Where creativity grows

Tag: #gratitude

A self-care buffet

When the pandemic started, I entered survival mode. I did what I could to just allow myself to put one foot in front of the next. Sometimes that meant cooking elaborate dinners for us. Sometimes that meant baking delicious brownies and eating half the pan in one sitting. Sometimes it meant killing a 10-mile training run in ridiculous temperatures. Sometimes it meant breaking down into a blubbering mess. As the months have worn on the latter has been more frequent and it has been exhausting. Tom and I have talked and talked and talked about what I could do to help me find my center and until the last week or so nothing was helping. Being here in The Oodlearium is truly the only time I feel complete joy and peace, but even lately that has been hard.

Why does any of this even matter and why am I talking about this on a blog about creativity? Stress and depression/anxiety are some of the greatest blockers to creativity. I know that I am not the only one who has felt overwhelmed and this past year has amplified all of those feelings. I often describe my life as juggling 100 plates of fire and then every once in a while someone pours gasoline on it and everything comes crashing down around me. That is not the way I want to go through life. 

During our last post-breakdown chat, Tom was emphatic that I needed to practice daily self-care. That buzzword has always bothered me, because I associate it with yuppy soccer moms who want to justify getting their nails done in the middle of a pandemic. But, I understood his sentiment. I needed to take time for ME to make sure I am good every single day. 

We brainstormed a long list (have I mentioned how obsessed I am with lists?) of ways that I could take care of myself. I wanted to create a buffet of options so that I could pick and choose depending on my mood. I wrote each idea on a notecode and clipped them together with a binder clip. They sit next to my journal in the middle of The Oodle Surface where I see them every single day. Each day when I have practiced my self-care, I jot the date and anything noteworthy on the back of the appropriate card. It has been tremendously helpful and has kept me focused on taking care of myself.

Here are some of the activities on my cards:

  1. Yoga
    1. I LOVE Yoga with Adrienne. She has a video for every situation, but she is also incredibly loving and supportive. I just did her Yoga for Healing video (only 10 minutes) and I felt like a new person.
    2. This Yin Yoga Foundations video is excellent. It is 45 minutes, but it definitely calms my mind and my body.
  2. Meditation
    1. I try counting my breaths and staying focused on my breath. 
    2. I have also started using my hour glass to work on staying focused.
  3. Take an online art class.
    1. I recently purchased a five month subscription to CreativeBug for $5.
    2. There are TONS of classes on YouTube. Consider creating a library that you can go to when you want to watch something later.
  4. Write thank you cards.
    1. This book changed my life. 
    2. Have a stack of thank you cards ready (you can get them super cheap from the Dollar Store) and then you can just write it out quickly.
  5. Do a pour painting.
    1. If you are a regular reader of my This Week in The Oodlearium, you know that I am obsessed with pour painting.
    2. If you need a lesson in letting go, pour painting is a great way to do it.
  6. Take a nap.
    1. Most people go through their lives extremely sleep deprived.
    2. Don’t fight it. Your body is telling you that you need rest.
  7. Get out in nature.
    1. Fresh air ALWAYS helps.
    2. My husband set up a patio shelter last summer to block the harsh afternoon sun. It made such a difference and we spent so much more time outside than normal. 
  8. Index card art.
    1. This idea goes hand in hand with mindful doodling. 
    2. Grab a stack of notecards and a pen and fill the card with a pattern. Go back and color it, if you fancy. Base the doodle around an inspirational quote or even a power word such as strength.
  9. Read.
    1. My husband and I are reading Seth Godin’s newest book The Practice.
    2. We have both been profoundly moved and inspired by his message.
  10. Self-massage.
    1. This book has kept both of us out of the ER multiple times. Daily self-massage can help release the tension that builds up during our chaotic and stressful lives.
    2. Consider investing in a Theragun. We are not a gadget gadget family, but the $199 investment we made in our Theragun last summer has been life changing. As a runner, it has helped with recovery after long training runs, but it helps just loosen up sore muscles from life.

Download a printable copy of my cards here. (This link will force you to make a copy of the document and save to your Google Drive. From there, you can open it in Google Slides and print it out with six or nine slides / page onto card stock.)

Until next time, Oodle on and make sure you are taking care of YOU.

2.5 x Warrior

52 Frames and why you should take on a challenge project

In December of 2017, I was preparing to deliver the last few copies of my book The Many Faces of Elgin. The previous 24 months had been consumed by writing, making portraits, editing, layout, sign-offs, marketing and so much more. It was everything I did during those two years. I squeezed in a for-fun photography outing every once in a great while, but it was not often. Landscapes, flowers, butterflies, etc were placed on a long-term back burner. When I was done, I wondered if I would ever pick up my camera again.   

When I randomly happened onto a post about a photography challenge called 52 Frames. The rules were simple– submit one original photo taken the week of the challenge based on that week’s theme. The goal is to be a weekly warrior (submit a photo every week for 52 weeks straight). It did not take much to convince me to sign up for the challenge. 

You can start the program whenever you want, but I was starting with the first challenge of 2018. Every year the first challenge of the year is a self-portrait. What on earth had I gotten myself into? Remember what I said about portraits and flowers and landscapes and such? Not only am I not good at portraits, but I despise being in pictures. The nightmare was real. I won’t lie— quite a few tears were shed that week, but I submitted my first image and my journey had begun.

When I look back at the two photobooks I have made so far (2018 / 2019), I am struck by how much this group has helped me to grow not only as a photographer, but also as a person. When I first started sharing my photography on social media, I definitely fell victim to the dopamine hits I got from getting likes. Because my family and friends liked everything I ever posted. I had an inflated sense of reality. 52 Frames challenged me to learn new techniques, shoot subjects that never interested me and most importantly to pursue my photography for me and not for anyone else. Each week I specifically seek out comments that help me improve and grow. I used to tell my husband that I was a fair-weather photographer. Now 52 Frames has me shooting 52 weeks a year. I have submitted a whole mess of self-portraits— even when it was not directly the challenge theme. I have taken pictures of M&Ms, soldering irons, flags, eggs, candy corn, Darth Vader, flowers, strangers, fire, graffiti and so much more. Most weeks are REALLY hard for me and I consider myself a creative person! I am pushed to my limits regularly and somehow every week I show up. I am more than half-way through my third year with this project and I cannot see myself stopping any time soon.

I highly recommend challenge projects because they force you to show up and practice. Here are some ideas:

  • 52 Frames– This is a photography based project, but you can see the weekly challenges on their website if you wanted to apply the theme to a different medium (writing, painting, doodling).
  • Project 365– Take a single photo every day of the year. The original Project 365 was to take a selfie every day. Some people choose to document food or just an event from their everyday lives. Again, you could apply the concept to anything you want to do every day for a year.
  • Project 52- same idea as project 365, but only once a week. 
  • 365 Thank you notes (based on this book). Write and send/deliver a thank you card every day for an entire year. You’ll be amazed by what this gratitude exercise does for your overall well-being.
  • 100 strangers. Take a photo of 100 different strangers. If you are not a photographer, perhaps you write a short scenario about 100 strangers. Snap a quick image with your cell phone and then write up your scenario.
  • Learn a new word everyday.

Here are few more ideas:

Everyone has creativity within them, but it is a muscle that needs to be used and flexed from time to time. These challenges encourage you to make having a creativity mindset a priority in your life. 

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