Self-Care for Creatives

Do what the dice say.

Whether we are paid for our creative work or not, creative people have stressors that are directly related to our work: the need to be productive and avoid procrastination, solving the problem at hand, self-doubt, finding time for subconscious creativity and for experiences that introduce new ideas and images to our thinking, etc.

There is a certain level of stress that helps prod us into action. Deadlines, for example, can be useful for some people. And other levels of stress push us into a state of overwhelm and meltdown. We must have tools to pull us back from the brink if our stress threatens to overwhelm us.

A Thought Experiment

What makes you feel the opposite of stressed?

If you don’t have an easy answer to that question, try this exercise: Take a few moments to imagine how your body feels when it is stressed. Then take a few moments to imagine what the opposite of that feeling is. Really feel it in your body. And then, try to recall the things that you have been doing when you have felt that way before.

So What?

What animal are you when you do them together?

There isn’t a particularly good word in English to describe how our bodies feel when we feel the opposite of stressed. Some people use flow or openness to describe the feeling. In InterPlay, we call that feeling grace. Notice that we are using grace to name a physical sensation.

We can choose grace for ourselves. We can notice the specific things that create grace in our bodies. And, choosing to do things that give our bodies that experience of grace is a powerful practice of self-care.

An Example

I was in a big rut this week.

I haven’t been writing. NaNoWriMo has started and my kids are moving forward at good paces, but I haven’t written anything beyond a few emails and now this blog post. I have been cranky about this.

My husband and I are preparing our house for sale, an interesting challenge with 4-year old triplets underfoot and while homeschooling our eldest child. We are buying a charming house about a mile away that has more land for the kids to play outside. And, despite the fact that this is an entirely voluntary move, the work involved is substantial. So, it is not surprising that I was tired and stressed.

Unfortunately, I was also losing my cool with my kids. Which was not cool.

I knew I needed to change things up.

When I waddle, I giggle.

Under normal circumstances, changing the dynamics with my kids is often as simple as playing with iMuseCubes, an iPhone app that shakes virtual dice and provides a movement and a sound for you to create simultaneously. 3 rounds of that usually shakes me out of a bad place. If the kids join me, it can go on for some time and become hysterical.

But this week, I knew iMuseCubes wasn’t going to be enough. I needed something that would create a deeper feeling of grace within my body. Something that was specific to my needs to loosen my stress associated with the house and to be more compassionate with my kids.

And, reflecting on my need, I found a tool. It was a song, On The Line by Cris Williamson and Tret Fure. This song always has a profound effect on me. In the lyrics, the changes in a family as children grow up and leave home and elders die are reflected in the laundry Mama hangs on the washing line. And, although I usually cry during the final verse when Mama has died and Daddy hangs his own clothes on the line for the first time, the rhythm and melody of the song are upbeat and get me dancing. Dancing and singing along, I remembered with my whole bodyspirit that my time with my children is short and that my love for them and my joy in their being is bigger than my frustration at any given moment. And I was able to reconnect with them from that place.

Sometimes, words alone can be a salve in our wounded times. Sometimes, creative movement can help us through the rough spots. But sometimes, we need both.

And our bodies know.

If we notice what happens in our bodies and make note of what makes us feel grace, we can use that knowledge to take care of ourselves. We can choose to give ourselves experiences of grace. And we should. Our bodyspirits will thank us for it.

How can you make a moment of grace for yourself today?


Posted on November 4, 2011, in Creativity, Interplay, NaNoWriMo, Parenting, Play and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. It sounds like you found a way out of your funk, but at the minimum it’s good you have tools in your arsenal you know work.

    My goodness, good luck with that move!

    • Kate Arms-Roberts

      In the moment, it felt like a miracle. In retrospect, the time I have spent noticing what gives me that experience had primed my body to find a connection between what I needed at that moment and my past experiences.

  2. Wonderful post, Kate.

    I like the process of shifting around and trying things out that you describe. It sounds more important than the actual thing you land on, that commitment to ‘reflect on your need’ and respond to that.

    • Kate Arms-Roberts

      Thanks, Dave.

      In many ways, I think the focus on “your need” is the most crucial part of the whole process. What works for one person won’t work for another, and what works for me one day may not be what I need the next day.



  1. Pingback: Facing the Blank Page, With Improvisation « Kate Arms-Roberts

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