With all that has been happening locally and abroad it’s hard not to be drawn into the circus of political debates unfolding every day. We go online hoping to find escape in cat memes and trends like the “you name it challenge,” and we do for all of what seems like five seconds. It doesn’t take long until we find ourselves shaking our heads in disbelief at the level of bigotry exhibited by people on their various social media platforms. Most of us have spent our entire lives convincing ourselves that human intelligence has evolved to match our advances in technology. But we’re always shocked when technology is revealed for what it really is, a mask that covers the features of the human personality we wished didn’t exist.
For those in creative disciplines it’s usually more than enough fodder than we sometimes know what to do with. In fact, very often it can be quite overwhelming to shoulder that burden of disappointment. The key to making our process work is finding the right balance of peace and turmoil. If we’re constantly bombarded with negativity it becomes difficult to work through the muck and come out with all of our faculties in order. So how do we cultivate and nurture a mental space that is conducive to productivity when everything seems to be falling apart around us? How do we take care of ourselves in the midst of the chaos? I’ve gathered some tips for self-care every creative or even non-creative individual should consider whenever they feel the dreaded “saturation point” approaching.
I think it’s important to first understand that self-care isn’t an act of selfishness. I’ve always held fast to the saying “You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” There’s a reason why flight attendants tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before attempting to help anyone else in the event of any trouble on the plane. You cannot help anyone if your own health has been compromised and this is applicable to every area of your life. The act of creation is rewarding and equally exhausting so making time to recover is crucial to maintaining sound mental health.
1. It’s okay to say no. Learning to say no ranks highest on my list of self care tips for creative practitioners. A lot of times we tend to confuse “I can do anything” with “I can do everything.” The fastest way to a burn out is by saying yes when we really should say no. Instead we smile and commit to running our bodies into the ground trying to meet impossible deadlines. For many of us, saying no is difficult because we either need the extra money; feel guilty for turning persons away or a combination of the two. Whatever the reason, we often say yes at great expense to our physical and mental health. Be realistic about your schedule and listen to what your body is telling you. Know when to draw the line. It’s okay to say no to some projects if it means you’ll be in a better mental space.
2. Make healthier choices about your body. Every day our bodies constantly remind us that we’re getting up in age. A crack here, a pop there, it feels like betrayal but how good have we been to our bodies? We know the foods and drinks we should stay away from because, very often, our bodies rebel in the form of aches and pains. Find healthy alternatives to the things you like and your body will reward you for it. Let’s not forget that we depend on our bodies to conceptualize and materialize narratives and that kind of work takes a toll over time. It’s important that we nourish our bodies so that we can continue to produce great work. An artist never stops creating so with that in mind, work towards making smarter food and drink choices. Future you will be glad you did.
3. Do something different. We get up every day, have breakfast, take a shower, go to work, come home, have dinner, take another shower and then sleep. We repeat this routine almost every day, going through the same motions over and over again. It’s very easy to slip into a kind of depression about the rut we think we’re in. Creative practitioners are especially susceptible to feelings of dissatisfaction and so it becomes crucial that we find ways to inject spontaneity into our daily routine. It doesn’t have to be as outlandish as a trip to a different country but small adjustments to our schedule can make a significant difference in our outlook. Start taking the scenic route home (where possible of course), learn to play an instrument, spend some time volunteering or visiting the elderly homes. There are so many things that could be done to shift our focus from the difficulties we’re experiencing. Life is not all doom and gloom if we take time to appreciate the people and things around us.
4. And finally, don’t read the “Comments” section. Just don’t. If you ever find curiosity getting the best of you, do yourself a favor and turn off your computer. I once read somewhere that “People ruin things” and I don’t think I’ve ever come across a more accurate summation of my feelings in general. November has been an eventful month to say the least and everyone has taken to their various social media accounts to voice their opinions, sound or otherwise. That is normal and perfectly acceptable. Everyone should be allowed that basic freedom. However, a quick perusal of any comment thread about a “hot” topic and you would realize that everyone doesn’t share that same understanding. Very often you would come across some of the most offensive and truly disturbing remarks being hurled at persons of a different opinion. Somehow we’ve lost the capacity to have healthy and respectful conversations without descending into the pits of filth. So the next time you observe a heated online discussion, do not engage. Don’t be the person who becomes enraged and continues the rampage days after everyone else has given up. It’s not worth the damage it will do to your mental space. Just keep scrolling. It’s that simple.
This article was first published in the Pepperpot magazine of the Sunday Chronicle newspaper on November 20, 2016. Click on the link to be redirected to their website: