What is Mindfulness?
Before introducing our guest blogger for this week’s Self-Care Sunday series on Self-Care for Creatives, I’d like to introduce the concept of mindfulness. Some Christians hear the words ‘mindfulness’ or ‘meditation’ and immediately assume that chakras, middle-eastern religions, and third eyes are involved. David tells us in Psalms 1:2 that we are blessed when we meditate on God’s law. Meditation and mindfulness simply mean that we focus our attention on something so that we can experience transformation. The dictionary defines mindfulness this way:
- the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
- a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
How to be More Productive, Creative, and Happier, Despite Yourself
by Roland Denzel
When we hear the phrase “self-care,” nutrition and exercise (and a spa day, of course) typically come to mind, but those aren’t the only types of self-care. When it comes to those of us who rely on our productivity and creativity to make a living, mental self-care is the one we don’t want to talk about. Or, maybe we just don’t see it.Do creatives need to worry about mental self-care? Find out! #creative #selfcare Click To Tweet
A Little Story
Last year was tough.
I’d been in the corporate world, as a printing and publishing consultant, for over twenty-five years. I won’t go as far as saying it’s all I knew, but my corporate job was in many ways the foundation of my life.
I had my job while I was single, married, raising kids, going through a divorce, then dating and remarrying again. It was the steadiest part of my life for three decades. Until one day it wasn’t.
I’d seen the writing on the wall, so I was prepared. My wife Galina and I talked about my next steps, which were to focus on making a living in an area I’d had passion for going on fifteen years; health and fitness. We’d already written five health and nutrition books together and had a nice, part-time coaching business, and since I loved it, we knew it would be the natural move. We hired a business coach to help us get there.
Two months later, I was laid off.
The Shock of Loss
It was a shock, but I took it in stride. This was what I wanted.
Meetings with our coach proceeded as usual, and now I had full days to work on what I loved vs just an hour or so after quitting time.
This was my chance. I worked late writing, and I got up every morning to market my coaching …and nothing happened.
Week after week I’d meet with my coach, reporting on what little progress I’d made, until a month or so later my wife held something of an intervention. Luckily, it was just her.
“You’ve had a huge loss, would you like to talk to somebody?”
“What loss?” I asked.
Galina is a Somatic Experiencing® Practitioner and a trauma therapist, so she sees people like me all the time.
She reminded me of that foundational part of my life, that I’d known for thirty years. Gone overnight.
No matter my intent to leave one day, the choice had been taken from me. I hadn’t left on my own terms. I’d suffered a huge loss, and I needed to see that. Feel it.
She put out her hand. Touched my arm. And I lost it.
Full disclosure, I cried that day and I cried writing this, too.
All Stress Is the Same
I don’t say this to exaggerate what happened to me by losing my job, nor to downplay the stress of someone who’s experienced a loss more serious—a death in the family, financial trouble, a bad diagnosis, mental illness, or even surviving a car crash. What I’m saying is that no matter the stressor, all stress is the same to the nervous system. Some might be bigger, stronger, milder, or easier to take care of, but while it’s there, it’s there, and it’s standing firmly in the way of every other part of your life.
Stress and the stress response come between you and almost every aspect of your life. It negatively affects your personality, relationships, your physical strength, endurance, willpower, drive, passion, memory, and your creativity.
As a creative, I need all of those areas on a daily basis, and stress and anxiety had taken them from me. No wonder I wasn’t getting anything done.
As a health coach and an author who’s written about managing stress for over ten years, I was embarrassed to realize that I was not practicing what I preached, because I hadn’t seen it coming. Turns out stress can dull the senses. My own clients had often told me about living life as if in a fog, and now I’d seen it first-hand.
Types of mental self-care for creatives
Mental self-care for us creatives is shockingly similar to self-care for non-creatives. But, when we don’t practice good self-care, our art and passion suffer, too. It pays to take care of those parts of us that let us create what we love.
There are many paths to good mental self-care, but there are three areas that have a large return on your investment. Therapy, sleep, and mindfulness.
I wouldn’t pick just one, as they each work together to help you and your creativity.
Getting “Unstuck” with Therapy
When Galina asked me if I wanted to talk to someone, I took her kind words and soft touch to heart.
I did want to talk to someone, so I got on board with a therapist. Having experienced my fair share of therapists over the years, I chose someone who, like Galina, is a Somatic Experiencing® Practitioner.
I’m comfortable with the SE approach, which directly addresses how my stress was affecting my life.
“The Somatic Experiencing® method is a body-oriented approach to the healing of trauma and other stress disorders. The SE approach provides a framework to assess where a person is “stuck” in the fight, flight or freeze responses and provides clinical tools to resolve these fixated physiological states.” – traumahealing.org
Throughout my life, it hasn’t always been easy for me to find a therapist whose style I liked, but my Somatic Experiencing® therapists have been different. I leave my sessions energized and driven to create, never down on myself or emotionally wiped out. I originally scheduled my sessions for Fridays so I had the weekend to recover, but I found that I so much wanted to create immediately after my sessions that I’ve moved them to Mondays, so I can keep the momentum!
No one likes to hear this, but you probably need more sleep.
Studies show that we do more with the time we have and do it better when we’re well rested. 7–9 hours is good, although seven is probably pushing it. You’ve got to start somewhere.
Similar studies show that when we go to bed earlier and get up earlier (even getting the same amount of sleep), we get more accomplished in less time, and with fewer mistakes.Feeling bleh and uncreative? Maybe you need more sleep! Self-care tips for creatives. #selfcare #creative Click To Tweet
Meditation and mindfulness are buzzwords these days, but that doesn’t mean there’s any less value to it.
Mindfulness helps the artist to clear the mind of clutter, to get away from the thinking mind, and be more available to the flow of creative thoughts instead of the critical thoughts that interrupt it.
Whether you take an in-person class, listen to a master meditator on YouTube, or get more mindful via an app like Headspace, mindfulness has tremendous value to creatives like us.
If you’re new to mindfulness or just want a simple refresher, Galina has a free mindfulness program delivered in just two minutes a day – 5 Days to More Peace is five days of short audio mindfulness practices designed to help you connect to peace and calm wherever you are.
Rested, Ready, and Unstuck
We all need good sleep, and most of us will find a mindfulness practice to be helpful. While only you and your therapist know if you need therapy, it seems that everyone gets “stuck” once in a while. Working with someone who’s seen it all before and knows how to get you unstuck is a great investment in your creative career. Start with a session or two, and see how it affects your work.
If you’re willing to try, a good mental self-care routine can have a powerful impact on your productivity and your creative drive.
Until you’ve tried it both ways, you’ll never know whether you’re at the top of your game or ready to rise even higher!
Resources and References
Abide: Christian Meditation App https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abide-christian-meditation/id726031617?mt=8
Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1739867/
The Relationship Between Stressors and Creativity – https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Kris_Byron/publication/41087522_The_relationship_between_stressors_and_creativity_a_metaanalysis_examining_competing_theoretical_models/links/5523e3370cf223eed3801bdd.pdf
Somatic Experiencing® – https://traumahealing.org/
The Number One Writing Tip You’ll Never Do – https://medium.com/indestructibleauthor/the-number-one-writing-tip-youll-never-do-f315b0c5d65
Sleep Hygiene Checklist – http://eatmovelive52.com/the-sleep-hygiene-checklist/
5 Days To More Peace – http://EatMoveLive52.com/MorePeace
Roland Denzel is a health coach whose first client was himself. He lost over 100 pounds in 2003, and used that momentum to help others like himself. He and his wife Galina write, podcast, and coach clients online at EatMoveLive52.com. Their latest book, Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well gives readers 52 foolproof and simple ways to improve their health in just a week. Roland also helps writers, authors, and artists write better, faster, and healthier at EatMoveLive52.com/IndestructibleAuthor. You can connect with him on Twitter @rolandenzel or check out his Facebook Page.