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Strategies in Managing Creative Energy

Strategies in Managing Creative Energy

On Monday I had the pleasure of welcoming year 7 pupils of Ysgol Tryfan to my gallery. One child asked whether I ever get burn out? What a very mature question I thought to myself, of which it got me thinking..


I guess I do sometimes, only yesterday! I was tired after weeks of preparation for my exhibition, then a day of talking to pupils on and off.

The feeling of not knowing where to start, and the feeling of being overwhelmed of what I need to get done. This normally occurs when there is an imbalance in my life somewhere. 

This is where ‘Self-Care’ comes in! 

Self-care as an artist is very important, if I don’t look after myself mentally, emotionally and physically, energy levels can drop and can lead to creative burnout.

As a mother of three children I need to remind myself that self-care is not selfish, consciously making better decisions and intentionally forming good habits improves health and personal welfare.

Self-care is associated with activities, routines and decisions that help me lead a healthier life style. Different aspects of personal health include:

  • Personal hygiene
  • Food and nutrition
  • Fitness and exercise
  • Psychological and emotional needs
  • Coping with or preventing illness

Some positive self-care tips as an artist:

    It’s important that you don’t overwork yourself, take short breaks to give your mind and body a rest. Learn to say ‘no’ to people, prioritise tasks and only do the ones that are necessary. Don’t feel guilty about saying ‘no’ once in a while.

    A lot of what I do as a business has nothing to do with art, things like gathering receipts for the accounts, tidying the gallery, speaking to customers, sending things to print, website work, social media and so on.
    As an artist it seems obvious, but you need to make sure you make time for your art regularly. Self-care and art go hand in hand, it is a therapeutic practice, use this time to destress, relax and unwind. Use your break time to stretch your legs, get some fresh air and hydrate.

    I think it's really important to have a tidy workspace, old bits of paper and documents on your desk are only a distraction and cause unwanted stress. Set aside time to deal with administrative tasks and deal with them then, don't procrastinate. It’s well known that visual clutter and mess induces anxiety. 

    - Organise your workspace, so things are easy to find
    - Clean your work space on a regular basis, hoover and dust
    - Dispose of any items you no longer have use for, any cardboard or framing wastage
    - Throw out any food or unsanitary items that are dirtying up space

    With these jobs kept under control I know I’m less likely to procrastinate, get distracted and be more focussed and productive creatively.

  3. GOALS 
    I think this one is really important, without goals you are floating from one task to the next without any clear direction or purpose. I find a great way to motivate oneself is to make lists.

    - A list of administrative and website tasks, emails, paying bills etc. Important things which need to be kept on top of. Pencil in a day from your week to deal with these tasks.

    - A list of short term creative goals which can be completed in a short space of time, things that take days or weeks.

    - A list of long term goals, these are more ambitious goals which will take months or up to a year.

    - A longer term plan to stick to, preventing you from digressing. This will help you stick to your masterplan. The best thing I ever did was write a 10 year plan, without goals you don’t get to where you want to be.

    In writing these lists, you realise your intentions and find out what it is you want to accomplish and ultimately what motivates you! When you write down your artistic and business goals, you can refer back to them when you feel blocked. You are more likely to succeed in anything you do, if you figure out a plan to get there - what needs to be done and in what particular order. These lists give encouragement and motivation when you need it.

    Do something other than ‘work’ which gives you pleasure, a time when you don’t focus on any work at all. Tell yourself that you deserve it! I enjoy spending time with my family and getting out and about with them, this brings me happiness, they enrich my life and give me purpose.
    I love pottery and attend a class once a week, which I find helps me shut off from work and helps me relax.
    I've also recently joined a woman’s cricket team, I especially like to connect with people in a sporting environment. The satisfaction of catching a ball or hitting it hard and far, brings me great joy! I also love tennis, although had to stop due to tennis elbow last year.

    Photo by: Taylor Heely

    As a creative you are constantly exercising your creative muscles, although there does come a point when creative juices run out.
    I am a huge believer in exercise as a form of keeping your mind healthy, not just to keep in shape physically but emotionally too. If I’m feeling blue and out of energy - I do everything in my power to force myself out the door to go for a run, there is no better way to lift my emotional well being, a run outside in the fresh air and countryside is the perfect antidote. This feeling of physical tiredness re-sets my brain and helps me feel inspired and relaxed. 

    I have quotes by famous artists saved to my desktop, in which I read often. They help me focus and make me reflect on the art I create. I do go off the rails like any other artist of course.. but it helps me keep in a positive state of mind about my art. They help combat negative thoughts and limit beliefs I may be having.

    As a graphic artist, I spend a lot of time on my computer, which I think has contributed to my tennis elbow. I know I don’t always treat my body as well as it deserves. I am guilty of sacrificing my mental and physical health for productivity’s sake. Chugging away at what ever it is I need to complete.
    However I know my body won’t thank me in the long run, so I try to leave my desk to go for a brisk walk to the shop, giving my body and eyes a rest. I aim to stretch often, I do not wish to look like a hunchback in years to come! I have also bought one of those backless ergonomic chairs which you kneel into which hopefully will help.

    I am a firm believer in ‘you are what you eat’, if my mood is low I can quickly relate it back to eating too much bread and not enough fresh food. I like to cook everything from scratch and avoid too many high histamine foods, which don’t agree with me. I don’t seem to break down histamine efficiently resulting in flare-ups, I try to keep that under control by avoiding alcohol, processed smoked meats and anything fermented. I am quite disciplined when it comes to eating sugar, which drives down my mood.

    Photo by: Johnathan Bean

    Never underestimate the power of a good night sleep! I once read that you should consider an early night as an investment in tomorrow, as opposed to a sacrifice of today. 

    Looking after well-being has the following benefits:

    - Improves our mental fitness
    - Nourishes and strengthens our physical state
    - Calms the mind and stabilises our emotional state
    - It reduces our stress, overwhelm, anxiety, and depression

    Everyone is different of course and what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for everyone! Balance is key.

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