The show must go on
The show must go on
Inside my heart is breaking
My make-up may be flaking
But my smile still stays on
These Queen lyrics ran true for me last week, as many of you will know if you were able to sit through the misery of my most recent weekly vlog.
The benefits of freedom and flexibility are spoken of regularly in reference to the life of a freelancer. However one of the humungous negatives that goes with being able to work from home, and largely self manage your own career on a day to day basis, is the fact that the buck generally stops with you. If you can’t work or something limits your ability to work as efficiently as you’d like, it’s you that is going to suffer the consequences. Those consequences being less money coming in and not being able to pay bills, missing out on opportunities, or putting across a negative image in front of potential future collaborators/money givers.
I was completely overwhelmed with tiredness last week.. I not only had my usual level of CFS tiredness to deal with, every night had been unsettled due to Si coming back from work at 1, 2am, disturbing me with his snoring, or because I was unable to sleep due to excruciating ear-ache.
I was also trying to launch to new sides to my working life (a shop selling my art and photography prints), maintain my blogging/YouTube presence, attending numerous events in London (YouTube work) while helping Si create new Merch designs for their upcoming tour, answer interviews for people’s Dissertation and University projects (which I always try to do as I remember how hard it was to get replies when I was younger), trying to be a good girlfriend and friend on top of that, all while keeping an eye on the emails from my network…..In short, it was just too much.
Why not say no to some of these things? I know, it seems simple. It’s something my Dad and BF say to me all the time. But I think you’re either one of those people that can think selfishly and just do what you want to do, or you are someone that likes to keep people happy and would rather stress themselves out than feel guilt about not being helpful to someone else. I think it’s something that’s more likely to be innate to women too. If you’ve been watching The Secret Life of 5 Years Olds on Channel 4, you may have seen the recent episode comparing boys and girls. Their experiments showed than girls are more empathetic, and have a tendency to be aware and care about the feelings of others. I know I personally hate the feeling of letting people down, so tend to say yes to too many things, just to avoid any feelings, even if I know it may make my life incredibly stressful and leave me feeling pretty ill.
Also I think when you’re in working within Blogging/YouTube/Creativity there’s always this fear that if you don’t go/do it, whatever the opportunity/event may be, that you may regret it. Perhaps you’ll have to see pictures of those who did go/do it pop up on your Instagram and feel a huge amount of regret. Perhaps opting out will mean you’ll miss out on making a hugely beneficial new contact with a brand for instance. Perhaps you’ll never be invited again because the person that went in your place did such a great job. These industries are so saturated now, that’s always this constant tension that there’s someone hot on your heels to nab anything that you even just hesitate about.
I find a commute exhausting to London at the best of times. Last week on route to photograph some Behind The Scenes shots of Mallory Knox at Radio 1’s legendary Maida Vale Studios, my commute went from a hassle to a nightmare. Due to a couple of very sad and unfortunate incidences on the line, my commute took 4 hours (meaning I was arrive two hours late). I’m not irrational about things I can’t change, I’m generally very calm in situations involving travel that are out of my control, but because I was so intensely tired I found the situation very capable of inducing a chin wobble. Some of it was spurned by frustration – the fact that there were no staff on the station to offer information or advice and that I was stranded until I could get hold of someone to pick me up from the station. This frustration went up a few more notches when I got home and called the customer services to try and reap some valuable updates that would guide me in my next step.
Eventually I was advised to go to Shepperton station and try and head up from there (something I wouldn’t have been able to do if Dad hadn’t have been around to drive me). Yet again the station had been closed up, there was no-one to ask about upcoming trains. The train times listed on the electronic board game and went without the arrival of an actual train, a factor which was made more stressful by the fact that my IBS decided to flare up and there were no toilets available to use at the station. In stealth manner I creeped into a working mens club to use theres before returning to the bitterly cold station platform. The horrible weather conditions, tiredness, frustrations with the no existent train staff and IBS combined with the stress of letting Mallory Knox down (and all that could mean to future opportunities) I felt myself start to lose composure. Unable to ease the aches in my legs that had tensed due to the cold snap, due to a lack of seating or warming waiting room, I copied down on the damp concrete and felt the tears stream down my face. It sounds overdramatic and probably looked it to the rest of the waiting passengers similarly delayed at the station, but I simply didn’t have the energy to maintain emotional strength at that time.
When I finally got on a train, a ticket inspector questioned why my ticket said Walton rather than Shepparton, and started to be resistant to my reasonings. I couldn’t believe that with the terrible service the train companies had offered us, the absence of staff or any help, that he had the gaul to question it. So frustrated, I felt myself wobble again.
Anyway, I finally got to my final destination, after a near IBS disaster at Waterloo after the loos were out of action for cleaning purposes, I then had to head out into the rain and attempt to job to the studios.
Despite the horrendous and lengthy journey I was glad to made it because I felt it proved that I’d tried my best, but I was disappointed that I’d missed much of the opportunity to take pictures of the occasion. The situation was more stressful because I had a YouTube commitment, which meant I needed to get to at the 02 after taking pictures at Maida Vale. So I can only imagine I seemed a little bit on edge for the whole time I was there.
Despite the anxiety to get to my next assignment, and the pain I was feeling in my dampened bones, I tried my hardest not to expose the anguish to the people I was working for though. I tried to be jolly and smiley, even if through gritted teeth and pain killers.
Just after 9pm I made it to the O2 to see Sabbath and tried to be jovial (and awake) for the people I was meeting, despite the fact I felt like i’d aged about 40 years in the space of the last few hours and was finding it hard to to carry out any sort of cognitive behaviour.
After the gig at the O2 I headed home and faced more delays, meaning after midnight I was sitting on another damp station, in tears, on my own, and not sure when I’d make it to my bed. Also feeling slightly regretful that I’d spent Si’s one day off away from him and might not even get to say goodnight to him that day.
This was one day of the last week. But the theme continued for the rest of the week, with the cumulative effects worsening my existing state of ‘emotional wreck’. However, I continued to go to events, interview film directors, take photos, vlog, communicate with new people, and try and smile and appear appreciative throughout, despite my exhaustion and lack of financial gain. It was only when I was on the commutes or at home in my bedroom that I let the mask slip and lost control of the tear ducts.
This week didn’t make me realise anything new – I’ve always known that I don’t prioritise in the right way and that my lack of energy effects my ability to cope – but it did make certain people in my life become a bit more stern with me about making some changes.
It cant’ be nice to see me in this state if ‘not coping’ so I guess I owe it to them (my bf and family) as well as me to start putting me, my work, and more importantly work that will pay first, before helping others with theirs. But I also have to make sure I find a balance within my diary that prevents, or at least doesn’t contribute, to a state of bad health and tiredness that doesn’t allow me to have a decent grip on my emotions.
Last week’s events made me ponder my ability to deal with stress. It’s become very clear that it depends hugely on my level of fatigue, but I wondered what else my contributes to it. Could I be making some more changes, or doing more things, that will help me stay strong, not just in the public view, but in private times or on my commute.
Here’s some things I’ve come up with to try and help pr
event stress but also deal with it should it arise….
Coping with Stress
Don’t overstretch – Even if you’re motivated to work, it doesn’t mean your body will be able to match that level of motivated. Think rationally about what your body can cope with and don’t book more things than you know you can deal with.
Remember that it’s not just about going to events – you have to factor in the stress/time of the journeys either side, and the work that may follow attending. E.g if you do a shoot remember you may have to edit the photos that night to get them to your client for the next day.
Make sure you sandwich in things that make you feel relaxed or happy in your week. Whether that be a long bath with Lush products, or a dinner with closest friends.
If you have work to do that just can’t wait, decide whether it’s better for you to stay up late or get up early to do it. I generally prefer to stay up late and get it done as I know I don’t sleep too well if work is left unfinished.
Don’t commit to deadlines you know will be difficult for you with your particular schedule/health issues/limitations.
Re-access your approach to work. I used to try and upload to YouTube about five times a week. I am currently only uploading once a week and it doesn’t appear to have had a detrimental effect to my growth, and feel a lot let stressed for it.
Get off social media. I now barely check my socials, which is not ideal for someone doing my career, but for my mental health it has been hugely beneficial. I still tweet, upload , and interact sparingly, but I don’t obsess over catching up on the feeds.
I made a huge mistake of missing out lots of meals (and washing) because I simply didn’t feel I had the time. Always make time, because a weak mind and dirty body won’t make you feel work-ready or ready to ‘smash it.’
If you’re feeling guilty about neglecting you bf or friends during this time of work stress then just send a message or make a small gesture that will let them know that this is an intensely busy time for you, but you love them. I just sent Whatsapp messages to my group chats saying that I was sorry I’d be a bit quiet for the next few weeks but I loved them, and made sure just to give Si a nice welcome when he’s back from work, even if I have to spend the whole night beavering away on my computer.
Take time out to meditate – I should really do this but I’m a workaholic and need to almost retrain myself not to feel like I need to use any downtime I have to be productive in a career sense.
Re-access your work – If you could be objective and look over your schedule of work (maybe get someone else to take a look), is there something that you could remove without any major negative repercussions that would free up some time or remove some sort of stress.
So there’s a few of mine….Can you offer up any more that we could share in the comments? Do you think you deal with stress well?
And remember it’s ok to be a bit selfish sometimes – althought selfish doesn’t seem like the right word.
Simply remember to value your well-being and your own goals as well as those of others.