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.
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
- 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.
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.
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?