You can do the hard things!

Do the one thing that will make the most difference

If you are a freelance illustrator like me my guess is that you too get into periods when you don’t take proper care of yourself. Now I don’t want to be rude or anything, but you do realise that that’s just a little bit stupid don’t you? You are your business, the most essential asset for earning your livelihood. Why don’t you protect that asset?

We all know, more or less, what we need to do to feel better and perform better. We have the healthy vegan cookbooks (well I do at any rate), the workout DVDs (not to mention all those free YouTube exercise videos), the meditation tracks on Spotify, the juicer and the smoothie maker. We have all the things, but we don’t use them…

When you’ve slipped into bad habits it’s soooo hard to get back on track, isn’t it? There is this strange resistance to actually doing the things that we know will make us feel awesome! I’m not just talking about feeling a little bit better, I’m talking about energised, focused, positive and a Freddy Mercury “Don’t stop me now, I’m having such a good time!” kind of awesome!

Some people would say it’s the Devil tempting you but I’ve been reading Phil Stutz and I think Part X sounds about right. It’s that relentless little voice in the back of your mind constantly trying to convince you that it’s ok to live a self indulgent life. You’ll quit (whatever it is) on Monday, right?

What started as a small indulgence (because it’s the holidays, it’s cold and dark and I’m sad and depressed, this thing didn’t work out and now I’m disappointed and I need something to cheer me up!) has suddenly become a habit.

“People don’t decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.”

F.M. Alexander

But deciding my habits is hard. I tried scheduling them in, but writing “Yoga!!!” in my deskplanner doesn’t actually move me to do it. And, I’m ashamed to say, I even buy fresh ingredients for healthy home cooked meals and end up eating fast food whilst they slowly wilt away in the fridge. There are so many good things I want to do for my health and wellbeing that it overwhelms me! And I end up not doing any of them.

So then I thought, if there was just one thing that I could do to save myself (from drowning!) what would that be? Fresh juice in the morning! Definitely.

Apple and beetroot juice with lemon – it’s a winner!

I remembered how amazing I felt when I had that regularly. If I could just bring myself to do that it would make a huge difference. So I cleaned the juicer (because it had been sitting around for a long time, unloved), I went and bought the ingredients, and the next morning I actually managed to drag myself to the juicer and just do it. It’s no that hard for fluff’s sake! Only a tiny bit more difficult than spreading marmalade on toast. And cleaning the juicer afterwards is not nearly as ardous as it seems in my mind when I’m questioning if I can be bothered or not.

And then a strange thing happened. Because that first juice tasted so amazing and made me feel so great I wanted another one for my lunch. And then, in the evening after dinner, instead of absent-mindedly reaching for the chocolate biscuits I just sat there for a moment questioning why I should need a “pudding” every night. And before I knew what had happened that impulse to stuff my face went away. I no longer craved my habitual sugar fix. I had won one battle. That is all we can ask for, one victory, one day at a time. The “war” never really ends, we just have to stay forever vigilant. But I think that can become a new habit. I will slip up, we all do, but I won’t let it be an excuse to give up.

Just move around a little bit

One of the worst things I was doing to my health was that I barely moved on an average day. If I was working digitally my eyes would be locked to a screen, my head usually craned at a stupid angle while my shoulders were drawn up to my ears and all that was moving was my drawing hand. I’m talking hours, hunched over, shallow breathing, staring at a screen. When you’ve been doing that to yourself every day for six months or so, the idea of getting up and doing a workout just feels absurd.

But how about starting small? How about breathing? You need to breathe don’t you? How about some Qi Gong? I found this amazing instructor, Lee Holden, and I’ve started incorporating exercises into my daily routine. And once you’ve started doing that – moving, breathing deeply, getting some fresh energy into your system – doing yoga feels like the natural next step. And once you’ve started doing yoga, well, a workout seems quite reasonable then, not a big deal at all!

Love yourself like your business depends on it

Kamal Ravikant wrote a book called Love yourself like your life depends on it and although that may sound like a bit of an exaggeration, I think that’s pretty much what it boils down to. I do what I do because it’s the only job that actually makes sense to me. I have tried other things and I was rubbish at it. Drawing, painting and storytelling are the only things that I’m any good at. And if I want to be able to keep doing it and produce the best work that I’m capable of I need to take care of my body, mind and spirit. I am my business, my ability to make a living depends on me allowing myself to take care of my health and wellbeing. If you want to be able to give you have to have something to give from.

But don’t try to do it all at once. Don’t fall into the ‘all or nothing’ trap. If you haven’t been caring for yourself the way you know you should, let it take a little bit of time to get back on track. Start with the ONE thing you know would make the most important difference and then build on that. For me it was juice!

This is my go to kickstarter juice.

Sunshine Juice

3 carrots
2 oranges
1 lemon
1 thumb size piece of fresh ginger

Peel everything, chop it into manageable chunks and juice it! It’s a legal high baby. Warning: you may annoy others with how ridiculously enthusiastic you’ve suddenly become. This usually wears off slightly after an hour or so, and you find that you can contain your good humour much better with continued use. However, the initial effect can be quite startling! Lots of luck, I’m rooting for you! (Sorry, couldn’t help myself 🙂 )

Find out about Part X from Phil Stutz and Barry Michels – Coming Alive

Get inspired by the master of all things juice – Joe Cross

If you can’t bring yourself to do a full on workout – I know you can at least breathe! Lee Holden offers some free QiGong video classes here and they are so soothing to my entire being.

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