We all hear people talking about self-care at one point or another in our lives, yet we are so hard-pressed to invest in that care for ourselves. I can’t tell you how many times I have looked at someone and told them that they need to take time for themselves, then I never follow my own advice. Until about a year ago, I was a very negative person; I was unhappy, and it began to bleed over into other aspects of my life. I allowed my attitude and feelings ruin relationships, opportunities, and my overall sense of being.
Why was I so unhappy? I think there were a lot of reasons but the main one was that I was tired of doing things for other people, caring so much, going out of my way to fuel the happiness of others, etc. only to have no one give me that same consideration in return. It was exhausting, but you know what I realized? It ultimately was me who was making me miserable.
I never had to care so much about others. Trust me, I still do. It’s just that over the last year, I began to find the time to invest more in myself. I did the things that would make me happy, and I learned how to care about who I am and what I can offer this world. I finally took most of the energy I was putting into other people and things and turned it around on me. It was the best thing I ever gifted myself with.
Self-care for me is not just about eating right, going to the doctor, and getting treating yourself, (Although we should all do more of that last one!). It’s about feeding your soul, which can sound very intimidating if you have not sat down and thought about what your soul needs to thrive. For me, my inner peace happens to come from simple things. The way the air smells after it rains in the summer. Walking through fall leaves, laying on a blanket in the sun and just letting your mind wander. Once I started taking time for these little self-pleasures, I was able to work on bigger picture things for myself. Yet, what I realized is that no matter how I self-cared, it involved creativity self-care as well.
Making something, regardless of what, helps me to create balance within myself. Think of creativity like exhaling; it’s just something we all need to do. And once you begin to embrace self-care, you will notice the many forms that creativity takes on in your life.
I don’t define creativity narrowly and neither should you. Sometimes, I express my creativity through cooking, finding beautiful objects in nature, or singing a song I made up while I drive. Other times, I express myself through painting, (I’m not very good) dancing, or journaling. There’s a huge number of creative acts we all perform daily often without even realizing it.
I try to invite others to redefine what they think of when they hear the word creative. Some people are creative in telling jokes and stories, some draw, some make scrapbooks, and some make creative and helpful spreadsheets. It’s all creativity, and if it makes you feel good, it’s creative self-care.
I think a lot of people avoid engaging in the arts because they believe the story that our culture tells about the arts belonging on stages and in museums only. When this is your only point of reference about what art is, it can be really scary to follow your impulse to express yourself through other less “popular” forms of art. But, I believe we need creativity to stay sane. It is a natural and grounding phenomenon to create, especially in community, and it brings humans so much personal satisfaction without us really even recognizing it.
In my life having a creative self-care routine has made a big difference in my life. I feel more confident, empowered, happy, strong, valued. I could go on but I want you all to try it.
Why do I do this? What’s the point. For me, it was a means to exercise some control by letting myself think in an uncontrolled way. If we forget to think outside of the box, we will get stuck in that box. Day after day when I find myself falling into the same routine, I get anxious and irritable, and all of my work suffers; so that’s why I give myself this time.
Art connects me with nature. I like to mimic a lot of nature’s patterns and colors in my art. This feels grounding, even when I can’t get outside for a hike or a swim in the ocean.
Art helps me to slow down. I tend to rush and be distracted, and like a lot of us, I feel like there are not enough hours in the day. Working on something small or focusing on something that takes all of my attention forces me to zone in and tune the rest of my rambling thoughts out for a bit.
Making art with no plan feels like an adventure, never knowing what’s going to appear on the page. Practicing facing the unknown, even on the page, feels like good practice for facing all the unknowns in my life. Delving into the experience and letting the stories flow out of me is when I lose the sense of time, which is oddly comforting.
The results of my other work are not always tangible. Looking at something I’ve created makes me feel I can have an impact on my world. It’s like a life-affirming stamp that says, “Yes, I’m here.”
Trust me, taking the time to be creative as a means of caring for yourself will make you happy. And hey, even if I’m wrong and it doesn’t, you’ll still have some cool creative projects to show for it. I hope you read this and understand that creativity, especially for artists, is self-care and that’s why you can’t have one without the other.