind to me in terms of mental well-being.  I’ve had to take some serious steps back and re-assess my methods of communication and the energy I was allowing in, as well as sending out into the world.  I’d been scattered, moody, argumentative, and generally down.  Although I was coming around and out of that place by the end of May, I found that my bullet journal, and my daily routine, had become a chore.  A drudgery.  It was not (sorry, Marie Kondo!) sparking joy.  So, on Memorial Day weekend here in the US, I made a conscientious choice.  I put it all down.  I took my Fitbit off.  I set aside my bullet journal for the rest of May and instead, I set up for June in my new Citrus Bindery journal (another topic for another post that I can’t wait to share with you!).  I didn’t do dailies.  I didn’t track anything.  And most importantly, I didn’t beat myself up if I didn’t adhere to my morning or nightly routines.

In fact, the only thing I kept was my morning stretching followed by my morning meditation because those two “habits” really did bring me joy.

I set a “re-opening” date of 1 June and here’s how I feel:  Amazing.  Taking the time off from my own, self-imposed obligations, was like a mini-vacation without the stress of packing or travel.  I didn’t worry about anything and when I returned to my desk this past Saturday to begin anew, I felt completely refreshed and excited to get back into my routine.

I referred to this period as my “Un-planning Week”, but it occurred to me that this is a topic we see a lot of, especially in bullet journaling communities.  Posts from people who managed to skip a whole month, or who put their journals down one day and now don’t know how or where to begin again, even though they want to.

It’s like this:  Turn the page.  If you really feel that your routine isn’t cutting it, isn’t bringing you happiness, isn’t helping you be a better or more productive person, take that spiritual time out.  Close down for a week or a month or more if you need to.  But if you’re serious about picking up again (and I hope you are!), set a date to re-open. 

One thing I will caution against – if you’re working on forming habits and you’re still in the early stages where you really, really need to track them or you just won’t do them, it might not be the best idea to take a time out.  I still track some habits that are pretty well ingrained, but I knew that because they were pretty well ingrained, missing a few days or a week wasn’t going to set me back to square one – and it didn’t.  I track them because I know myself.  It’s OK for me to take a few days off here or there, but if I don’t keep myself accountable, well, no one else will.  If I was trying to form (or break) a new (or old, bad) habit, I likely wouldn’t have felt as good about taking this spiritual time out last week.  So do consider that when you’re assessing your state of spiritual or mental/emotional readiness or burn-out!

Most importantly though, be good to yourself.  When self-imposed tasks and obligations become a chore, it’s time to un-plan.  Set it down, walk away, take a deep breath, and re-center.  I guarantee that you’ll come back healthier, happier, and more determined to succeed than ever before!

Have you experienced this spiritual burn-out?  What did you do to get back on track?  We’d love to hear your words of wisdom, so feel free to comment below!

Disclaimer:  I receive NOTHING if you click on any of the links in this post.  They are shared purely to show you what I use and to give you a reference point for purchase.  I am not paid or sponsored by any entity or corporation.
Mental Health, mental well being, self-care

Life in the Raw

Blog QuoteI have to admit, for the last few weeks (OK, maybe a bit longer), I’ve been struggling.  I’ve been struggling with writer’s block.  I’ve been struggling with artist’s block.  I’ve been struggling with bullet journaling block, letter writing block…I’ve just…been struggling.  I finally had to admit that I seem to be showing signs of depression.  Usually, my depressed states are obvious to me, and I know what I need to do in order to get out of them.  That’s not to say it’s easy to take that first step, but when I can see what’s going on early, it’s easier than those rare times when I slowly sink and don’t recognize what’s happened until I’m well on my way to the bottom.

At first, I told myself that this lingering melancholy was surely due to the weather.  New England has been doing its level best to live up to Old England’s reputation this spring.  We’ve had 1 or 2 days of spring weather, but 21 days and counting of rain and cold.  Even as I write this, my space heater is running at full temperature and I’m bundled up in fleece leggings, a hoody, and a fleece lined jacket.  This is not normal mid-May attire, even here, I assure you.

While it’s true that seasonal abnormalities affect me in pretty recognizable ways, it took some serious soul searching, some tears, and some days and nights of inconsolable numbness before I sat down with my journal and wrote the words I’d been hiding from, acknowledging that this appeared to be a prolonged, depressed state.

I haven’t been clinically diagnosed with depression per se, although it’s an expected symptom of Fibromyalgia, as well as part and parcel of other mental health diagnoses I’ve had.  Having been raised by a generation that viewed poor mental health as a personal failing rather than an actual measure of illness, I do struggle with acknowledging what’s in front of me sometimes.  While I would never dream of telling anyone else to “walk it off” when discussing depression or anxiety, I don’t always give myself that same kindness.

So I’m here today, not to offer you products, reviews, or advice, but to honour my own vision when I created Renaissance Magpie.  A big part of that vision was that I would not be an IG influencer or a peppy, perky “Life Coach”, but that I would be someone who lays bare the realities of being a writer, an artist, a girlfriend, a mother, a friend, a daughter, an activist, and a patient.  Life is full of moments that make even the most instagrammable photos seem dull and unprofessional.  It’s also full of moments that no filter, no number of fame and followers, and no amount of Photoshop can make pretty.  The more we hide those moments from public view and focus only on #thebestlife or being #blessed, the more it seems we isolate ourselves.

There’s been plenty of research done lately on how detrimental to our mental well-being social media really is, as well as how trends like prank or unboxing videos end up making us feel more isolated, sad, and even worthless, wanting for things we can’t afford but also, don’t really need.  It all boils down to comparison.  I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating:  Comparison is the thief of joy.

It’s a mantra that I nearly forgot.  As I was assessing what was happening to me, I was forced to admit that I overwhelmed myself with a sense of “no can do” worthlessness.  The more art tutorials I watched, the more I perused pages and pages of art journal posts, of spiritual posts, of beautifully written blogs, and the more I submitted my own writing and was rejected, the worse I was feeling.  The less inspired I was feeling.  The more I was quietly questioning myself and my pursuits, the less I was doing of the things that made me happy.  Mindfulness practices began to slip away too, and those are things that don’t just make me happy, but are integral to my spiritual and mental balance.  I was looking at other people’s work and wishing I could do that.  I was seeing other people’s spaces and wishing that I had them.  I was learning about other people’s spiritual journeys and wondering if I’d ever reach that point.

I can’t say to you that this epiphany suddenly made the sun shine through the clouds, or was accompanied by a chorus of angels, unicorns farting rainbows, or a rain of fluffy puppies.  What I did sense was a slight lifting of my mind and mood, and a tentative exhale.  Anyone who suffers from any form of depression or anxiety may be able to relate to that feeling.  It’s a baby step, but it comes with its own sense of relief that things may finally be turning around.  When I had that moment of clarity, I knew that I was succumbing to the very things I took such great pains to avoid, and also to counsel against.  I was comparing myself, my art, my writing, my life.  I found it lacking, but when I looked at it objectively, as an outsider might, I could see how full it truly is.  At that moment, I resolved to put one foot in front of the other once more, and return to that which makes me whole, no matter how much of an uphill climb it might have seemed.

Each day since, I’ve been a bit better.  I’ve been doing the things I need to do, and carving small bits of time for those things I want to do as well.  I know what I have to do.  I’ve had the tools all along, and I’ve shared some of them with you here before.  Nevertheless, I am fallible, flawed, and human like everyone else.  I want all of you who read this to know that, and if you struggle with depression or other mental health issues, you’re never alone, you’re not broken, and you’re not weak.  You’re simply ill, and it can be treated.

It is my greatest hope for each of you that you have the tools *you* need to see you through to the other side and happier days – and if you need reminding, or if you need help, that you can always contact me and I can help put you in touch with resources in your area.  After all, I am not a doctor, and my tools may not work for you.

On that note, I’d love to know what tools you use to stay balanced and well.  Please leave your own pearls of wisdom in the comments!

Healthy Habits, self-care

Re-Defining Self-Care

1_H_prn8o7u-qSMDWP5yeiRwWow, has it been a while.  Unfortunately, that is one of my biggest character flaws.  I tend to go in fits and starts which is, not to put too fine a point on it, a piss poor way to build a brand, a following, or a business.  But while I’ve been absent, I’ve been working hard at re-defining and learning what self-care really is and until recently, I was unable to put it to words.  In the end, I never did put it to words either.  Instead, the quote that struck me to the core, that I’ve shared here with you here, and that so perfectly, succinctly defines what I’ve been working on, is from author and journalist, Brianna Wiest.  When I saw this whilst mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, it woke me up and put to words exactly what I’ve been doing for the first quarter of 2019.

Most of us, when asked to define self-care or describe what we do when we think of self-care, will absolutely answer, “baths,” “me time,” and other things we most commonly believe are taking care of ourselves.  And sure, to a degree, having a long, hot bath, or getting our hair and nails done are indeed little forms of self-care.  We’re taking a time out, time to care for ourselves in ways that make us happy.  At least, happy in the moment.  But that happiness is usually fleeting and when the bath has drained or we’ve left the salon, we’re right back in the thick of that which we were trying so hard to escape for a while. Continue reading “Re-Defining Self-Care”