Overwhelm Relief For Artists

Do you sometimes look around you at all you have to do, and just want to go running the other direction?

Do you see a huge MESS in front of you, and just feel frozen?

Sometimes, it just feels easier to just binge watch the latest Netflix original, than to actually clear the clutter, because the question that always rises screaming to the top is…

What the HECK do I do first?
Where do I start?

This is ALL important, and ALL of it has to be done.

And yet, you feel completely unmotivated, shut down, and stressed.

Overwhelm comes in, has a party, and steals your precious time.

Projects go by the wayside, deadlines are missed, and you feel like you are just chasing your tail with your Art.

If only you had a magic wand….
Then you could just wave it, and everything would just go away and be magically done!

Sounds like a unachievable fantasy, right?

Perhaps not……

 

Last week my kitchen was a disaster site.

I moved into my new house with my man on Sunday the 25th, and then on Monday, my mother and I attacked the kitchen.

A phenomenal cook, the kitchen is really her place of genius.  Also, my mother is incredible at setting up systems and spacial awareness.  She can look at a space, and knows exactly what can fit there.  During this past move, I commonly referred to her as a packing ninja, and that still may be too soft a term for her talents.

I had my boxes from Astoria with my whole kitchen, and it was time to meld with my man’s, which had pretty much been a bachelor’s kitchen, so there was going to be a LOT of reorganizing, donating, and throwing out.

This was a HUGE project.

First order of business?

Take everything out of the cabinets and drawers.

Next, create piles.
Keep
Donate
Trash
Question mark as to whether to donate or trash

The peacefulness of the kitchen was replaced with absolute chaos. And this chaos spread over a very large space.

It looked as though every cabinet had vomited it’s contents onto the counters, chairs, dining AND living room.

Next we took out post it notes, and decided where everything was going to go.  We categorized and stuck the post it notes on each cabinet door and drawer to know where things would go.

With every cabinet door wide open, and white sticky notes everywhere, I could feel that moment of overwhelm hitting me.

Standing in the kitchen, I could feel myself starting to freak out, the tops of my large Uhaul boxes yawning wide open as if to demand,
Where are you going to put me, Nikol??

And a panic rising for HOW LONG was this going to take?
What was the best way to do it?
Could this just be DONE now?
What about all the other unpacking?

And then something magical happened.

I thought of you, and I knew what to do to overcome the overwhelm.
I knew exactly how to quiet the craziness in my head, and actually step out of feeling stuck.

 

My clients come to me all the time from a place of overwhelm.  It’s so common, we all do it!
And every time I meet them the same way,

I allow them to get everything OUT of their heads and hearts.

Then I chunk it down to ONE step.

ONE thing.

When it’s just swirling around in our minds, it can feel like you are going crazy, much like me believing my Uhaul boxes were yelling at me.

In the process of getting everything OUT in the open, then there is a powerful opportunity.

Your opportunity to prioritize.

Ask yourself, what is most important?

As Artists, we are idea machines.  It’s never a problem of creation, it’s what the HECK do we do with it, and what will actually help me to receive the acclaim I desire and allow me to make a living with my art.

So, take out a piece of paper, and write down everything you need to do for you Art.  Just let it all tumble out, messy and in any form.

Now,

* Categorize your tasks according to marketing, production, networking, etc.
* Within each category, ask what needs to be in place FIRST for each of these lists.  For instance, you will need content before creating a promo period for your next project.  Or you may need to do research FIRST to begin your newest crowdfunding.
* Get super clear on WHAT your end goal is.  Write this down.  Be very specific.  This could be,
Self publish a book
Book summer tour
Do a FB Live promo campaign
Crowdfund new album
Set up website for online sales

** And this is the most important…..ask yourself, What is My Vision?
What is most important to me as an Artist?

Look again at your tasks, and align them with your vision.  If your vision is to perform on global stages, but you have a task that’s associated with building a local network, place this to the side, and instead put your energy towards tasks that get you seen by more, whether that is international connections, or by building up your online presence.

Much like the piles I made with the kitchen, you are deciding what to:
Keep OR Trash

I have a very strong vision for my new home, one where the kitchen is a vibrant place of creation and health that will not only feed me and my man, but the family we are creating together.  Because of this vision, setting up systems and flow are paramount. It also meant that any kitchen tools that were unsafe were going to be thrown out or donated.

Connecting back to my vision really helped in that moment of overwhelm, once I remembered to chunk it down to ONE step.

So, I chose ONE cabinet and started to put things in it.
Then when that was done, I chose ONE other cabinet.

One step at a time, all towards my vision.

And my mother and I were able to get the kitchen set up in two days.

My panic for the amount of time lifted the moment I chunked it down, and connected back to WHY I was doing this in the first place.

 

So, what are you working on right now?

Once you lay out all the steps, and eliminate what is no longer necessary, what is left?

And what is ONE thing you can do today?

Chunk it down, and watch the magic unfold, much faster than you thought possible.

Turns out, you are powerful.

 

The Zen of Art

You Need Meditation

The voice was pretty clear and distinct.

I was in tech for a production of A Christmas Carol out in Salt Lake City, and my life was falling apart.  My husband had just flown out and told me he didn’t want to be married anymore. I thought we were going to spend the holiday trying to have a baby, not end our 19 year relationship.

You can imagine, I was in a LITTLE bit of shock.

I had been practicing yoga for a while, and it was at the end of my practice, that the voice came in.

I had never had a meditation practice, and honestly, wasn’t even sure what it really meant.

All I knew was I was in a ton of pain, and I needed something new.  Something was missing.

Clearly, something needed to change.  I felt like my whole world was spinning out of control.

Have you felt this?
What do you do when life seems to cut you off from your Art?

Somehow I was getting through my performances, but felt like I was moving through a terrible nightmare.  I didn’t feel connected to my art.

All I felt was fear.

You can imagine, my performance career came to a grinding halt.

 

Two months later, once I had returned to NYC, and the divorce was under way, I went and took my first yoga class.

The holidays had been the worst time of my life, opening presents with a man who didn’t love me anymore, and I hadn’t been on the mat in weeks.  Today, I was starting to take the reins back on my life and what I wanted moving forward.

I went to the library with the intention to buy a book on Meditation.  Here we go!

A title caught my eye, and I pulled it out and opened to randomly read.

It was as if every word was jumping off the page, saying,
YES!

The biggest surprise was I actually had picked up a book on Tibetan Buddhism, not meditation.

Wait….I came here today looking for meditation…

This simple book (which I devoured in days, underlining and dog earring) opened the door to a whole new search, and I began to explore different Buddhist centers in the city.

Who knew I was actually seeking Buddhism?  Apparently I did…I just hadn’t heard it until NOW.

I tried many of them, and while all were helpful in some way, none seemed to feel like HOME.

Something was still missing.

Until I took an intro to Zen Training weekend up at Zen Mountain Monastery. I woke before the sun to meditate with many others in this beautiful monastery, the ceiling rising high above me.

In the stillness and dark of the early morning, as I counted my breath, tears began to fall. Tears of recognition, and tears of sweet relief.  This is what my body had been calling for.  THIS is what was missing.

A way to work with my mind.
An experience of true space.
The ability to actually HEAR what is rising and falling.

And the tools to let go.

I had gone through a career of holding on for dear LIFE my expectations, my perfectionism, and comparing myself constantly to other performers. And now, as I had NO control of the immense loss of my marriage, I was being given the tools I needed to face it.

And actually they were the tools I needed all along.

I just wasn’t listening to my body’s messages.

 

What are you holding on to?

What is your body calling for to help you become the Artist you truly want to be?

Can you even hear it?

In that moment of absolute pain, there was NO denying what I needed. I certainly didn’t think it was going to turn into becoming a Zen practitioner, but once I found the practice, my whole life fell into place.

I had a complete resurgence in my performance career.
I found the work I REALLY wanted to be doing as an Artist, and launched ZenRedNYC.
I built a business from scratch, doing work I love that makes more money than ever before.

I now could HEAR what I needed.

In having a practice that connected me to my breath and the present moment, my whole outlook changed.

We can so often get caught in the static,

No one wants your work
Artists have to starve
Making money is selling out
Claiming the spotlight is selfish

There is so much JUNK out there that we take in, on a daily basis not only from fellow colleagues who want you to join their pity party, but from parents, society, and the news.

What’s the answer?

SILENCE.

All that junk?  It’s just noise.  And it’s not helping you move forward and step into your full creative power. The junk is keeping you stuck and filling your airwaves with confusion.

If you are feeling something’s missing, then you haven’t had the clear open space to really hear what you need.

Today, you can begin to incorporate one of the most important tools as an Artist,
CURIOSITY.

So, take a moment today, and sit down for 5 minutes. Close your eyes, and come into your body.

Place your attention on your breath.

And from this experience of SPACE, simply ask,

What is it I most need?

It’s all inside.

Create the space, so you can hear.

 

 

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography