If creativity is a muscle, how come we don’t treat it the same way as we do our physical or mental muscles?
Most of us commit ourselves to some form of self-care, whether that means hitting the gym, meditating, or journaling as a way of taking care of our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. The wellness equation never included creativity in it, but after experiencing some real lows in the recent past, I began to see how nourishing our creative side can actually help impact the other areas in our lives as well.
Creative wellness is all about balancing creativity with all the other corners of our lives. In my fair share of art blocks, periods of burnout, and self-doubting moments, I’ve come to learn that these mental challenges are often a sign of imbalance. Burnout is an energy depletion likely due to overworking (physical + mental), but can be balanced with play or a paint night with friends (creative). Art blocks might ask us to pull back on our creative muscles and instead focus on caring for ourselves, the space and relationships around us (mental + emotional).
Now to the average person, the word “creativity” doesn’t strike as relevant unless you are strumming an instrument or sitting with a sketchbook and pencil in hand. The truth is, all of us are creative by nature even if you consider yourself a pragmatic type-A individual. From picking out outfits in the mornings, finding creative solutions at work,
or even trying your hand at a new recipe, creativity is a muscle we use often to garner new perspectives, expand our mind’s eye and the world around us.
So what does practicing creative wellness for ourselves look like?
Becoming More Mindful
Let’s dispel the word “mindfulness” first — it has an image of being a hippie ritual of meditating, journaling, or yoga. Don’t get me wrong, I practice these things all the time, but being mindful is smaller than you think. Instead of mindlessly drifting from task to task and living an empty cycle of work-eat-sleep, becoming more present and mindful can help us identify when we feel off-balance and seek the voice of our inner creative.
When I start feeling overwhelmed with work, I can feel my anxiety levels rise with the shallowness of breath and my head getting clouded with checkboxes as though my entire life is just one big to-do list. In that moment, taking one deep breath can keep me from spiralling into the future and look for ways to stabilize the imbalance whether that’s taking out a colouring book or going on a short photo walk.
Here are a few ideas to help you start becoming more mindful:
Take a deep breath in between switching activities to help our body and mind transition, such as eating lunch after a 3 hour work session
Ask yourself “what do I need right now?”.
List 5 things in your surroundings to help draw you back into the present
Make Room for Play
Quite often we recall feeling the most in touch with our creative sides as children — building sandcastles, making up imaginary stories, and colouring with our fingers. Even now when we engage in creative activities like songwriting or painting, the best work gets made when we allow ourselves to just play and bravely explore new ideas. But the problem for many of us is that we don’t know how to tap into that childlike state because as we’ve gotten older, we’ve forgotten about the inner child inside of us.
Think of something you had fun doing as a child, then intentionally carve out time in your schedule for it (trust me, the busier you are, the more you’re gonna need this). Your inner grown-up might try and resist, so push past the critical voice and give it a go. It doesn’t need to be a big production either, just 15 minutes is all you need. For me, I enjoyed writing poems a lot as a kid and it’s something I’m looking forward to doing this week!
Discipline might not go hand in hand with the fun and easygoing creative person you aspire to be, but I’m telling you that practicing creative wellness isn’t a walk in the park. Integrating structure and discipline was the best thing I’ve ever done to help foster my creativity and increase productivity in my life.
In the book Essentialism, Greg McKeown says ““Essentialists see trade-offs as an inherent part of life, not as an inherently negative part of life. Instead of asking, ‘What do I have to give up?” they ask, “What do I want to go big on?’”. By prioritizing creative wellness, we make time for the important things knowing that the long-term return will be life-changing.
Reflect on things you can cut back time on and see how making space for creativity can impact your mood, mindset, and work ethic. For me, my “creative hour” is where I set aside an hour at least 3 days to focus solely on making something that gets me excited. Additionally, I’ll trade a social engagement for a few hours to myself, to explore a new place and find inspiration in the unexpected.
In sharing these tools that I’m still learning to incorporate in my own life, I’m hoping that we can adventure into the steps of creative wellness together and continue exploring more topics like this one. If you’ve read to the end, big thanks to you and let me know any thoughts or questions that you might still have!