If you’re an artist (or any creative person) you know only too well how easy it is to get caught up in the demands of your art.
Artistic pursuits quite simply push our personal boundaries – they flow into our weekends, we’re contacted outside of normal business hours, we need to “jump” at a moment’s notice if we pick up a job, and business can ebb and flow between having nothing to do, to having more work than we know what to do with (yes, a good problem to have but it can be stressful!)
Another major hurdle for artists is that we too often link our work to our worth, to our self-esteem. Because creating art is SO PERSONAL. But this isn’t a healthy way to live.
That’s why self-care is crucial to staying mentally healthy and thriving in a creative career long-term. Because, honestly, being an artist is a marathon!
So, what can we do to prioritize our well-being?
Check out these six simple (but essential) self-care tips for artists!
Understand That Self-Care isn’t Selfish – it’s a Necessity
I think all modern society needs to learn this one! Self-care, and prioritizing yourself to obtain it, does not make one a selfish person.
When you’re an artist, it's even more important to recognize the importance of taking care of yourself as it directly affects your creativity.
We’re only human, we cannot work ourselves into the ground without time out. Our brain was designed to rest. And that doesn’t just mean sleep.
Research shows that when we turn our “focus” brain off, it will retrieve memories, link new creative ideas, and help us feel more self-connected. Wow, right!?
Time for a walk, anyone?
Create a Self-Care Routine
Just as you have a routine for creating your art, it's so beneficial to also create a self-care routine. This can include things like exercise, walking, meditation, journaling, taking a bath, or just spending time outdoors.
This doesn’t need to be over-complicated. Pick something you like to do, or would like to try, and pop it on your daily schedule just like any other appointment. And just like any other appointment, you can not break it without good reason.
Perhaps you’ll start meditating for 5 minutes each morning before you reach for your cup of joe. Or take a walk or bike ride around the neighborhood after lunch or dinner. If you love to work out, make sure you’re not skimping on your gym sessions. If you love to dance, you could put on your favorite music and let loose for 10 minutes.
You might also want to consider a spot of “free walking.” That same research above (about turning our focus brain off) showed that “free walking” – meandering around freely – supports fluency, flexibility, and originality of thinking!
It's vital to take regular breaks throughout the day to rest and recharge. Whether to do some self-care, grab a snack or drink, take in some fresh air outside, or simply close your eyes for a few minutes.
Taking breaks can help prevent burnout which in turn keeps you motivated.
Yes, I know, breaks can be easier said than done! Sometimes we get on a roll with something and don't want to upset our “flow.” That’s a legit point. But at other times, it’s not going to hurt to get up and stretch those legs for 10 minutes, a few times a day.
A great way to take regular breaks is to simply set a timer. Try out a few different intervals and see what works best for you and your flow.
Sleep is truly non-negotiable for both physical and mental health. The brain and the body simply must reset and they need a minimum amount of time to do that.
The current agreed-upon number is 7 hours a night for a healthy adult. Yet many of us struggle to get there, am I right? Be it kids, pets, working late, phone scrolling, and a whole host of other reasons.
But as an artist, it's critical to prioritize getting enough restful sleep so that creativity can flow freely.
Simply turning the light out an hour earlier can make a huge difference in how you feel the next day.
Connect with Others
Creating art is such a solitary affair. So it’s even more important to connect with others to prevent isolation. Especially when the work is so personal.
- Maintain a healthy social life
- Connect or collaborate with other artists
- Join a community or fitness group
We touched on connecting with other artists in our blog about creating a painting habit. It can be so refreshing and fun to create a collaboration with other artists!
They don’t even need to be a fellow painter. You could join forces with a photographer, a sculptor, or even a musician for a truly original installation. There might even be a local cafe that would love a mural painted by a team of artists. Creativity is all around us!
Setting boundaries is key to a healthy self-care practice. But, for most people, it’s also likely the hardest step to take.
As an artist, it's easy to fall into the trap of working long hours and sacrificing personal time. However, we must set boundaries – for ourselves and other people – to protect against burnout and discontent.
When we don't set boundaries with other people it can be easy to feel taken advantage of and be taken advantage of. Which will always breed unhappiness.
A few areas where you might like to set boundaries are:
- Time boundaries: Set a specific amount of time each day (or week) for creating art. This can ensure that other parts of your life aren’t ignored. You can also incorporate rules like not checking emails after 5 pm, and setting “work hours” for your art studio.
- Personal boundaries: Set some rules so your love for creation isn’t lost in the busyness of paid work. Perhaps you’ll determine that weekends are for working on your passion projects, not client jobs.
- Financial boundaries: Determine what you’re willing to charge for your art and establish and share those payment terms (boundaries) upfront so there’s no confusion later.
- Creative boundaries: Decide what art you do not wish to do and stick to it. You can also say NO to clients you don’t like working with – life’s too short! You can also set limits on the number of revisions you’re willing to make to a project.
I think there's something truly “loving” about creating a self-care routine for yourself – no matter your career choice. It’s exactly like the old saying about putting the oxygen mask on yourself first. If you can’t breathe, how can you focus on putting your best foot forward – for creativity, for motivation, or just for friends and family?