When tough times happen, it makes me what to be home more than ever, but Manchester will always give me strength, the resilience and humour that is found in the people during dark times is what keeps me grounded and able to look for the positives in every situation.
When I lived in the UAE I was still surrounded by Mancunians and the banter was all around me. When I moved to NYC I found comfort in the Victorian architecture and industrial parts of the city.
I take Manchester with me everywhere I go. It’s easy for me not being there any more to understand how lucky I am to be from Manchester, but I hope that anyone at home right now knows this, you were born in the best city in the world and you owe it to your city to stand strong and look after each other and yourself. Now more than ever.
Working as an artist and an ex-pat has armed me with many things for during times like this.
Artists are used to long hours isolated from the world. You must do this to get serious work done. Having not lived in the UK for nearly 9 years now I’m very used to being away from loved ones so I hope that some of my advice will come in handy for those who have been thrust into this situation and are feeling lonely, sad, isolated and or all of the above. These are all totally normal.
Firstly, you must look after yourself
The mind, the body and the soul need extra attention during these times. I’ve experienced the difference in doing so and not. The latter isn’t good. Eat well, do something you love or at least enjoy and that doesn’t include watching Netflix.
I get immense enjoyment from my plants and just looking after them, planting something or walking in nature. Allow yourself to be free. Take your time and try not to slip into too many bad habits. Try something new, don’t get too set in your ways.
Hold yourself accountable to your highest standards
I think so many have found themselves bombarded with work that you need to allow yourself some time. We all know the difference between working too hard and needing a break or pretending you do and being lazy. Hold yourself accountable, because no one else will. Walk away from the fridge!!
You can still make connections from your sofa
When I first moved to NYC I was floored by working from home, there was this big city going on outside with so much to do and explore and I had no idea where to start. After a few months of making zero progress with my art, I knew I had to take action. I had to allow myself time to settle into a new country, city, home and lifestyle where I had a total of zero friends.
I got out and made them, even though we can’t do that right now, you can still make connections online. Reach out to people you haven’t been in touch with in a long while because life got too busy.
Times like these have us feeling exactly who we want to reach out to. Offer your help and support. Times are hard for everyone, the only thing we can do is give. People will remember those that gave at times like these.
When in doubt tidy up
Keep your space tidy (and clean) – just doing this will create flow and let your energy move around you. Leave your work area tidy at the end of the day – it’s going to set you up for a better day tomorrow.
Be careful what you give your attention to. There are distractions everywhere, even in isolation. Try not to spend hours watching trash or searching social media. It will seep into your brain and before you know it you’re left with the biggest joy thief…comparison.
It happens to all of us but it can be dangerous, too much looking outward can make you forget who you are and what you’re about. Happiness is an inside job. We all have been plunged into a state where we no longer care about possessions, we understand what and who are important. Keep focusing on you.
You have to look after your mental health too. After being alone all day and night you must speak to people. You have to find time to FaceTime, use all and any of the apps available. Balance it well with work, book in times for meetings, send calendar reminders. It might all seem a bit too much at a time like this, but this too shall pass, and you want to make sure that when you’re at the end of it you will come out prepared and ready, not regretful.
Embrace the uncertainty
The not knowing is another area I have much experience of, not knowing when this will be over, how scary it will be, if your job and income are stable, so what’s the point?
Well, we all know that eventually that this will pass. We need to make sure we are prepared for it and have positioned ourselves in the best way we can. As artists, we work all the time with no idea what the outcome will be, but we learn to keep pushing, the outcome is not what we focus on but the journey and the process.
In the beginning, I had no idea if people would like my work and if it would sell, but you work with the faith that you like it and you are doing it for a reason. We must adopt these ways, even if you have lost your income or are seeing may around you, to dwell on the what-ifs won’t be helpful. Have your moment and then push through, keep making progress, humans need to be making progress.
When we were kids we never knew what tomorrow would bring, and that didn’t stop us living our days with fun and joy. Try to allow yourself to stop worrying even for an hour a day. put a timer on and unleash your inner child.
Preparation limits procrastination
Times like these, when you’re alone and just have no idea where to start, preparation will help you in times of indecision. I’m the worst at making decisions when you run a business and your mind is taxed daily with creative decisions you literally run out of the capacity to make any more decisions.
Preparing your meals is a good idea for isolation as when the lack of motivation kicks in your first calling will be to the fridge. Also planning what you’re wearing. Go ahead and be comfy but get up, do whatever you do to feel good and dress appropriately for the task. It took me a long time to get to this but I now live in jumpsuits and smock dresses, comfortable, still look good and great for splashing paint all over.
Don’t sit down all day – very tricky when you are working from home on a laptop, but if you can move to a taller surface do it and stand for a while too. Sitting is as bad as smoking for your body.
Take a cold shower
On the days I just want to stay in bed, take small steps, don’t think about the enormity of the day ahead, just stand up, stretch, walk to the bathroom, have a shower, and switch it to cold for the last 60 seconds. You’ll be surprised how this can motivate you for the whole day it will literally spring you into action. It’s a shocker at first but you’ll reap the benefits all day long.
Go easy on yourself
Try to be easy on yourself. All of the above shouldn’t be a slog, its really great that gurus say, oh you feel down, go for a run, but what if you can’t even get out of bed? Develop simple and easy practices for yourself. I know I spend way to much time stood still so I built working out into my routine.
Getting up at 6 am and walking 10 blocks to your gym in -20c weather (which is 5 months in NYC) is hard and your brain will not want to do it. So I started doing at home hot workouts, much easier and now I’m set up for them, I can do them when I want. I do a bare minimum, really bad excuse for a workout, a lot of the time, but often doing that makes me move more.
Start moving when you can. When I feel an afternoon slump I blast my favourite song and dance around the studio, that is joyful and I have moved.