Many creative people are much more sensitive to stressful situations versus others. It took me a while to accept this about myself but once I did, I discovered that I needed to put some self-care rituals and practices as a part of my daily, weekly and monthly routine in order to keep my balance in an often unbalanced world. Not easy, especially in word we currently live in, however, I have found that over time the practices I put in place has helped me exercise a more mindful way of life.
In talking with other creatives as well as my own experiences, thought I would share these tips that might be helpful to others who might find their own creative practice hampered because of the stress and emotional fatigue of everyday life. Please note that doing any or all of these doesn’t necessarily make you as calm as all get out or keep you from having moments that may throw you off balance, but it does keep help you recover and/or keep your emotions in check and ultimately be able to help your creative practice on a regular basis.
Meditation: Meditation is an opportunity to get still, empty your mind and focus only on your breath. During the last year or so, I have been starting my day with meditation. Because I often have a “monkey mind” which wanders a bit much during this time, I have been using a lot of guided meditations from those I find on YouTube to more formal versions by Iyanla Vanzant, as well as Oprah and Deepak’s 21-Day Meditation Experience. I save them on my smartphone so I can bring them up whenever I need them. There so many apps for phones now with online guided meditations or music to meditate to which appeals to many people on the go these days. Give a few a try and see what appeals to you most.
Yoga: Every damn day. No…not really, but I have developed a fairly regular practice through my favorite yoga studio Radiance Yoga in Old Town Alexandria. I also practice at a number of yoga studios across the DC area depending on what they offer. A few offer unique combinations of art and yoga, such as Thrive Yoga in Rockville, Maryland which I am aching to try. I recently participated in one through Blue Heron Wellness in Silver Spring, Maryland, that combined hiking and yoga which was one of my favorite experiences to date. If a yoga studio is out of your budget, you may want to check out apps, rent a DVD, check out yogis on YouTube or explore online courses that provide an opportunity to practice at home. There are courses and content for every level and style. Explore the yoga styles and traditions (Hatha versus Kundalini verus Bikram, etc.) that allow you to reach the level of relaxation the most.
Spending time in Nature: I am a big, big fan of this. Spending time in nature can make all the difference in the world. When you contemplate the wonders of nature, you will find it uplifting and inspirational to your own creative practice. A visit to your local, state, or national parks is all you need. Or even your own back yard! Can’t get to an area outdoors? Hit YouTube or a nature channel and insert yourself mentally into your favorite landscape!
Exercise: There are research studies on the benefits of exercise and how that in addition to shaping and toning your body, that it elevates your mood and helps you deal with stress effectively. Join a gym, recreation center or a walking group to get moving. Meetup.com is a cool place to find people who like doing the kind of exercise you might be interested in. If affordability is a factor or the group exercise is not something you’re into, find a way to incorporate exercise to other passions. For example, although I am a member of a gym, I am not a fan of that atmosphere, so as a nature lover, I am into walking or hiking (a new passion) outdoors which combines both of my love of movement and nature in one shot. Check with your doctor to make sure that you engage in the right exercise that is safe for you, especially if you have physical challenges and restrictions. There is a right kind of exercise for everyone so don’t let any limitations keep you from healthy movement.
Spiritual Practice: Attending a church or religious service with other like minds can be very stablizing. Hearing the positive and encouraging messages from a church or religious leader, participating in community outreach or mission activities and surrounding yourself with others who share your beliefs adds to supporting your wellbeing. If you don’t belong to a church or practice a religion, you can create your own spiritual rituals to support your beliefs. This might be meeting with a spirtual support group, creating spirtual practice at home that might include setting up your own altar, daily spiritual or contemplative readings, or rituals that feed your soul.
Alternative Therapies: Have you ever tried something different, such as acupuncture, massage, reiki (energy healing) or crystal bowl sound healing? That might sound a bit “woo woo” but exploring a different culture’s ancient forms of healing arts might surprise you on how you respond to them. Check out the practioners of any alternative therapy and ask questions of others who have participated in the activity or treatment before pursuing…not everyone is certified or properly trained to be a practioner, especially since many fields of alternative therapy is not regulated.
Your “Front Row”: One of my favorite inspirational teachers is author and speaker, Sophia Nelson, who I follow a lot on social media. She talks about know your “Front Row”…i.e. your friends, family and support system. These are the people you should be able to go to when things aren’t going well (and celebrate with when they are)…the people who got your back whatever the situation. My Front Row has changed and shifted during the years, but I am blessed to have always had someone around who was patient, loving and willing to listen to me when things weren’t going well. Your Front Row doesn’t have to reflect a stadium of people, it could be just a handful of people that you can go to listen, give authentic advice and most of all remind you of how special you are. However, be discerning…not everyone who is eager to be a listening ear has your best interests at heart. You can also “wear” folks out if you don’t take charge of your problems and continue to “dump” on them. Check your “Front Row” regularly, people change and sometimes you find that they are not as supportive as you thought or may be indirectly contributing to your negative feelings.
Create: You are a natural creative….do what you do best…put your energy into creating something new as a way to work through your negative feelings. You may not feel like creating but once you decide, just do it! You may be surprised how feelings like grief, depression, anxiety, etc. can be fuel for some of the most beautiful art, poetry, writing that ever existed. Ask Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey and Adele…all three wrote and co-produced music that was influenced by heartbreak that not only were critically acclaimed but smashed sales records across the country and around the world.
Seek Professional Help: Many people still have a stigma of going to a psychologist, counselor, spiritual advisor or other professional to share their frustrations and feelings. Don’t forget to explore art therapy, especially if you respond well to creative ways of dealing with problems. With so many celebrities (including English Royalty) coming out and sharing how they sought professional help to deal with their problems, you would think that this stigma would have gone by the way side. Don’t let the stigma of seeing a professional or what your family and friends may think stop you from seeking help, especially when you are battling prolong feelings of depression or hopelessness. There are many sources to help you, including one of my favorite charities, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, who maintain hotlines and referral services as well as in person and online group counseling resources. Seek these free resources to help you move forward with a productive and inspiring creative life.