It’s impossible–we all know that. There’s no way we can do everything we’d like to do; there’s just not enough time. In Creative Time & Space, I talked about this, about how you have to figure out what’s important to you and what’s not so important. As artists, we have to figure out what we can jettison to make time for us to get into the studio on a regular basis. Maybe it’s yardwork, maybe it’s entertaining, maybe it’s those evening hours in front of the tv.
Something else we have to think about, though, is our energy. If we’re exhausted at the end of the day, getting into the studio and mixing up plaster doesn’t seem quite as appealing as sitting down and putting our feet up.
People always ask me how I get so much done. I always admit, right off, that my husband, who retired from teaching and coaching, does almost everything for me–he cooks and cleans and does the shopping. Still, they ask, how do you have so much energy? It’s something I hadn’t really thought a lot about until this past spring and summer, when I was exhausted pretty much all the time. After a ton of blood tests, we finally found out the reason: mono. No idea exactly when I got it or from whom, but it made me think about energy and exhaustion and how those of us who have a lot we want to do can make sure we have the energy to do it.
My husband taught health. Lots of people think coaches teach health because it’s an “easy” subject, but the truth is that, done right, it’s the most important subject you’ll ever take. He taught it because he believes that good health is vital. From the time we met, when I was 19, he started working on me. Very subtly, of course, because I’ve never been big on having someone tell me what to do. He was smart, though: it’s a lot easier to change someone’s bad habits when they’re crazy in love with you. Before I really knew what was happening, I’d given up potato chip sandwiches and frozen Twinkies at midnight and was–omigod–jogging. I gained weight as I built muscle, and I had more energy and way, way fewer respiratory infections. So I can serve as a good example, I think, having learned by experience the difference lifestyle makes.
We all know we need to get enough sleep. I get around seven hours. It’s tough if you’re busy, but the increased energy and alertness will allow you to get more done when you *are* awake. We all know we need to exercise. Even if all you do is walk, you can walk long enough and quickly enough to get real benefits. it’s often tough to find time for a long walk, but you can combine it with other stuff. We live close enough to the bank and post office that, if I haven’t had time to walk that day, I can combine walking with errands. Sure, it takes more time than driving, but there are all kinds of reasons it’s worth it, from lessening my dependence on transportation to getting out and seeing what’s going on in my town. Combine walking with family time–get your kids or partner or neighbor to walk with you. Walk the dog, take the books back to the library, walk to visit a friend.
And then there’s the thing that I think is more important than any of us realize: our diet. The stuff the average person eats in a day is astoundingly horrible, filled with artificial color and flavor and additives we can’t even pronounce. When we’re tired, we reach for sugar or caffeine. If we’re trying to lose weight, we drink stuff filled with artificial sweeteners about which we know very, very little.
If you’re always tired, or if you’re less energetic than you wish you were, take a good look at what you eat. Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artifical anything–try to get rid of as many of those as you can. Whole grains, nuts, vegetables, fruit–those are the things that will help you find balance. But you already know that.
My own beliefs about diet are overwhelmingly unpopular: I believe you should eat only what you need to survive and be healthy, treating food as a fuel rather than a reward or guilty obsession. I don’t write about this very often because I get lots of angry mail from people who love to eat.
I can only use myself as an example. I’ve just finished the last piece of birthday cake, a glorious creation that’s been in the refrigerator since my birthday last month. Rich, creamy, sugary-beyond-belief, it’s been a one-piece-for-breakfast indulgence for the last couple of weeks. Earl bakes this once a year. Fabulous in every way, it’s also been an experiment in diet, and I can vouch for the difference in how I’ve felt: jittery, a little-light-headed, a crash in late morning. And then a craving for more sugar. I can see it easily becoming an endless cycle of eating sugar, crashing, craving more sugar, eating sugar–
So if you’re feeling sluggish and are pretty sure you don’t have mono (although who knows–if I could get it, pretty much anyone could), take a look at the fuel you’re putting into your body. Chances are an adjustment there could be exactly what you need.
Ricë also blogs at Notes from the Voodoo Cafe.
MORE RESOURCES FOR MIXED MEDIA ARTISTS