Category: The Care And Feeding Of Creativity (page 1 of 6)

Building A Self-Care Routine: How I Pulled Myself Out A Rut

Self-improvement is kind of my jam.

From the time I hit about middle-school, I have voraciously read any self-help books I could get my hands on and even pursued 3 concurrent Bachelor’s Degrees in Psychology, Sociology, and Human Services. The frailties and possibilities of the human mind will never cease to amaze me.

As time went on, I found myself reading more and more about ways to further improve my life, and I imagine it’s a journey I will be on until I take my last breath.

Of course, every now and then, I find myself in a funk. No matter how good we have it, life will always throw us a few curveballs and provide opportunities to strengthen the skills we pick up along the way. If I’m being perfectly honest, the hormonal cocktail that has accompanied this pregnancy sparked one of those funks for me. Suddenly, I found myself questioning my goals and dealing with some issues that I had thought were already resolved.  After taking some time to wallow in the bog of bad feelings, I decided it was time to use this low-point as a reset button of sorts.

I quickly realized that the routine I had settled into was neither productive nor healthy. I had all but abandoned all of my self-care strategies and had pretty much stopped pursuing my goals. I was no longer living, just existing.

I decided to start pulling myself out of this rut by completely overhauling my routine, and I have to say, it has had an amazing impact. Before we dive into the particulars, I want to caution you against trying to follow anyone else’s routines to a “T”. We all have our own unique strengths as well as our own limitations, and our schedules and lifestyles are not identical. As such, it is much more practical to look at a wide variety of things that have worked for others and create your own plan based around what resonates most with you. This will likely take some trial and error, and there will be times you fall away from your intended plans. The important thing is to recognize the missteps and take action to correct them. Just keep on keepin’ on!

Identifying An Unhealthy Routine:

Before you can start making changes, you have to know what needs to be changed. This means taking a good long look at how you’re spending your time and energy and figuring out where the problems lie.

For me, it started with my mornings. I’d wake up at 5, make my husband’s coffee, then turn on the TV and park myself in front of whatever show I was currently binge-watching. I’d sit there, half-watching the tube, as I scrolled through Facebook or Twitter. I’d read a ton of articles and the subsequent comments, soaking in the arguments and formulating opinions. I’d wait forever to eat, constantly telling myself I’d get to it after I finished looking at this post…and then I’d click another link. Then my daughter would wake up and I’d realize that I’d wasted 3 or more hours and scramble to get in gear. Nothing was getting done, and it chipped at my confidence and left me agitated.

The rest of the day was spent trying to catch up and worrying about whether or not I would, in fact, catch up. Clearly, changing my morning routine was the first step.

 

insanity quote self care routine

 

Creating A Positive Start To The Day:

It should come as no surprise that how we start our day can affect its entire trajectory. If you start with stress, you’ll likely end with stress. Why not start with a positive outlook?

The first step I took was replacing the mindless TV watching with Ted Talks.  I know a lot of people prefer to start their mornings with quiet meditation, but that just didn’t work for me. However, listening to inspiring messages and learning something new before any negative self-talk could set in created a positive tone for the day.  I use this time to eat some breakfast as well.

Next, I scroll through Pinterest and look at inspirational quotes and positive messages while I let my brain wake up and my food digest. I follow this with looking over my running gratitude list and adding new items. Then I take a moment to look over the day’s to-do list and figure out how I want my day to flow.

With my intentions set for the day, I do a very simple workout (about 15 minutes) and hit the shower. This here is a big one: I use the shower time to focus on washing away negativity and starting the day with a clean slate. I then launch into some body-positivity exercises as I get ready for the day, which I will share in a future post.

By the time I’m dressed for the day, I’ve only spent an hour  or so preparing my mind and body for the day ahead, versus the 3+ hours I was spending on nothing before. From there, I get to work, which for me means sitting down to write. And the best part is? I’m actually motivated and happy to be doing it!

 

win the morning win the day positivity self care

 

Carrying That Feeling With You:

Over the course of the day, there are going to be moments that challenge the positive mindset you’ve created. One of the best tools I’ve found is taking a minute to focus on your senses and ground yourself in reality, and then making a conscious decision not to let whatever the stressor is get to you. Train yourself to correct negative thoughts by replacing them with positives. Pull up your mental gratitude list. Take a look at your Pinterest board full of positive quotes. Be firm in your intention to have a good day.

Another important aspect to carrying this positivity with you is to know your limits and avoid overbooking your day. This one has always been a bit of a challenge for me. It’s easy to overestimate what you can realistically do in a day, and even easier to drive yourself into burnout striving to achieve it all right now. Set smaller, more achievable goals and trust that the baby steps will lead you to desired results in due time. Think about what really needs to be done and don’t stress about what you can’t get to today.

 

don't stress, relax, all i can do is all i can do, rethink your schedule

 

Take breaks when you need to. Switch things up if you’re zoning out and not bringing your A game to a task. Find a way to make it enjoyable if it’s something you can’t avoid. Do what you have to do, but don’t let it drag you down!

Schedule time for fun:

Do something that is just for you every day.

EVERY DAY, GUYS!

I don’t care if it’s quietly eating a candy bar or blasting your favorite song in the car on your way home from work. Read a book at lunch, play a game on your phone while you wait for your potatoes to boil. Do something that makes you smile!

It’s easy to tell yourself you don’t have time, but 5 minutes is all it takes. If you can find more time, take it. Take a class, call a friend, play a game with your spouse, watch your favorite guilty pleasure movies, paint something even if you’re not good at it.  Play is so important!

You absolutely have to make your own pleasure a priority. No one else is going to do it for you, and feeling like you are living only to meet the needs of others will do nothing but make you feel drained and resentful. Life’s stressful enough without adding to it by denying the need for simple enjoyment.

End On A Positive Note:

I cannot stress this enough: set an end time for your day.

This is something I stumbled upon when my daughter was about 2 years old. I was working on something, be it housework or blog posts or a myriad of other projects, from the time I woke up until the time I forced myself to go to bed. I was constantly stressed and couldn’t figure out why. After all, I was making all sorts of progress, I should have been happy!

I decided then that after 7 o’clock I was done. No housework. No replying to emails. No work, period. I still adhere to this guideline, and it’s been a lifesaver.

I also make sure we have dinner as a family at the table every night. It’s a time for us to come together and discuss our day, and allows me to reflect on how grateful I am that we are all in this together. The rest of the evening is spent on hobbies or relaxing, sometimes together, sometimes separately. I try to keep my focus on enjoying our time and being more loving, forgiving, and understanding instead of letting the stress of the day affect my family. This requires some gentle reminders to myself, as we all faulter in these goals from time to time, and some days I miss the mark completely. It’s then that we have a chance to own our mistakes, apologize, and start over.

Before bed, I make my to-do list for the next day. I then take some time to reflect on the past 24 hours. I congratulate myself on the things I accomplished, even if it’s been a “bad” day and the only thing I did was get out of bed. I go over the highlight reel of the day in my head, looking for the tiny moments of joy as well as any big moments: my daughter said something cute, I heard this song, I ate this delicious thing, I survived the grocery store. I think about what I have to be grateful for and what I want to carry over to the next day. All in all, this takes about 10 minutes as I wait for sleep to come, but it makes a huge impact. If I fall asleep before I make it to that point, I simply move it to the morning.

 

evening routine self care

 

Accept “Bad” Days:

Sometimes life gets in the way and we don’t stick to our routines for one reason or another. When this happens we have two choices: we can feel bad, dwell on our “failure” and give up. or we can shrug it off and jump back in. You don’t even have to wait for tomorrow to start over, just start where you are as if you haven’t missed a step.

Of course doing all of these things every day is “ideal” but honestly, “most” days is good enough! Allow yourself some wiggle room. Plan for lazy days, sick days, fun days, or anything else that could throw you off and just keep rolling.

 

comeback after bad days, self care routine

 

Whatever you do, remember that this is a journey. Some of these tips may work for you, some may not. Just keep striving to be the best, healthiest you you can be and things will be fine.

Now it’s your turn. What do you do for self-care? What goes into building your routines? Tell us about it in the comments below!

 

 

When Things Don’t Work Out The Way You Thought They Would: Reframing Failure

My books have sold roughly 100 copies so far this year.  If I’m being honest, 30 of those have been giveaways and free promos, making it closer to 70.

To some, this may seem like some pretty dismal stats. Truth be told, there have been times when I found myself incredibly upset at these numbers. I’d think about all the positive feedback I’ve received and find myself frustrated. Everyone who had read my work had told me how great it was. Strangers had emailed me asking when the next installment was coming because they just couldn’t get enough of Maggie and Aries…and yet, my sales were going nowhere. I just couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.

I’d spend hours each day searching for ways to increase my sales and visibility. I’d pour over discussions in readers groups and sketch out all sorts of plans and ideas. I’d badger my friends and family members about how important word of mouth is in this business and how crucial mentions on social media can be.  In my search for answers, a fellow author suggested new covers, which I agree would be a great step. However it’s a step that requires more money than I currently have to invest.

It was hopeless. I was stuck. My book was going nowhere, my blog was going nowhere, my social media accounts weren’t gaining any traction. With all this worry, I couldn’t find the energy to write anything new. My frustration began to affect the way I viewed myself and how I treated my family. I was snappy and irritable. Nothing seemed fun anymore. The symptoms of anxiety and depression began to set in.

For a while, I thought I should just give up.

Knowing how quickly things could spiral out of control, I decided I needed to take the reigns and figure out what was really bothering me. Was it that my dream was failing? Was I on the wrong path? Was the general (and often unavoidable) stress of life finally getting to me?

Or, was it something deeper?

I resolved to take a break from writing for a while and focus on isolating and solving the problem, knowing that when I returned the blank pages would still be there waiting for me to fill them up with a great story. Armed with a degree in psychology, a stack of self-help books, and a desire to get to the root of the problem, I dove into some heavy self-exploration and contemplation.

Part of the process involved clarifying what I really want my life to look like. Naturally, I want a (relatively) stress-free life where I spend my time doing the things I love and sharing my triumphs with the people I love. I want my bills to be paid and to have food on the table, and I want to do what I can to help others find happiness.

When I stepped back and looked at my dreams in their simplest terms, I realized I already had all those things. The problem was, I had developed this rigid idea of what those things looked like. I imagined overnight success and paying all my bills with money from my creative pursuits, and having enough left over to indulge in frivolous spending. I’d decided that I had to be a best-selling author right out the gate in order to be happy.

The problem wasn’t with my book sales. My problem was with my perception of them.

 

quote perception; reframing failure, poor book sales

 

Suddenly, it didn’t matter. As I pondered this, I realized I’d never set out to specifically be a romance author, I just happened to be writing romance at the time. I’d also never set out to be the most famous author ever. I just wanted to do something I enjoyed and share it with others who might enjoy it, too. Due to my rigid standards of success, I’d allowed myself to lose the joy that I get from writing.

The more I thought about this, the more it became clear. The joy of creating something that wasn’t there before was all I’d ever wanted from anything I’ve endeavored. I just wanted to do something that makes me happy and put it out there for people to discover. Knowing that everything we do isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea,  it should naturally follow that the standard idea of success isn’t the best fit for everybody, either.

I decided to stop worrying so much and stop trying so hard. Seems counter intuitive, but in all honesty, higher sales isn’t the thing that’s going to make me feel good. Accomplishing a goal is.

There are so many things I want to do. So many books I want to write, speeches I want to give, songs I want to play, skills I want to pass on, businesses I’d like to start. To focus so much on how one lonely aspect of my creative whole is faring seems silly.

With this in mind, I can say that I’m proud of the amount of books I’ve sold since I’ve started this journey. I’m proud of the 5,000 views my blog has gotten.  That’s more than I would have gotten if I’d never tried in the first place, and eventually it could do better. The next project I undertake may be the one that takes off. I just have to keep trying new things and doing what fulfills my soul, trusting that the rest will fall into place.

This small shift in perception has had remarkable effects on my mental health and on my drive to continue pursuing my passions, and it’s a lesson I wish I would have learned much earlier.

My challenge to you is to take a good, hard look at what you perceive as failures. Is there a positive you’re overlooking? Can it be reframed as abundance instead of loss? Is there another lesson to be learned that can help you move closer to your goals?

Most of the time, I think you’ll find the answer to those questions is yes. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Be proud of the lessons your failures have taught you. Carry that pride with you and continue striving towards the greatness you know is within you. Don’t let yourself get in your way.

 

 

Where Do You Start When You Have Too Many Goals?

If you ask my daughter what she wants to be when she grows up, she invariable answers, “I’m going to be a ninja cop firefighter.”

Sometimes she adds to the core three and it becomes a ninja-cop-firefighter who is doctor, or a teacher, or a mommy.  She’s a girl on a mission to be strong and do good, and I have no doubt that she will. She’s fearless, compassionate, stubborn as hell, and a bit of an adrenaline junkie…perfect qualities for a ninja-cop-firefighter.

Every time I hear her say this, my heart fills with pride. I have succeeded in teaching her the importance of helping others. I’ve created this wonderfully confident little human who wants to take on the world. I’m doing alright! It’s a great feeling, for sure, but that’s not what strikes me the most about her dream and my reaction to it.

What strikes me the most, is that I also find myself full of awe. At 5 years old, nothing seems to be outside the realm of possibility for her. She wants to do a bunch of different things, so she’ll create a position that calls for all of those skills. Why not?

This is something I have been pondering a lot lately. Why do we have this idea that we have to be one thing? From the time we enter high school we are pressured to think about what one thing we want to do, with the expectation that we will then spend four or more years in college studying that thing, and then go on to do it for the rest of our lives. That’s a lot of pressure, and it certainly doesn’t allow for a whole lot of personal growth or development. Instead, it paints you into a corner that becomes increasingly harder to get out of the longer you spend stuck there.

In an effort to make a change, many people find themselves changing careers, sometimes multiple times, as they try to find something that fits. Sometimes this is met with success, sometimes it’s not. Some people just find ways to separate their work selves from their “real” selves and go through the motions each day, accepting that they aren’t going to be fulfilled by their job and filling that space in other ways. A few of them find healthy ways to fill that void, many more do not. What seems to be constant for all of these people is that they all have a pretty strong vision of what their life would look like if circumstances were different. They all know what they would do if they won the lottery. They all dream of where they could be if they’d made different choices.

The problem is, they also have 50 billion reasons why that vision is unattainable.

However, most of those reasons are in no way valid. They are simply a product of thinking that just because you’ve never seen something done, it can never be. They are looking at minor obstacles to overcome as insurmountable challenges. They are also the result of a narrow view of what success in those areas looks like.

We have the capability to create the lives we want. We have the capacity for creative thought and the ability to solve problems in new, innovative ways. And yet, we choose to just follow the beaten path.

 

the power of the mind goals quote

 

This is something I have always found perplexing, even though I have fallen into the same traps. We all know that where there is a will, there’s a way, but somehow we continually undermine our will. We convince ourselves that we’re fine where we are and try to find ways to make ourselves fine if we’re not. We’ll try anything…except going after what we really want.

It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? I mean think about it, every success story begins with somebody dreaming about doing something nobody thought was possible. They know what they want, and they go after it without letting the doubts of others sink in. They find creative solutions to overcome the obstacle thrown at them along the way.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I have no doubt that my daughter can become a ninja-cop-firefighter that’s sometimes a doctor, so it makes no sense to doubt my own dreams.

Aside from being an awesome mom who grows and preserves her own food and creates an amazing family atmosphere, I want to be a writer and a teacher who spends her free time creating works of art and making music. Put in my daughter’s framework, I want to be a writer-teacher-artist-farmer who’s also a mom.

When I think about it that way, it’s fairly simple. In fact, I’m already doing most of those things. I don’t have a farm yet, and I’m not making a solid living off of my creativity, but those things will come. I’m not a “teacher” by the common definition, but I’m constantly teaching my daughter things and I strive to teach and inspire through my work. I also have plans in place to take that further. I know the life I want to create, and from there I’ve set goals to bring it closer and closer to reality.

 

goals quote create your reality too many goals power of the mind

 

I want you to try something. Grab a sheet of paper and work through the following:

  1. What do you want to be? What is your “ninja-cop-firefighter” line-up? Break it down into the simplest of terms. Can you find a common thread that ties them together?
  2. Does it still seem as intimidating? Are you closer or further away from that reality than you thought?
  3. If something seems impossible, can you find a way to reframe it? For example, I want to make music but I know I’ll never be a rockstar. However, I can still play for fun at home, put a small bar band together, or jam with friends. I can write and record songs just for the fun of it. Is there another way you can be successful with the part of the equation that seems out of reach? Be creative!
  4. What skills, experience, credentials, or materials do you already have that can move you closer to your dream?
  5. What skills, experiences, etc do you need to acquire in order to move closer to your dreams? What steps can you take to get those skills or items?
  6. How are you going to get there? Start with the small steps. Take the answers from number 5 and create a set of goals.  Rank them from easiest to most difficult, Then, take those difficult steps and break them down into smaller tasks. Now, you should have a list of things that you would need to do to achieve our goal in roughly the order they would need to be carried out.
  7. Look over your list and give yourself some realistic deadlines. How long would each step take? Write the amount of time next to each item. Now, imagine you could start tomorrow and take a look at your time line. When would you be finished?  Whatever your answer is, 2 months, 1 year, 5 years, put that time frame into context. Think backwards: what have you done in that time span in the past?
  8. How can you cram these steps into your current life? Maybe you work on these steps during your lunch breaks. Maybe you give up some TV time. If you are determined enough, you’ll find places to make it fit.

Are you fired up yet?

If so, get after it! Work towards those goals!

If not, go back and reframe those goals. Break them down further or find new ways of coming at them until you hit on something that lights a fire.

Nothing is out of our reach unless we consciously put it there. Pull those dreams off the shelf and allow yourself to go after them. After all, we only have one life, and it’s much too short to spend being miserable.

 

 

 

Painting My Way To Confidence

If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, you probably already know that I’ve frequently struggled with self-confidence. It’s something most of us deal with from time to time. In fact, it seems to crop up again the minute you think you’ve got it licked.

I like to think of the journey to self-confidence as a mountain you must climb over the course of a lifetime. Sometimes we make great progress in a short amount of time, then we must stop to rest. Sometimes the going is more slow. Sometimes we slide back and have to conquer the same stretch of terrain a second, third, or fourth time. It can be exhausting, but the closer you get to the top, the better you feel. The trick is, not to give up.

This, of course, is easier said than done. When you’re face to face with a mountain of challenges, it’s easy to avoid taking even the tiniest of steps. This is especially true if you fall into the habit of letting the voice of fear overtake the other voices in your head. Fear will assault you with a litany of what-ifs and potential disasters. It will discourage you from taking the next step. It will convince you that it’s better to head down to the base of the mountain and set up a nice, safe camp. After all, you’re not strong enough to tackle this climb. Maybe you can try again in the future, when you’re stronger. When you’re smarter. When you’re better.

 

fear quote, embrace your song, be you, small step towards happiness, playing in front of others, guitar

 

In the last few months, I’ve listened to that voice more often than I should. I settled into unhealthy routines. I put my books and my blog on the backburner. I let the housework pile up. In short, I let fear push me into a place where my anxiety and depression were in control.

Now, in my defense, pregnancy does some strange things to your brain. Not only do you have a barrage of pesky hormones throwing everything off, but you have a million and one practical concerns. You find yourself worrying about all the things you need to do before the baby comes. You worry about all the inevitable changes that will come with the addition of a new family member. You worry about your health and the health of the baby. There’s truly no limit to the things you worry about.

In the midst of all this, your body is going through crazy changes. Cue more worry. Does my partner still find me attractive? I don’t find me attractive. Am I going to be able to get my body back to “normal”? Not exactly the kind of thoughts that are conducive to feeling self-confident.

After a few weeks of dealing with this funk, I decided I needed to find a way out of it. I started a new self-care routine (that I will share in another post), I engaged in an open dialogue with my husband about the struggles I was facing, and I began looking into various exercises to overcome these obstacles.

A few pieces of advice that popped up again and again were:

  • Focus on what makes you awesome.
  • Do something out of the ordinary.
  • Celebrate your successes.
  • Stay focused on your goals.
  • Acknowledge your progress.
  • Learn to learn from your mistakes.
  • Cultivate mindfulness/remain wholly present.
  • Take a risk.
  • Engage in positive self-talk.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others.

Pretty good advice, right?

The problem is, reading advice is easy. Putting it into practice takes work.

So, what does painting have to do with all of this?

Awhile back, I had ordered a pack of seven canvases and a pack of vinyl sticker paper for my Silhouette (which is kind of like a Cricut). I had planned on using these items to create some wall-art to sell for some extra Christmas money, along with a few other crafts. However, once they arrived they sat on my desk for ages. I’d started second guessing the whole scheme. I had little to no painting experience, why did I think I could start now? Even if they turned out great, who would want to buy them? I should just stick to what I know and finish the next book…once my confidence returned, of course.

A few days after I’d made up my mind to push through my depression and related self-confidence issues, I found myself staring at the stack of art supplies on my cluttered desk. I remembered some of the advice I’d been reading. Painting a few pictures would certainly be something out of the ordinary for me, and it would be the first step towards the goal of selling some motivational artwork, which was also a risk. Taking it a step further, I would focus on nothing else during my painting time and work on mindfulness.

With a smile, I grabbed a canvas and brought out my paints. I decided that the first few were just practice. There was no reason to overly critique my work or compare it to others. Of course I wasn’t going to paint like them, I was going to paint like me and my unique vision is part of what makes me awesome. Not only that, but it was just a learning exercise. I could try out different techniques and practice learning from my mistakes.

That’s a lot of advice-taking crammed into one act!

Armed with this healing mindset, I got to work on my first piece. I fully immersed myself in the project, keeping in mind that it was just for me. Every step of the project was a new technique for me, and although parts of it were frustrating, I enjoyed the learning process. Plus, it kept my mind off all those doubts and worries that had been plaguing me. It quieted the voice of fear.

When I finally stepped back and took a look at the finished product, I was astounded.

 

painting, art therapy, self-confidence, confidence, heart painting, DIY wall art

Can’t go wrong with a Beatles quote!

 

For someone with very little painting experience, it turned out fantastic!

I took some time to engage in positive self-talk as I continued looking over my masterpiece. Whenever I found my thoughts slipping towards looking for imperfections, I shut it down and refocused my attention. I had seen this project through. I loved the color palette. I adored the quote and the word placement. I tried something new and it was fun! I was going to learn even more and be a great painter one day!

With this one act, I took another step up the mountain of self-confidence.

The next day, I painted the background for another picture. Then I did two more. And then another. Freeing myself from expectations, I then formulated ideas of what could go on top of them and wrote them down.

 

art therapy, abstract backgrounds, acrylic on canvas, DIY wall art, confidence, painting

 

I decided to tackle the red canvas next.

At first, I was scared that I’d ruin it. The idea I had was too ambitious for a beginner. Maybe I should just set it aside until I learned more. I could buy some new canvas and do some tutorials first.

I stared at it for awhile and reminded myself that this was just more practice. I could roll with the mistakes. I could do this. I might even surprise myself. All I needed to do was have fun and do my best.

With this one, I ran into more problems than I had anticipated, but I didn’t allow myself to give up. When I made a mistake, I found creative ways to cover it up and create it into a better picture. When the words wouldn’t come off the transfer paper, I enlisted my husband for help and support and together we solved the issue. In the end, I had something I was proud of.

 

art therapy, confidence, diy painting, lady with wine glass, lady back dress painting

I wish the photos did this one justice!

 

That pride led to more opportunities for positive self talk. I loved the way her hair came out. I loved the colors. I loved that I stuck it out and finished it even when it got tough. I loved that I found creative ways to fix errors. These skills would all transfer into other areas of life. I had added another way to have fun to my life. I had another thing on my list of qualities I admire in myself.

And with that, I moved a little further up the mountain.

Of course, as powerful as this experience has been, it works best in conjunction with other exercises. However, reflecting on the success of this practice when things get tough has thus far been effective in enabling me to carry out these other tasks. The road to self-confidence is long and arduous, and I’ve still got a long way to go, but today I celebrate how far I’ve come.

I look forward to sharing more of this journey with you, as well as the tips and tricks I find along the way. After all, we are all in this together.

Now, I want to hear from you. What are some tricks you have found to help build your self-confidence? Tell us all about it in the comments below!

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