Guest Blog Post by Nancye Wilson
I’d like to start with telling you a little bit about me.
My name is Nancye. I am originally from the UK but now living in the Netherlands. I have my own business called Nancye Artist where I make and sell mixed media art.
I started my business after becoming ill with post-traumatic stress disorder. That was about 10 years ago now and whilst I was in hospital, I took up art as a form of therapy. My art has developed from there and from that Nancye Artist was born. It’s a real outlet for me and the little girl inside me who wasn’t able to be a little girl is now set free every time I create. And she is BOLD! She has such fun with colour and forms and creates these richly colourful pieces of art that make everyone who sees them smile from ear to ear.
I have quite a few side effects or challenges that I face from the PTSD. The main two that I really struggle with are sleep and anxiety (stress). I suffer from terrible nightmares, night terrors, insomnia, flashbacks through the day and a constant feeling of tension. An inability to relax completely, meaning I’m constantly on my guard and anxiety and stress levels are high.
I am unfortunately unable to hold down a nine to five leaving me on sick benefit. I have tried to go back to work but it just isn't compatible with the problems that I have. For example, last year I started my first paid job since being ill, delivering the post on my bike, here in my village. I really enjoyed it. On good days, it was great, but on bad days when I was dissociating, I didn't know if I had posted the right post through the right letter boxes. It was something I couldn't go back and check and apart from battling with the fact that I was dissociating and feeling really unsafe, I became extremely stressed and anxious about the fact that I wasn’t able to do my job properly. My anxiety grew, my nightmares worsened, and I had to call in sick.
Having my own business, means I can tailor my day around my illness. Mornings are always difficult for me. Sometimes, I can't get out of bed. Due to sleep paralysis, or a nightmare that I cannot come out of. So, every day is a surprise. I never know what’s going to happen. I can't really plan too much but I’ve learnt to adapt. Some days it’s easy. Some days it’s really hard but luckily everyday is a new day and that’s how I look at it. Tomorrow is a new day and a new start.
I plan my week in blocks. At the beginning of the week I have a few things I want to get done and a few things that I need to do every week. I have a weekly calendar and I split it up into the morning and the afternoon. I take a nap in the afternoon. (Without napping I’m useless after 2pm and lose all concentration and motivation to continue what I’m doing, my energy runs out.) Usually between 12/1pm – 2/3pm for 1 1/2 hours. I schedule this in first. This separates morning and afternoon. I then write down no more than two tasks each morning and one in the afternoon as I try to create only in the afternoon. It’s a very rough guide but it needs to be as I need to be really flexible. I need to be open to leave things or write them down on the list for next week.
I usually stop at around 4-5pm to cook dinner. I must remember that I still need energy to cook and do a chore, like putting the washing away. I take a shower and have the energy to chat to my husband and listen to how his day was and enjoy a few hours with him in the evening too.
So here are my top tips for staying productive whilst battling with a chronic illness:
1. Try to get up as early as you can, (a time that suits your body clock.) This can be tricky depending on how your night was but just remember that tomorrow is another day, and my moto is ‘tomorrow better’. When I have had a terrible night and I’m still going in and out of a nightmare or I’m in sleep paralysis, I try to take it easy on myself and be kind to myself. Then there is no rush.
2. Drink lots of water throughout the day. Staying hydrated helps concentration. (I find cold water with ice great for this.)
3. Breakfast is important, just a little something.
4. Take regular breaks. Set an alarm for 45 minutes. Work for those 45 minutes then stand up and go and get yourself another cup of tea or glass of water.
5. Fill in a Gratitude Journal. It’s important for me to note down what I have done that day as I tend to forget. It’s easy for me to think I’ve done nothing today and be really down on myself.
6. Make lists. Lots of lists. Brain dump. Use as many pieces of paper you need to write down your lists. It can be things you need to do today, this week, things within your business, a shopping list, things to do within the home or cleaning. Whatever it is, write it down. There is nothing better for productivity that a good old brain dump and clear out.
7. Get yourself a white board and write down your most important tasks you need to do each week. I suggest another one for those tasks you need to do but they don’t have to be done this week. You can then cross them off once they are done.
8. Set specific times/slots of the day to when you do specific things. E.g. Check your emails and respond, check for orders and reply, make orders up etc. Do each of these things at just one time slot a day so you are not constantly checking your email or order list. This will save you time and keep you concentrated.
9. Take time to unwind. Turn off the sound on your phone at the end of the day. Try to stay away from social media and really take a break from it. Leave correspondence to within business times.
10. Last but not least has to be about mental health. This is so important and extremely hard for many of us. I’ve touched on a few examples of things that you can do to help your mental health and stay on track but it’s really important not to get weighed down by it all. It will always be a mountain you have to climb but if you keep trying it won’t get to be a huge problem that get’s in the way. Sleep is such a fundamental necessity that we all need. As I miss out so much on sleep and real relaxation, I must ensure that I relax as much as possible at the right times. Relaxation can be found in many different forms like meditation, yoga, burning lavender oil I find helps enormously too. I find laughing and humour a necessity. That’s my go to for relaxation. If I can have a good laugh it relaxes me more. So good company or a funny film or comedian on the tv and I’m all set.
I really hope you have found these tips helpful. Like I said, it remains an ongoing battle but everyday I’m grateful to learn something new and everyday I’m grateful for the opportunity to grow within my business.
If you would like any further information on my condition or would like to read other articles I have written, you can find more information here.
You can find my website and shop where I sell my art & gifts here. https://nancyeartist.com
Subscribe to my newsletter here. https://nancyeartist.com/sign-up-to-newsletter/
Download my FREE Gratitude Journal here https://nancyeartist.com/gratitute-journal-sign-up