Anyone that is creative knows that it's easy to get burned out.
Whether you write, paint, sculpt, draw, make things... When the wave of creative energy hits, it's not difficult to just ride it through to exhaustion. I've done it so many times, I lost count about 10 years ago.
So, here's the thing:
I'm a creative person. At the end of the day, I'm not a happy camper if I haven't made something. I crochet, I paint, I write, I play with graphics for my blog. If I'm cranky, chances are good that I'm getting tired and not keeping up with my creativity.
The flip side of that, though, is that sometimes, the creative energy is so strong that I can get wiped out by trying to keep up with the flow. We're talking 16 hour days writing, long nights of "just one more row," weeks and weeks of editing (more 12 and 16 hour days). On top of that, I have lesson plans for my daughter's homeschooling to write, questions to answer ("Yes, giraffe cheese is a real thing."), staying on top of what's for dinner, running my business and staying in touch with the world (I'm an introvert, which means that I'm perfectly happy keeping my own company, and my relationships end up suffering when I need to withdraw, if I'm not mindful of my own cycles).
What can we creatives do to stay on top of our creative cycles, and manage our energy so we don't end up sick and stuck in bed rather than spending our time creating? Here's 5 quick and simple things you can slip into your crazy-busy schedule to help you maintain your well-being.
- Treat yourself to a beauty bonus. I set aside time on Sunday morning for a little longer shower, and deep condition my curls while I shave my legs. It doesn't take me any extra time (gotta shave anyway, and my hair gets dry out here with the salt air). That little extra I give myself, makes my hair super soft (bonus for hubby, who loves to run his fingers through my hair, which often results in "Ouch!"), and I'm not as frustrated with hair that is too frizzy to do anything with. I've recently added a body scrub to this routine, but you might just be happy with a bubble bath.
- Get outside. For some, this is not an option, and I get that. I've been there, and not being able to get out and walk made me crazy for almost 2 years. If you can do this, then do it! Get out in nature, the less concrete the better, just make sure you've got decent shoes to protect your legs, ankles and feet. Your heart with thank you, your brain will be clearer, and often, that frustration over a project that isn't quite working out for you will dissolve. If you can't walk, then just sit outside for 5 minutes and watch the birds rather than scrolling through Facebook for that same period of time.
- Breathe for 3 minutes. Take your hands off your keyboard, set a timer, close your eyes and just pay attention to your breath. Notice where your breath is focused. Is your belly expanding with each breath? Or is it just your chest and shoulders? (Hint: Breathe into your belly. This kind of deep breathing shifts your body to a less stressed state of being.) Notice how it feels to breathe in and breathe out. Pay attention to the temperature of the air going in and going out. When the timer goes off, give yourself a little gratitude for taking this time for you, and then back to work!
- Look away. Our eyes aren't designed to focus on just one place for hours at a time. Set a timer while you work, and when it goes off, shift where your focus is aimed for 2-3 minutes. If you're drawing or working on the computer, shift your gaze to look out the window, or at a painting on the other side of the room. My desk is situated under a huge window, and I've trained myself to stop every 20-30 minutes and look outside for a few minutes. Living so close to the ocean, I can watch the clouds roll in and I make myself take note of the wind and how hard it's blowing. Every so often, I am blessed with the presence of Stag energy as one of the many local deer wanders through the adjacent yard to graze.
- Take in as much as you put out. If you're a painter, set aside time every week to look at art. If you write, spend time reading. If you are a graphic designer, browse the web for a bit, just appreciating other artist's work. I have reading time booked into my daily schedule. I might not always get all 60 minutes of reading time in, but I do try.
- Bonus: Cut the junk! I know, I know... Everyone these days is insisting that you eat healthy. Maybe you already are. My creative genius seems to thrive on sugar and caffeine, but I'm finding that my body does not. Yes, I wrote a book from blank page to 530 page final draft in 65 days, but I did so much damage to my body with all the sugar and soda that I've been working on recovering for the last 3 months. So not worth it! I've managed to teach my muse that she can in fact function without a liter of Dr. Pepper and 4 cups of coffee, and I'm slowly teaching her to live without all the starch and sugar, too (she's hanging on to that one for dear life!). At the end of the day, though, I feel so much better, and have more energy for eating healthier.