Photo by ariq sulaiman on Unsplash
Many of us have been creating in isolation since the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year. Some people have been producting all kinds of music, art or writing while others have been feeling stuck because of the uncertanity of the times.
As the pandemic ebbs and flows, there's no doubt about it, at least for the forseeable future, COVID-19 and it's variants will continiue to plague many of our lives for awhile. How can we get past the often scary and unpredictable virus mentally, physically and emotionally and get on with our creative lives if it has us stuck.
Here's a few ideas to help you adapt and move forward with your creativity during these times::
Mentally and Emotionally
The biggest hurdle is to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for the possiblity of future quarantines or at least working in isolation for awhile.
-Ground yourself: Whether it's Prayer, meditation, or other Mindfulness practices., practice a daily ritual to help you keep anxiety at bay. Find a way to get still and focus on yoiur well-being.
-Be gentle with yourself. This new reality many of us are living is challenging. Don't get hard on yourself if you don't feel like creating right now. Allow yourself time to relax, rest and reflect, if need be. Disenage from the "grind" culture of producing, no matter what your peers are doing. Work at a pace, if anything, that works for you. If a few months or weeks are unproductive, give yourself compassion, not pity or anger. We are all working through this the best way we can.
Move your body at least once a day whether it's walking, dancing, exercise, yoga, etc. Do what makes you feel good without over doing it. Movement releases tension, anxietiy and stress that can weigh on the body and create blockages to our creativity.
Spend time outside in nature, whether it's a daily walk, hiking or another activity such as grabbing lunch outdoors, doing nature sketching, or meditating. Consider bring the outdoors inside such as plants and flowers to decorate your space. Nature can provide a feeling of calmness and help bring equanimitiy to your daily life.
Physical Space: Go through all of your studio materials and sell or dispose of stuff. you don't need. Create a storage system for your supplies that makes it easier to retrieve and put a way when finished with your creative practice. Your creative space will feel lighter and more inspiring to create as well as bring a positive energy to the place.
Mental Space: What's holding you back from your creative practice mentally? How can you clear out the negative messages so you can hold yourself accountable? Work with some affirmations about your creative goals and intentions and keep them handy. Review your schedule and see what things are a priority and what may need to go. Practice some of the grounding activities above to help gain insight. Schedule time with a therapist, a coach or someone you can talk to about anything in your life that you have difficulty letting go of for a more peaceful, creative life. Make to-do lists for creative activities daily or weekly so it can be added as a priority.
Reach Out and Touch Someone: Virtually
If connecting to other artists, writers or creatives is not safe or possible, work on establishing relationships online. Sign up for creative co-working sessions with others, participate in online writing/poetry open mics and other art critiques/sharing opportunities. If you are on social media, establish some relationships with other creatives online that you admire or have shown interest in iyour work. Collaborate with other creatives on projects or get involve with an art swap. Join or start a virtual book club for creatives. The sense of community can be built beyond four walls and can invite rich social experiences as well.
Professional Development for Creatives
Are there workshops, trainings, etc., that you always wanted to attend? Do you have a passion for writing poetry and would like guidance? How about a new art making technique? What about an creativity building or Artist's Way Group to help with some inspiration? If you can afford it, this is a time to discover oir add to your creative skills without a lot of distractions and meet others doing the same thing as well. If finances are a little slim, try listening to podcasts for creatives, checking out YouTube videos on art techniques as alternatives to formal online courses and trainings.
Experiment with Social Media
Social media can be an asset or a liability during these times. If you want to reach more people with your work, try a social media platform that you are not familiiar with or haven't tried. Find ways to bring attention to you work using videos, photos, live broadcasts and other methods. Or it may be a time to review what you are using as platforms and focus on what's working best and delete those that are not working well
Remember this season of our lives is difficult for everyone. As we learn more about COVID-19 and how it will affect us, know that being gentle with your creative cycle and staying healthy is the most important thing. Use your intuition as you move forward and connect with others for help and support as much as possible.
Feel free to share other ideas on how you have been moving through the pandemic creatively below.
We enjoy art and creative activities for a number of reasons. Whether it is dancing, cooking, drawing, playing an instrument, we pursue these activities either as hobbies, professions or somewhere in between. Humans have an innate need for self-expression and exercising our creativity is a way to do just that. However, did you ever wonder if there was any specific health benefits of a creative practice?
Science does support the notion that creative activities is healthy and can benefit us in a number of ways. The article: What are the health benefits of being creative? in MedicalNewsToday.com, author Maria Cohaut identifies three major areas that creative activities helps us with – Mental Health, Improvement to Brain Functioning and Physical Benefits.
Mental Health – According to Cohaut, visual art such as drawing, painting or sculpture has been scientifically proven to help people with trauma. The author states that “in a comprehensive article on The Connection between Art, Healing, and Public Health, Heather L. Stuckey and Jeremy Nobel say that "[a]rt helps people express experiences that are too difficult to put into words, such as a diagnosis of cancer." She also adds that Stuckey and Nobel note that "[A]rtistic self-expression might contribute to maintenance or reconstruction of a positive identity."
Writing such as morning pages or a regular journaling practice also has mental health benefits. There are a number of studies that exist that support the positive impact of expressive writing which requires participants to “narrate an event and explain how it affected” in assisting people in overcoming trauma and managing negative emotions. “In much the same way as visual expression, this type of writing allows people to take negative situations that cannot be changed and integrate them into their life's story, creating meaning for events that left indelible marks — such as a medical diagnosis, a loved one's death, or a violent experience, “ states Cohaut.
I can share an example from my own life in regards to the power of expressive writing…this summer an idea came to me to create a chapbook of poems and prose I had been writing since early last year in response to a situation with someone I still hold very dear. The situation ended up being devastating, leaving me with a lot of confused emotions and feelings. Unlike other conflicts or endings, this one was very unique due to the history of my relationship with this person. Instead of closure, I found myself the feeling the effects of this more and more intensely, partly due to the fact that the individual in question refused to communicate about seeking resolution.
I found myself writing more and more and feeling more in control of my emotions. I did not see this coming into a formal “project” like a chapbook, but I became more enamored with writing and using words to convey my confusion in a systematic way. I started sharing a little of the poetry in open mics which received good responses. I also started writing more often….recalling scenes, words, emotions, like from a movie or play that left a profound effect on me. After sharing my thoughts with a few trusted friends, I was encouraged to write the material as collection of poems. In this way, I could get what I felt out on paper, share it with the world and take control of the narrative for closure for myself, whether or not the individual in question ever sees or acknowledges it.
Brain Power: It appears that music training, acting and writing (once again!) can provide benefits in the area of brain power. Research has shown that in the area of writing, actually writing with a pen a paper versus typing can enhance learning and memorization. It actually can help us learn at a faster rate as well.
Cohaut shared that a review published in 2014 ”suggests that individuals with musical training — such as those who learned how to play an instrument — have improved connectivity between the two hemispheres of their brains.”
Did you know that play acting can actually help improve psychological well-being if pursued on a regular basis? Cohaut shared that a study from 2004 “found that older individuals who were encouraged to participate in theater performances had improved psychological well-being after 4 weeks. They also exhibited better cognitive functioning. In particular, the participants experienced better word and listening recall, as well as improved problem-solving abilities.”
Physical Benefits: According to the author, the researchers Stuckey and Nobel stated that, "studies have shown that [...] individuals who have written about their own traumatic experiences exhibit statistically significant improvements in various measures of physical health, reductions in visits to physicians, and better immune system functioning.” Once again writing is a very effective method of reducing physical illness as well as mental health and enhanced brain functioning.
If you are like me, listening to music can put the mind at ease. And there is scientific proof of that ability. Cohaut shared that “music affects our brains in complex ways, stimulating the limbic system and moderating our response to stressful stimuli.” In addition, listening to music "may help to restore effective functioning in the immune system partly via the actions of the amygdala and hypothalamus." These brain regions are implicated in mood regulation and hormonal processes, as well as in the body's inflammatory response” according to researchers Stuckey and Nobel.
As we know, creative expression can also be very physical, such as dancing which has demonstrated benefits that can last a life time. Cohaut shared that a study focusing on breast cancer survivors found that dancing “helped to improve shoulder function in participants, and that it had a positive impact on their body image.” The ever popular Zumba dance based exercise routines have been shown in recent studies to improve blood pressure and triglyceride levels, “while previous studies linked aerobic dance with better weight management.”
As you consider keeping up with pursuing your chosen creative practice, remember that it cannot only serve as self-care, but it has many health benefits as well, supported by science.
Have you experienced health benefits from pursuing the arts or creative activities? Share in the comments below!