A Shocking Discovery About Surviving Conservation Craziness

I haven’t written anything in a while and the reason is that I’ve been run off my feet – completely! I’m glad to say that work has been coming in thick and fast for us at Antique Bronze and we’ve had a non-stop period between April up until last week. It’s been almost eight months where every hand has been on deck and I feel annoyed every time I see the dog asleep on the sofa – lazy sod!

Months of crazy happen every year so this year I thought I would do an experiment to see if there was a better way to cope with the demands of a sustained period of intense work. Usually, I never manage to do much CPD when we hit these seasons.  I knew it was unlikely that there would be anything over these months which would particularly stretch me in terms of my practical skills as a conservator, so this seemed a good way of encompassing CPD without adding more to my plate.

Let me start by setting out my stall in case you know nothing of me. I run a conservation company with my husband and apart from doing ‘boss’ things, I am a senior conservator meaning I’m a foot soldier heading up projects and a team. I have three kids age 13, 10, 7 and a crappy illness which I’m not going to go into, but it has to be managed. For fun, I write novels: Adventures for Art Lovers – think Dan Brown (I wish!) but set in the art world.

Girl in A Golden Cage

Due, I’d say, entirely to my experiment, I’ve managed pretty darn well this year compared to many others. I haven’t become totally run down, or lost myself in the black hole of work entirely, and the only thing I did differently was commit to this experiment.

They may not be nifty new methods of halting active corrosion discovered by a Hungarian conservator (if you are a Hungarian conservator with nifty tricks, I’d like to hear from you!) but they have had a very positive impact on both my physical and mental health this year.

I can sum up in one line what I did differently – I added to my day instead of deleting things as I have in previous years.

What?! I hear you scream. You are suggesting I add extra things to do when my head is spinning off.

Yes, I am and it works.

1. Meditation – Daily

When I get finally got home from work and my kids were chilling out, I took about 20 minutes (15 if I was really pushed) and lay on my bed to meditate. I could have napped, I suppose, but I was usually too wound up from the day to do that. I’m no meditation expert so I used the Headspace app which offers users guided meditation. It was a game-changer. It raised my energy – REALLY raised it! I was in a better mood afterwards, and I felt like I’d had a proper break unlike when I watched TV for 20 minutes and then had to be scraped off the sofa to start the next phase of the evening. It worked – try it.

2. Just keep swimming –2-3 times per week

We all know that exercise is vital for maintaining health, but it can become the thing you drop when you get busy, but DON’T because exercise boosts your immune system. Previously what has happened to me when I’ve put my head down and worked like a maniac is that the moment I stopped,  I got super-ill. This time I did not and my kids have been ill. We are like a bug-factory here – you can choose from all manner of colourful coughs, virus’ and stomach flus, most days.

Also, I noticed that even on the days when I had a lot of physical graft ahead of me, far from depleting my energy stores, it boosted them. I was more productive on the days that I swam at the crack of dawn. I will admit that getting up and out, is never that much fun. Swimming may not be your thing, it is mine, but any exercise does the trick.

3. Tracking – Daily

Over the last several years, I noticed a common thread appear: I started to feel down about life when I was only about a month into the thick of it. It came down to the fact that when stress is contaminating every area of your life, your memory plays tricks on you, or at least it did on me.

It just felt like all I was doing was working, but actually that wasn’t entirely true. This year, I started tracking. Not in an elaborate sense, but I have a small A4 sheet on my wall with the list of things I enjoy doing regularly – this might be dinner out with my husband, sewing, reading – I’ll leave other activities up to your imagination. Each time that I managed to do one of those things, I made sure that I tracked it on my chart. This might sound like baby-stuff, but it really works. When I was feeling a little low,  I glanced at my chart, and it reminded me,  I’m not just treading water – I still have a life.

4. Podcasts – Daily

Oh, let me eulogize about podcasts. When I had almost no time for reading, I found that I could fit in listening to a podcast during grey-time. This might be driving from place to place, walking between project sites or even doing mundane tasks like cleaning out my kit bag and brushes. You can be learning all the time if you have quality audio and I have some old regulars, which I love, and I always ask people, ‘What podcasts do you listen to?’

Often I was learning about things that were not on my CPD radar, but it doesn’t mean they weren’t worth knowing about, and some have made it through to THE list, meaning they are now areas which I’m keen to devote more time to in that far-off-future when I’m not so busy.

5. A Project for You – Daily

I cannot stress the importance of this one. For me,  I take great pleasure in writing fiction. I lose myself in other places and characters that I love and hate,  but anything that you really enjoy counts. What I’ve discovered is that my mindset is better when I fit in the odd ten minutes during a day to work on something for me.

I was less tired rather than more when I did make the effort and the amazing thing is that increments of time add up to a lot during a year. Despite my stupid schedule, I will have my third novel out in Spring 2018 and that’s all just from totalling up tiny scraps of time each day.

So next time you hit a busy spell, don’t delete the best bits of your life, but double down on them. It really does keep you going.

Do drop me a line to tell me your coping strategies for when you are crazy-busy and if you’d like to know about my new release, do sign-up to my reader’s club at my website www.lucybranch.com