How are you? No really, how ARE you? For many of us, 2020/21 has been almost surreal. Did that all just happen? It is like a blurry recurring dream that we wish to forget, but it hasn’t stopped. No matter how much we try to fight it, it is right there in our lives, in our faces, and at our front door. It seems like the only way to get over it is to go through it.
It is the toughest thing we've ever had to go through because it's not just about the pandemic. Some of us have had to face or are still facing other difficult challenges on top of the trauma from the lockdown.
Don't get me wrong. I am not against lockdown because the safety of our community is paramount but the lockdown hasn't been easy for most of us. It wasn't a walk in the park for those of us who have had to juggle home learning and working from home. It wasn't business as usual for those who have suddenly tripled their workload because they work in the frontlines or IT. It wasn't a holiday for those who have lost their jobs, gigs and events overnight and we’ve had to kiss job security goodbye. It wasn't easy for those who have lost loved ones overseas, or interstate, and it was incredibly heartbreaking for those who lost friends or family members to Covid. And some of us are still facing these challenges. The severity of impact from this pandemic is yet to be substantiated, but we can already see the effects in the aftermath.
I am not writing to paint a grim picture of our future, but to remind us that we creative humans are some of the most resilient people on the planet. We know what it is like to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and keep going. We know how to deal with failure, rejection and no-shows. How? We create. I believe that creating is key, but this time not just for the sake of art. To remain resilient in this struggling season, we must remember to CREATE time and space for ourselves. Let me explain.
When the first lockdown happened last year, I went into process mode. It's how I cope with stress. People create paintings, I create strategies, opportunities and community. I roll my sleeves up, get my hands dirty and create a process to help out. I ended up organising online workshops, running chat sessions, helping clients pivot their strategies, writing grants to get funding and seeking partnerships for community projects so I could continue implementing these things. All this on top of being a mum, wife, daughter of elderly parents, and support for friends who were going through difficult circumstances.
In my busyness, I failed to adequately create time and space to replenish my soul. So when the recent lockdown happened, I stopped. During this time, I went back to basics. I nourished myself and in the process of doing this, I discovered something. I often say that self-care isn't selfish, but that's just half of it. Self-care is self-love. And so I learnt to love myself.
I learned that loving myself means allowing myself to:
1. Grief over all that happened or didn't happen and had to let go of.
2. Rest completely whenever I can without guilt - sleeping in, napping, pyjama days, and lounging.
3. Feel my way through all my feelings without running away or the need to justify them.
4. Cry and release myself from the burden I had been carrying.
5. Nourish my soul.
To stop that inner critic voice on-repeat, I started to engage in activities that brought me joy and nourishment, tricking myself into thinking that I was 'doing something useful'. And this is what I'd like to share with you. You may already be looking after yourselves well, but just in case you need more ideas, (low-cost ones I might add), here is a list of 10 things I have been doing to intentionally nourish my soul in the past month. I have been doing at least one of these things each day.
1. Walks in nature. This is not so about burning calories (although I do burn them when I walk). It is more about taking notice of the beauty of nature and letting it nurture me. I'd ask myself, 'What do I see? What do I hear? What do I smell? What do I feel? What is beautiful to me?'
2. Listen to incredible music with undivided attention. Often I would just listen to music while I am cleaning, driving or working, but I realised that music helps me 'shift' my emotions if I let it minister to me. So I have started to intently listen to songs, as though the artists are playing their songs just for me. My favourites are Ella Fitzgerald, Cassandra Wilson, and the entire 'Low Key Weekend' playlist on Spotify.
3. Make good wholesome food from scratch. There is something incredibly comforting about cooking wholesome and health-giving food, and then taking as much time as I need to eat mindfully, savouring every mouthful. Here’s my recipe for my famous chicken soup.
4. Meditate. I still have a long way to go with this but even 5-10mins a day helps me let go of the loops of unloving thoughts and the emotions attached to them.
5. Listen to Simon Sinek's 'A Little Bit of Optimism'. This is a brilliant podcast and it is what I listen to while doing housework or driving. It has been a beacon of hope for me in this gloomy season as Simon chats with his world-changer friends on everyday things like love, friendship, listening, the life of service, asking hard questions, living in the ‘grey’ etc. Click here to subcribe.
6. Read a book that feeds and inspires the soul. Novels are great for escape, but I felt that I needed to read something that would stir hope, inspiration and energy within me. Stories with actual battles and real victories. I highly recommend The Resilience Project by Hugh van Cuylenburg and Life on Purpose by Victor Strecher.
7. Declutter a closet or a room. This may feel like 'work' and not rest but it is so satisfying to finally get rid of things I don't need anymore or that are broken. It did not just take up space in my home, but also in my mind. Once I've created that physical and mental space, I then fill it with beauty - a vase of flowers, a painting, a piece of furniture etc.
8. Set up a nook or a room as a sanctuary. I moved the furniture in our bedroom and now my favourite paintings, trinkets and stereo are set up to make it a more restful space. I also made space for a small writing desk so I could create my watercolours and draw... away from my work desk.
9. Dance to favourite songs. I have always done this as I felt that sometimes it takes physical movement to 'shake off' all the emotional build-up (exactly like what Tay-Tay suggests in her song!). I started looking for my favourite dance songs and just danced myself silly.
10. Asking what are 3 things that went well today. This has been a game-changer for me. I learnt it from a course I am doing on positive psychology and is also mentioned in The Resilience Project book. It helps me look for the good in my day, which nourishes me with encouragement and hope.
My vision is to see creatives thrive in their lives and purpose. It’s my life’s work, so I need to do all I can to ensure that I can sustain the capacity to do my best work yet. I am interested to know - how do you nourish yourself to help you do your best work?
Founder of Made to Create