Susie Ghahremani is an award-winning illustrator, an internationally exhibiting artist, an educator, an entrepreneur, a designer and an advocate for the illustration community. She wears a lot of hats! The Spire team was lucky enough to have Susie do our recent Let’s Take a Breath infographic and illustrations. We spoke with Susie a bit about her own relationship to breathing and her tips for staying calm and focused despite a formidable workload.
Hey, Susie! So, how aware were you of the importance of your breathing patterns prior to working with Spire?
The moment I heard about Spire, I knew it was something I was interested in — I am aware of how breath affects my mental state. I do yoga and meditate and notice that when I am good about those two practices, my work and work stresses are so much more manageable! We all need the reminder to be aware of our breath throughout our days to offset the stresses we deal with daily!
Have you noticed any quirks you have around breathing?
When I am painting a long line, I hold my breath like I’m diving underwater. I think I do it to keep my arm steady, or maybe it’s just the anxiety around trying to make the perfect mark!
I also sometimes work on very difficult deadlines and will notice my breathing become shallow (or even escalate into asthma!!) from the stress of trying to rush to meet a demand! Stress and breath are so obviously directly connected.
How often do you catch yourself doing this? And what do you do when you catch yourself?
I take a deep three-part inhale, sometimes visualizing the air rushing up to my mind, and raining back down, re-energizing me. I try to straighten my posture. If my breath is shortened because of panic, I take a moment to go outside to get some fresh air. I try to even notice my breath when I lie down to sleep at night. Sometimes just taking that time to take deep breaths can lead to more restful sleep.
You wear a lot of hats and probably have to juggle a ton of different projects at once, how do you keep yourself calm and focused?
I try to handle one thing at a time as much as possible. I love my work, so I’m naturally calm and focused when I’m creating it. It’s when I try to multi-task that I sometimes bring stress and confusion into my life.
I feel more calm and focused if I have not overcommitted, so I think that’s part of it too — schedule yourself for what you’re actually capable of achieving, and then you’ll be calm and focused as you work through the commitments you’re happy you’ve made, knowing you’ve given yourself the space and time necessary to meet the task!
Any tips for folks with similarly hectic schedules? Any sage words of advice you can share?
- One thing at a time.
- When stresses converge, try to untangle and prioritize them.
- Write lists to work through your steps to meet a difficult task or hectic schedule.
- Deep breaths help manage stresses!!
- Delegate or ask for help if feeling overwhelmed.
- Awareness of self — our own capacities, our breathing, our relaxation and sleep and recovery — is key.
- Give yourself time to recover from stresses.
- Take care of your mind and body and you’ll find yourself facing a more manageable schedule.
Stay tuned for more illustrations from Susie on the Spire blog, as well as more interviews with busy folks who know how to stay calm and focused despite it all.
Photos by Suzanne Strong Film