Last week we delved into using the Army’s after-action review for achieving our mental self-care goals. This week we’ll look at how we can use the AAR process to achieve our artistic self-care goals. #selfcarehacks #selfcaregoals #selfcare #goalsetting #goals #creativity #art #artistic #productivity #planning

Last week we delved into using the Army’s after-action review for achieving our mental self-care goals. This week we’ll look at how we can use the AAR process to achieve our artistic self-care goals.

What if you could adapt one of the most successful methods of achievement for groups to your personal life? This month for Self-Care Sundays we’ll explore the after-action review (AAR) and how we can apply it to the different areas of our lives where we need to focus our self-care efforts.

Last week we delved into using the Army’s after-action review for achieving our mental self-care goals. This week we’ll look at how we can use the AAR process to achieve our artistic self-care goals. #selfcarehacks #selfcaregoals #selfcare #goalsetting #goals #creativity #art #artistic #productivity #planning

To Create, or Not to Creative? That is the Question

“I’m so not creative, Mrs. Ojeda,” my student whined. “How am I supposed to create something that looks like an Egyptian artifact?”

“What do you mean?” I asked. “I’ve read your stories before; they drip with creativity!”

“Artistic. I mean artistic,” she said with a shrug. “I’m not artistic.”

“Why do you say that?”

“I can’t draw!” she moaned. “Even my stick people look ugly.”

“Choose a project that doesn’t require drawing,” I told her. “I have faith in you and your creativity.”

“But how can I do something artistic if I don’t draw?” she seemed genuinely puzzled.

“You can build something, use clay to form something, or even use photos of something to build a model.”


“I can’t draw either,” I assured her, “but I’ve learned I can still create cool things!”

The bell rang and students rushed to put away their books and have their planners signed before heading to the next class.

I understood my student’s belief about her creativity, because for years I felt the same way.

Don’t Deny Your Need for Artistic Self-Care

Artistic. Creative. You say tomato, I say tomahto.

I used to believe (because researchers told me so) that people fell into left-brain or right-brain categories. New research has debunked the old research. It takes logic to solve creative problems and creativity to solve logical problems. You can read more about that here.

If you find yourself suffering from an inability to accomplish things, maybe you need an artistic self-care plan to bust you out of your shell.

The benefits of artistic self-care might surprise you.

1. Mental Benefits

Journaling (a creative activity) can help you past mental and physical blocks. Subjects who journaled specifically about their anger regarding the suffering they experienced as part of their chronic pain diagnosis were better able to control their pain and improve their depressed mood.

“These findings suggest that expressing anger may be helpful for chronic pain sufferers, particularly if it leads to meaning-making.”

Graham, Lobel, Glass, et al, Journal of Behavioral Medicine

2. Physical Benefits

Researchers studied a small group of participants who committed to attending Zumba Fitness® classes. Zumba combines loud music, low lights, and energetic leaders to create a non-judgmental space. If you can’t follow along, freestyling it works, too. Participants showed an improvement in participant’s triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels as well as decreased blood pressure.

3. Cognitive Benefits

  • Drama (the good kind)–In a 2004 study, researchers Helga Noice, Tony Noice, and Graham Staines discovered the benefits of theatre training for elderly participants. After four weeks of instruction, participants had an increase in cognitive and psychological well-being measures.
  • Doodling will also increase your creativity (and thus productivity). Articles in business journals urge readers to take breaks for creativity in order to work more productively. Why? Creative breaks allow us to problem solve on a subconscious level (such as doodling) and give us the energy to resume tasks with renewed focus.

4. Spiritual Benefits

We are created in God’s image, and God personifies creativity. Just look at the world around you. Art can express worship in its highest form.


Convinced about the benefits of creativity but still wondering how to adopt artistic self-care into your life? This example of using the Army’s after-action review model will help you understand how to incorporate intentional creativity into your life.

A quick review from last week’s article on using the after-action review for your mental self-care goals will help set the stage.

According to the Army in Training Circular 25-20 the four steps in an AAR seem pretty simple

  • Step 1. Planning
  • Step 2. Preparing
  • Step 3. Conducting
  • Step 4. Following up (using AAR results)

Although using an example of writing or photography would make writing this article much simpler (after all, I already use those self-care hacks), I’ll incorporate something new. Dancing. Yes, dancing. I grew up in a religious tradition where dancing was akin to murder. But based on research, the creative movement of our bodies has positive self-care benefits.

The ‘dancing is evil’ mantra echoes in my subconscious to the point of preventing me from dancing with my students when we celebrate the All-Nations dance during heritage events at school. Although no special skills or steps are required for joining in, I can’t bring myself to participate. But I want to change that.

Two summers ago, I went to a Zumba Fitness® class with my daughter. She assured me the lights got turned down low during the entire class, so I didn’t need to feel embarrassed. I spent the entire 45 minutes laughing at myself and my inept attempts to follow the instructor and not crash into the other participants. But I had fun. No one judged my dance moves, even though I may have looked like Elaine Benes from Seinfeld

How to Do an After-Action Review of Your Artistic Self-Care Goals

  1. Remember, the AAR doesn’t actually start with after the event. It starts with planning. The four steps of planning include:
  • Task (what actions to take)
  • Purpose (why it’s important)
  • Intent (statement of goals)
  • End state (what the desired result is)

My task (or goal)? Dance without restraint for five minutes a day. Why? Because dancing increases creativity, lowers blood pressure, and improves cholesterol. I want to overcome my self-consciousness (breaking out in a sweat just thinking about dancing in public). When COVID-19 restrictions allow us to have another heritage festival, I will join in the All-Nations Dance.

Last week we delved into using the Army’s after-action review for achieving our mental self-care goals. This week we’ll look at how we can use the AAR process to achieve our artistic self-care goals. #selfcarehacks #selfcaregoals #selfcare #goalsetting #goals #creativity #art #artistic #productivity #planning

Preparations Make it Real

I won’t need to make any elaborate preparations to add this artistic self-care habit to my daily routine. After all, I have the house to myself most of the afternoon. I will choose foot-tapping, dance-worthy music for a playlist, though. Does anyone have any suggestions? I don’t listen to a lot of music.

I will also schedule in a five-minute break between work tasks in the afternoon and choose a trigger. If I do my dancing before I sit down to enjoy my afternoon decaf latte, I’ll have an instant external reward baked into my plan.

For the first month, I’ll stick to dancing in the privacy of my own home for short periods of time. Eventually, I may start watching You-Tube videos of specific dance moves. Did I mention that learning an aerobic dance routine takes me months? I have faith in You Tube and my ability to learn, though.

Conducting the After-Action Review

At the end of a month, I’ll evaluate how my free-for-all dance-by-myself sessions are going. Do I feel more creative after dancing for five minutes? I won’t know about my cholesterol or blood pressure, but my primary purpose involves joining in a All-Nations dance at a school event.

Following Up

After a month (or even a week), I may decide dancing hurts too much—who knows what muscles I could pull? No worries, I can change to line-dancing or something a little less wild at any time.

I want to feel comfortable in my own skin enough to join my students—and trust me, an All-Nations dance is pretty tame. Those who don’t compete in specific dances (fancy shawl dance, grass dance, jingle-dress dance, etc.) just march with a bounce in their step. I can do this!

When Will YOU Plan Your New Artistic Self-Care Habit?

You don’t have to commit to painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling to experience the benefits of artistic self-care. All you have to do is commit to doing one small thing. Take it for a test drive and see how it helps you in other areas of your life.

By using the Army’s after-action review formula, you’ll have a complete plan for success and learn how to make improvements. If your creative side has atrophied, never fear. A little bit of practice will breathe life into your creativity.

What creative endeavor will you choose?

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  1. I really enjoyed this post Anita! I love dancing to the beat of my own drum so to speak when no one is watching of course! Lol! Especially to Celtic instrumental music. 😀
    It’s fun, great movement for exercise which I can do at my own pace & releases all those wonderful neuro chemicals for emotional & physical wellbeing!
    Bless you,
    Tea With Jennifer recently posted…Who has the Power?My Profile

  2. I appreciate this permission to exercise our creativity as self-care. I love creating through writing and organizing projects but sometimes I feel guilty about it. But it is self-care with spiritual benefits so it is good. Thanks, Anita. Maybe you can share a video of your 5-minute-a-day dancing? That might encourage us to do likewise. 🙂
    Lisa notes recently posted…My Best News Yet for 2021 —Grace & Truth LinkupMy Profile

  3. I actually grew up doing more dance in church than social dancing. ☺️ Then I took ballet in high school and modern dance in college, and I’ve been leading my church dance ministry for the last decade. But I still get a little freaked out in social dance situations. Though one year hubby and I took an English Country Dance class and I loved that! I’m glad you are breaking through your self consciousness in the area of dance. When I’ve taught worship movement seminars, I always encourage attendees that God made our bodies to move and worship him, it just looks and feels different for each person. The goal is not for your movement to look like mine but that you become more comfortable moving in your own way. 😁 I look forward to hearing more about this in future posts.

  4. Anita, I love this post and these ideas for nurturing our creative selves! I used to never dance because I felt like a complete fool and then just two summers ago, I began frequenting Bluegrass festivals. I would find myself sitting watching all the people dancing with envy at how much fun they were having. Yet, I sat still in fear that I would be judged for my terrbile dance skills. Then I realized that none of the dancing people were concerned with what others thought and they were having a grand ole time in their freedoms of movement. So I started dancing…at the age of 45…and now I dance all the time without a care in the world! I am certain I still look like a fool, but how can you really look foolish when you are smiling and having a grand time?! I will see if I can find the post I wrote about my transition to dancing. Have a great week!


  5. Another great article on self-care and l enjoyed exploring the creative and artistic side to this. I had just taken a drink of my chai tea and about lost it when I read the line about dancing being akin to murder. 🙂 Years ago, my daughter and I did zumba together too.

    I’ve always loved to dance and I like to really let loose with my kids and grandkids, particualarly on a fun song!

  6. I believe that we wouldn’t be bloggers if we weren’t creative. We create blog posts out of just our imagination every week! I love your plan to dance for 5 minutes every day. It reminded me of the saying “Dance like no one is watching…” I never thought before about how we are emulating God when we are creative, but you are so right! I never, in my wildest dreams, could come up with a creature like a giraffe or an anteater, but here they are!
    Laurie recently posted…Getting Your Money’s WorthMy Profile

  7. Amazing post, Anita! I love anything that has to do with being creative or artistic and not only is it beneficial to us as in self-care, but I also think it’s beneficial to the world around us. God has given us all gifts and talents that I believe are a vital part of how we share Him with others.
    Tai East recently posted…Partaking Of His Promises + (Giveaway)My Profile

  8. Every summer I spend as much time as possible with our granddaughters. Since they are nearly 7years apart, it can be a little tricky to find activities we will all enjoy. A few years ago I bought paint by number kits for us. The girls didn’t get too excited, but I discovered that I like the feel of acrylic paints sandwiched between my brush and canvas. I’m still not creative or gifted when it comes to the sketching part, but I’ve found lots of other ways to feed the feel and think of myself as “artistic” for a minute.

  9. I’m a literalist, so I totally understood your student’s question. How awesome is it that you were able to expand the pattern of her definition. When I plan, I definitely have more success with the goals I set – I’m going to be turning over that five minutes of dance in my mind! I miss yoga – maybe that’s a start for me! Happy 2021 Anita! ~ Maryleigh
    Maryleigh recently posted…By: Beth SteffaniakMy Profile

  10. Anita, I love your heart. Your determination to learn something new and to overcome discomfort from childhood beliefs is inspiring. I grew up dancing, but I never thought about it as being creative. I can see how it is, though. 🙂

    I’m not sure what creative self-care habit I’m going to work on, but I’ll be thinking on it.

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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