Sometimes, when I least expect it I can very easily become overwhelmed, in the moment it feels very much like it's crept up on me and pounced; but in reality that's not the case.
I've been journalling on and off my whole adult life but more intentionally so over the last three years and I've become aware of a pattern (which is one of the many reasons journalling is amazing!).
By realising there's a pattern and that both my own cycle (I could also talk about my love of cycle tracking here but will save that for another day) alongside seasonal changes can layer on feelings of overwhelm at times I've become so much kinder to myself during my times of ebb and flow.
So, these days when I'm beginning to feel those familiar feelings of nervous tension, when I start to overthink and over research which pack of printer paper will be best value rather than just buying a pack and getting on with my work (true story I once wasted an entire afternoon doing just that!) I try to kindly catch myself and instead try to decipher what the REAL reason for my feelings are... because there is always a real reason hiding in plain sight.
One of the best ways for me to shift out of the overthinking/over researching cycle I default to is to leave my house (something which isn't instinctive for me to do when I'm in prime worry mode) and to take some photos. Over the years I've tried to go and sit and draw or paint somewhere but for me personally the benefits are not as great as when I take photos. The best way for me is to leave my bigger cameras at home and to just take my iphone with me, it helps me to feel like I blend in as I'm snapping away especially if I'm going somewhere more public.
One of my favourite things to do is to give myself a topic, there doesn't need to be any meaning to what I pick so I often pick a card from a prompt set I made for myself for occasions like this. Some days it's a colour, other days it's a texture or a feeling that I'm trying to document, some days I just 'know' what I want to photograph so I just go with my instinct on it.
Yesterday for me was one of those days, I woke up feeling a bit frustrated and twitchy. Mid January is a tough ol' time isn't it! Luckily my family love an impromptu expedition so we all set off for a nearby National Trust garden wrapped up in lots of layers and I spent several delightful hours photographing Lichen as we explored.
The combination of crisp Wintery air and the unexpected flashed of colour that I found as I explored did me the world of good.
When I give myself permission to notice (both my inner monologue and the outside world) I find that my perspective snaps right back into place and it comes with the huge with the huge added bonus that I often have new ideas that may or may not be related to the images I've captured.
Step one is the intention setting.
Something as simple as noticing how you're feeling, writing it if you journal or in a sketch book if you use one. Then making a gentle plan to consciously look and notice something. If you're not able to go out (and there have been times when I just couldn't face it/manage it) this can absolutely be done in your home/garden too with sometimes incredibly powerful results.
Step two is the noticing
Using a phone camera is such a great instant way to notice and capture, it's not about the quality, if you have the space on your phone take as many as you can because that really helps the next step. This can be done ANYWHERE, I've been known to use this practice while in hospitals visiting unwell friends and feeling anxious, when I've been visiting a busy city and feeling twitchy/unsettled, and when I've been housebound, feeling really low and overcome with 'cabin fever' as I recovered from Flu induced Pneumonia. In fact that occasion helped me to fall in love with pockets of my home as I gently explored my house searching for the colour yellow and the feeling of joy.
Step three is reflection
It can be very easy to skip this step but I implore you to at least try this part a couple of times.
It doesn't have to be done on the same day, it can be done the next day if it's easier but I've found that the reflection part can be where the magic happens for me. I go through my photos on my phone with some nice music on editing/cropping and then selecting only the ones that evoke a feeling and popping them into a separate album on my phone. I set a ten/fifteen minute time limit on this stage for me, I've found it helps me to be decisive and I have two children so time is often in short supply too, if it dragged on I'd also find myself making excuses not to do it and I do not need any reason to be avoidant since that is my default behaviour!
As I do it I often mull over what I was feeling as I took them and if I have my journal or sketch book nearby I might write any random words or thoughts that pop into my head. If I never use those thoughts or images ever again that is absolutely fine. They have served their purpose. It's really important that there's no sense of weight or pressure to any of this process because the reason I do this is to help me shift out of that space.
I've found that the reflection stage really helps me to move forward and feel a LOT better, if you find it doesn't serve you then do what feels good for you.
If you feel inspired to try this out please do let me know how you get on, I'd love to know what you think of it! I'll share some of my photos below so you can see what caught my eye yesterday.