a very pink sunset (no filter)

Self Care for Creatives: Science-Backed Practices for Mind, Body, and Spirit

Taking care of ourselves is essential at all times. Unfortunately, it’s easy to let our good habits fall by the wayside. Yet as creatives — artists, writers, performers, and other types of innovators — we need to have some way to take breaks, stay grounded, and give ourselves the support and encouragement we need.

I wrote this post with creators in mind, but self care is for everyone. And with May being Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s important to recognize how we’re feeling now and year-round. Paying attention to what’s going on for us mentally, physically, and emotionally is an excellent start.

If you already have these practices, this post will give you evidence that you’re on the right track. And if you’re not sure where to begin, here are some ideas to get you started. As a disclaimer, the advice in this post is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or condition, so if you have questions, please talk to a doctor or other professional.

Here are a few ways you can get started on practices for mind, body, and spirit (and why experts say you should, too):

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Melponeme, Greek Muse of Tragedy

What to Do When You’re in a Bad Mood

This Saturday, I woke up in what could best be described as a “funk.” It had started sometime during the week as a kind of low-grade irritability. But by Saturday, I was in deep. I felt tired, unmotivated, and somewhat unhappy, and for seemingly no reason. 

We’ve all been there at some point. When you’re in this situation, you have two choices:

  1. Stay there and go down that spiral
  2. Pull yourself out of it

The first option is easy. And yes, sometimes we need to sit and be with our feelings, without judging them. Toxic positivity — that gaslighting “Ignore your problems and just be happy!” mindset — never helps anyone. (And I don’t mean this about dealing with the big things — grief, depression, or trauma. This is the inexplicable bad mood that hits you out of nowhere. If it does persist, it’s important to speak to someone about it.) 

But as creatives, we can’t stay in this state forever. So the second path to change our mood is far more difficult. And it was what I proceeded to work through the rest of the weekend.

How did I manage to get through it? I wondered the same thing and began to examine my weekend. I then realized that if I could turn things around for myself that quickly, there had to be something I could share with others to help them do the same.

So here’s my list of the action steps I took this weekend. I hope that if you find yourself having an “off” day, you can use these tips to get back on track:

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The world's largest kaleidoscope in Mt. Tremper, NY

Curated Creativity: 5 Must-Watch TED Talks for Transforming Your Vision into a Reality

Artists, writers, performers, and other creators across disciplines have big dreams. But creative blocks and other obstacles can hold them back from turning their vision into reality.

Whether you’re a creative pro or enthusiastic amateur, you may have asked questions like:

  • Where should I put my attention if I have multiple interests?
  • Which sources of inspiration should I follow?
  • How can I gather up the courage to put myself out there?
  • Whom can I ask for help and support?
  • How do I create something that can change the world? 

The TED and TEDx Talks I’ve compiled below will answer these questions and inspire you to embark on your creative journey. Here are the five impactful lessons these artistic innovators have for creators of all kinds:

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A decoupaged globe at ARTISANworks Rochester, NY

How to Write Your Creative Manifesto

One of my favorite phrases is that “words are wands” — meaning that what we write down and speak aloud regarding ourselves has the potential to become truth. The more empowering stories we tell, the more we can create our ideal reality.

We can strike this balance when we ask ourselves how we feel and then put those thoughts into action. The best way to do that? Write it down and give yourself a blueprint to work from.

Art movements have long been using manifestos to declare their aesthetic goals and highlight their departures from their predecessors. The manifesto announces itself to the world as a bold step in a new direction. It inspires you to take action rather than sit idly by, waiting for inspiration to strike.

Last year, I wrote out a bunch of things that I truly believe and what I do to uphold those beliefs. I arranged these statements into a “manifesto,” which I wrote in my day planner. This way, I could refer back to my beliefs at any time to ensure that I am acting in alignment with my purpose. Some statements I chose were:

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Slip of paper reading Rebirth is merely the dawning on your mind of what is already in it

Celebrating Success (and Failure): 2 Alternative CVs You Need to Write

Some people say that experience is the best teacher. So why not look to our own to guide us? 

There are two ways of looking at experience. One is that “tough love” kind of situation — the things that didn’t go our way. The other is to see our successes and pat ourselves on the back for a job (or jobs) well done.

I don’t think that just one approach is sufficient. We need both to balance things out. The aim is to avoid becoming egotistical and to not be too hard on ourselves either.

Chances are you already know how to write a résumé or curriculum vitae (CV). The two activities below center on learning from our failures and successes alike. Grab a notebook and a pen for this one!

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Rows of trees outside the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, NY

A Ritual to Release Limiting Beliefs

When I was in first grade, I did a finger painting project to create a picture of an apple tree. My classmates and I would dip our thumbs in red paint to place an “apple” on a pre-drawn tree on a sheet of paper. At the end, the pictures would all hang up in the classroom, like some kind of cartoon orchard.

For whatever reason, I wanted my apples to be in perfectly neat rows. (My early attempt at modern art, perhaps.) As I was finishing my painting, my teacher came over, looked at what I was doing, and shook her head. “Apples don’t grow in straight lines,” she said. Then she took my paper and gave me a new one so that I could make my apples more random — you know, just like what everyone else was doing.

I remember being rightfully annoyed with my teacher. After all, it was a finger painting, not a still life! Unfortunately, this isn’t a unique situation in early childhood education, and this kind of “correction” can be devastating for a young artist.

In their book Creative Confidence, David and Tom Kelley explain the story of a childhood friend of theirs who was making a clay sculpture of a horse one day in grade school. Then a classmate of his looked at the sculpture and said it looked nothing like a horse. Dejected, the boy put away the clay and avoided making anything after that.

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The sunken garden at Warner Castle in Rochester, NY

The Real Secret to Moving Past Creative Blocks

Writers often speak of “writer’s block,” as if it’s a real, physical barrier in our way. But one of the best lessons I was ever taught was that writer’s block, artist’s block, and any other type of creative block isn’t always what it appears to be on the surface. That reluctance to create comes from another place. Mostly, it’s our self-doubt, along with a nasty inner critic we’ve let build up over time, lurking to tell us that we just can’t do it, so why bother starting?

It may go without saying, but your inner critic is a filthy liar.

If you’re dealing with a creative block right now, you probably think you have only two options: power through it to make something, or take a break. Both of these are valid options. But I encourage you to really examine the reasons behind the block. Doing so can help you fight these feelings if (or when) they crop up again.

In my experience, when I feel “blocked,” one of four things is really at play:

  1. I’m comparing myself to others and/or dealing with imposter syndrome
  2. I’m listening to my own fears disguised as a nasty inner critic
  3. I’m remembering what others might have told me in the past (or what I feared they’d say)
  4. I’m convinced it’s easier to do nothing than make something imperfect (a.k.a. analysis paralysis)

Here are the four ways to find out what’s really blocking your creative path — and how to move it out of the way for good.

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A tall tree, seen from below

How to Discover Your True Strengths… and Use Them!

What are your true strengths?

I don’t mean your physical strength, like how much you can bench press. Nor do I mean this in the way that job interviewers ask the question. This isn’t about what you do for others, or what you do to qualify for a particular job. Your true strengths are where you excel and feel most authentically like yourself.

Think of a time when you achieved something and were satisfied with the results. You might have even thought that you grew from the experience. Chances are this was a time where you put your true strengths to work.

When we know our strengths, we know ourselves better. We have a better idea of what makes us feel our proudest and our best. From there, we can choose activities that speak to our interests and talents, and we build our confidence along the way. 

There are plenty of ways to discover your strengths. One is to simply write down what it is that you’re good at. What talents do you have? Which of your skills have others complimented you on? What makes you feel the most “alive” and in the moment?

If you want a more structured way to find your strengths, the concepts below will help you drill down on where your talents lie.

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