When many of us think of "self-care" we tend to think of activities such as massage, yoga, physical activity, hanging out in nature, sleep, meditation, etc. We don't think much about doing art or some other creative activity as a form of "self-care". But I invite you to think of it in this way.
For me, my creative practice is one of my favorite self-care activities. Of course there is "work" involved, looking at composition, the images, thinking of what I want to convey, etc. But it is my favorite form of work....I get lost in it...I forget about the craziness in the world...my only focus is that art piece. I put on music that soothes my soul, scents that inspires and relaxes me whether it is essential oils or incense and I become one with my art.
A creative practice connects us to another place and a product of this connection is what ever we produce as a result. It is also a stress reliever and can be a way to deal with anxiety. An asociate of mine, who found himself caring for his elderly parents full time, would spend his time either in nature or creating art...using alcohol inks on small tiles, creating the most beautiful abstract pieces. At my last count, he was approaching somewhere between an impressive 80 and over 100 pieces of small abstract art as a result.
In a recent blog article from PsychCentral by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. on this topic included some ways that art and creativity can be utilized as a source of self-care from artist Stephanie Medford and Natalie Foster, LAMFT, ATR, an intuitive mentor and registered art therapist. I share a few from this article below:
"Collage your emotions. Self-care includes acknowledging, honoring and holding space for our emotions. When Medford is stuck on a difficult emotion, she creates a collage about it using old magazines and found papers. She looks for images, colors and shapes that express how she’s feeling. It’s a quick and messy process. Which is the point: These collages “are more about processing the feeling than making ‘art.’” "
"Play with clay. “Clay is a very kinesthetic and grounding media that helps us feel in control when things are not so orderly in the ongoings of our lives,” Foster said. Crayola makes an air-dry clay, or you can get non-drying modeling clay and store it in an air-tight container, she said."
"Draw your mood daily. Medford has a journal that contains pages with 2 x 2 inch squares. Every day she fills in one square expressing her mood that morning. “A big part of working through my anxiety is noticing how it feels in my body, and what images and colors it brings to mind,” Medford said. “Paying close attention to my experience, and drawing what I find, helps me to take some of the power away from the feelings and gives it back to me and my creativity.”
"Tell your story. Foster suggested creating an altered book. For instance, every day or once a week, you decorate the pages in any way you like. You might include important mementos or personal photos. “Over time the right story will come out—whether it’s your whole life story, or the story of your growth in the past year.”
"Write About Your Art. Writing about your art can spark important insights. Foster recommended journaling after you’ve completed a piece or project and then returning to it weeks or months later: “How have you changed since making the piece? How do you still think you need to adapt in order to reflect what you are creating in your life?”
Again, I invite you to explore how art and creativity can connect you to your emotions. What other ways has your creativity has helped to address your own self-care needs? Feel free in the comments below!
Many people ask me how I make time to create with so much going on in my life. Part of it is because I am a Gemini (ha,ha)...but mostly is because I learned the hard way what it feels like to not be able to create. I decided once I unblocked myself, it was important for me to nurture and encourage my creative muse at all costs.
To say that it has been easy would be untrue....there are days and weeks when my other world takes precedent and I am unable to make my creative practice a priority. But in those times, I make note of the things that inspire me, the ideas that come to me, and the images that get my attention. When the time comes again for me to resume my creative practice, I collect the ideas, images, etc., that I found during the time of unproductivity which helps me jump start my creative practice without searching for ideas.
So you may be telling yourself, that's great for you, but how can I possibly fit in my creative practice when I have a household to run, a full-time job, care taking of elderly parents, and other demands on my time? Here are a few ideas to help you determine whether or not that is truly a reality for you:
Once you decide that your creativity IS an important part of your life that should not be given to chance, you can take the steps to infuse it into your schedule. Don't worry about how much time you can spend right away, as you move forward and become more disciplined, you will find that it will take the right place in your schedule naturally.
I believe the most important part of unblocking and sparking our creative magic is owning our creative identity. Buying into this aspect of our lives in imperative for us to show up as the creative beings we are.
For a long time, I didn't feel comfortable saying I was an "artist." I mean, I felt in order to have to say that you had to have gone to art school, have your work in somebody's gallery, sold to wealthy collectors, and have critics write about you, yada, yada, yada. It was only after I had started reading some great books about creativity and started creating for creativity's sake, did I take in the notion that I am indeed an artist.
Many people suffer from Imposter Syndrome, which Scientific American defines this as a "pervasive feeling of self-doubt, insecurity or fraudulence despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary." Successful and talented people of all walks of life suffer from it....particularly many creatives. Have you said or heard someone say, "I am not an artist, I just paint stuff sometimes." Or "I'm not creative, anyone can do that." When we have a story in our heads of how a creative person supposed to look like and we have felt that we don't live up to that story, we don't own our creative identity.
How does Imposter Syndrome start in the first place? This is not an easy answer to identify. There are some researchers who say that certain personality traits can lead people to feel this way about their talents and successes. Others feel that it may have started when you were young when a teacher, family member or someone significant made fun of your artwork. It may have been that your creative work was not recognized by someone special. Or it may be we entered into another field of work, got busy with a family or career, or caught up into a lifestyle where we fantasize about being a musician, artist or some other creative, but believe that we could not really do it and could never claim that identity as part of ourselves.
Steps to Regaining Your Sense of Creative Identity:
Here's a few steps that I recommended to help you move past Imposter's Syndrome to gain a positive sense of your creative identity:
1. Discover and record what makes you feel inspired and creative by going on an artist's date. Does live music or a trip to a museum do it for you? Does being a craft store or a specialty store inspire you? Does nature? How does these things help you get in touch with your creative side?
2. Make a list of why you don't feel that you are a creative person. Look at the list and then write a counter list of affirmations that negate what you wrote. Ex.: I am not an artist because I didn't go to art school. Affirmation: I am artist because I express myself creatively. Period.
2. Take notice and record the positive things that people say about your creative talents. That includes what grandma said, the comments on your Instagram or Facebook post showing your work, the causal stranger who admired your knitted gloves, everything that people have said complimentary that you can remember over the years. Record this information to look at when you feel down or unsure about who you are as a creative individual.
3. Pay attention to who is not showing support for your creative side. These are the people who discourage you from creating or make it hard to find time to do so. How does what they say or do impact your desire to create? Decide whether or not their behavior serves who you are as a creative person and what needs to be done about it.
4. Think about whatever you created that made people notice you positively in #2. Was it an old drawing from school that your dad posted on the refrigerator? Was it the booties you knitted for your cousin's newborn? If you have a photo or the actual work, take it out and post where you can see it every day to remind yourself of the compliments that you received from it.
5. Embrace Imperfection: Danielle Krysa shared in her book Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk : And Other Truths About Being Creative that we as creatives should celebrate imperfection not run from it. "There's no such thing as a perfect painting, a perfect book, a perfect song--so why worry about trying to achieve that? Besides, more often than not, imperfection is far more interesting than perfection. Embrace the happy accidents--they just might lead you to something totally new."
6. Stop Comparing but Learn from Others: Do you find yourself comparing to others who you feel are "real" creatives? What is about the person's style that comes off as positively owning their creativity? Instead of comparing and being envious of their work, etc., find what it is that they do that projects confidence in their creativity. Do they have a purpose in what they do? Do they share their work? And do they allow themselves to be vulnerable about their disappointments? If you know some artists who appear to be confident in what they are doing...why not interview them about their thoughts of being an artist, a chef, etc. You may find they have similar challenges about owning their identity as you do or that they have some tips that may help you become more comfortable with your creativity identity.
7. Redefine what being a successful ______means to you. Ok so you are not a rock start selling out stadiums all over the world. Does that mean that you are not a "real" musician? What is your measure for success? Is it being in a local band that plays every weekend and that you are able to get home to tuck your kids into bed every night? Because what you deem as a success can be interpreted differently, based on personal values, some of which you may discover is more important than glamor and glitz.
8. Find your squad. Join an artist meetup, association or a group of people who engage in areas that you like to express yourself creatively. When you find yourself identifying with others who appear more confident in their creative identity, this may rub off on you.
Above all, continue to exercise your creative expression and not let any messages internally or externally to the contrary keep you from doing it. The more you find yourself engaging in your creative practice, the more you will identify that as part of who you are.