Despite its great convenience and mobility, smartphones also add a degree of complication to our lives by making us accessible anytime, anywhere by anyone. We can no longer ignore the fact that gadgets, social media and instant messaging are consuming our lives more than ever before.
So, is it surprising that we are finding it harder to relax and find balance in this fast-paced, always-on, highly-connected society? As creative individuals, are you finding it difficult to plug off, shut out the busy world, find your centre, and just create?
If you are, then read on. We’ve put together these tips to help you balance and nurture yourselves in the name of self-love.
1. Get active
Getting into action with an exercise or physical activity that you enjoy brings unexpected perks. Have you ever felt the flow of ideas that occur when your mind is not thinking hard about something? It may happen during a shower, driving or exercise time. When the mind and body are both relaxed, thoughts flow more creatively and inspiration happens too.
“From me, getting active through exercise and nourishing the body has a positive impact on the body as well as the mind,” shares Mishell Leong-Unternaehrer from Singapore, who founded MilcbyMishell and creates bold, bespoke art for children.
“As a painter, I’m often sitting for long hours or hunching over to put in the tiny details. So I do yoga for my back and swimming to stay active. Sweating makes me feel good and I’ve found that it helps me think clearer about my art.”
So, if you are ever stuck in a creative rut, you know what to do. Take a time out and go sweat it out. Better still, make it a regular routine in your weekly schedule. Treat it as your “me time” where you are doing something to love yourself and your body. We bet that the energy and endorphins released will help you withstand better the long hours you spend working on your craft!
2. Have fun, don't fuss
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Most creatives are perfectionists and hold certain standards or expectations when it comes to their art or craft. This is definitely a good thing, because nobody would appreciate or buy creative work that isn’t made well.
Having said that, we may need to consider one thing: by whose standards are we judging “perfection”? Would anyone notice that tiny blemish, uneven line or chipped edge that you are wringing your hands in despair about?
“Perfectionism is self-abuse of the highest order,” wrote Dr. Anne Wilson Schaef, an author and psychologist. If we ponder upon this, we would realise there’s a certain truth to it. When we pursue perfectionism to the point of neglecting our own personal needs or beat ourselves up constantly about our imperfections and failures, then this would certainly count as self-abuse.
Aiming for perfection sucks the fun out of creating (because we are striving to achieve an impossible vision). As a creative, the time you spend making your art should nourish you as well as bring satisfaction (both to yourself and your client.) Not only is this important for your well-being, but imagine what kind of “vibes” would get stuck on your creation if you are having negative thoughts constantly while creating?
Malaysian artist, Elaine Wong, gives her point of view, “I don’t like the notion of aiming for perfection. In my opinion, I find it a struggle to aim for perfection. I aim to enjoy making art and have fun as an artist, hence I prefer not to go through the struggle.”
3. When you're stuck, let go a little
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They say inspiration comes from anywhere. And indeed there are ample sources of inspiration – from Pinterest to nature to other works of art. Some of us keep inspiration sketchbooks or notebook jottings to keep these close at hand.
What do you do, though, when inspiration doesn’t come flowing exactly when you need it? (Precisely why the phrase “writer’s block” was invented.) Or when you have a deadline to meet on a client’s commission and you just can’t get into the creative zone?
At times like these, it’s probably best not to force it and gently seek for inspiration (sometimes from the most unexpected sources).
For some it may be their bestie, a creative support group or business networking buddies – people you can call up for a likeminded chat or to gently bounce off some ideas. Others may ask their social media fans to see what suggestions they may have about their current idea.
For hobby-ist, Vivian Ong, who sews and makes cards in her free time, these are the perfect times to take a break and indulge in some pleasant distractions just to chill out (she suggests keeping ample amounts of chocolates and ice cream in the fridge for sanity.)
As tempting as it might be to hole yourself up, grit your teeth and work at it until it’s done, when the creative juices aren’t flowing, what you create won’t be inspired. So, let go a little and just be.
Go for a walk, rest your tired body, speak to people, have your favourite food. We bet the inspiration tap will start flowing again once you’re relaxed. After all, creative work is all about being in the flow and enjoying what you do, isn’t it?
4. Try meditation
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Yes, we know that it’s cliché to say that meditation helps you relieve stress, relax and balance yourself. It’s been said so often that sometimes we tend to ignore this perfectly good piece of advice.
If you are the type of creative who struggles with impatience, negative thoughts and a brain working at the speed of light, perhaps it is time to slow things down with meditation.
Doing meditation brings so many benefits. Firstly, it is a wonderful way to relax following a stressful or tense day. After a certain length of practice, you may notice that the incessant noise and clutter in your mind is reduced (or you’ve learned to filter what’s important from those which are not). You start to observe your thoughts and feelings more clearly, creating more awareness of your self.
A side effect of finding stillness through meditation is having your instincts become sharper and more obvious. These ever-important “skills” will help you flow better and level up on your creative skills.
All you need for meditation is your body, a quiet space, and a fixed amount of time (say 10 minutes to begin with and gradually lengthening it.) If you are a total beginner, try looking up YouTube videos, beginner guides on the Internet or join a class for closer guidance from a teacher.
5. Make plans but stay flexible
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Here’s the most surprising thing people may discover about creatives, who are often stereotyped as spontaneous and flighty personalities: the best ones are those who make plans, and consistently stick to them.
For those who are entrepreneurs or are using their creativity to earn a living, time-wasting is a luxury they cannot afford. While juggling the various responsibilities of running a business, having good planning of your time is essential.
Therefore, one of the best ways to love and nurture yourself as a creative is to plan out your schedule, and do it wisely. Don’t just schedule time for work and creative effort, remember to schedule in time for yourself (me time!) and include some slots for your family, pets and friends too. Prioritise your time for activities and people who nurture, uplift, encourage and inspire; reduce precious time on activities and people who don’t.
Get to know when you are most creative, and work it into your schedule. This will help to ensure you are at your optimum creative level when the time comes.
For your sanity, resist the temptation to jam pack your planner to the max. Factor in some breathing room or gaps of time where nothing is scheduled. This allows space for unforeseen plans/emergencies and the flexibility for plans to change, so that it won't add on to your stress levels.