Category Archives: Empowerment

What feels like the biggest obstacle to doing your creative work and caring for your health?

A Root Cause of Creative Blocks + Health Struggles

What feels like the biggest obstacle to doing your creative work and caring for your health?

  • Overwhelm?

  • Exhaustion?

  • Procrastination?

  • Self-doubt?

  • Lack of support?

  • Time management tools?

Possibly. But, there’s one root cause I want to emphasize: anxiety.

It’s an under-examined—yet resolvable—roadblock.

Anxiety prevents us from engaging with our creativity and our health.

Often, we try to think our way out of our problems:

  • We put time and energy into research and education because we don’t feel ready or capable. Hint: we are.

  • We seek productivity and time management tips. We give ourselves unnecessary labels (like “lazy”). In reality, we’re trying to do too much, or are fighting our healthy instinct to treat ourselves self-compassionately.

  • We pay experts to tell us what to do. I believe that we can trust our creative instincts and paths. Support people help, but only you can empower yourself.

  • We give up. We engage in all-or-nothing thinking (which the field of psychology calls a “cognitive distortion”). We toss up our hands and call creativity and health impossible at this phase in life (I see this one a lot with busy parents!).

Anxiety is an “overthinking problem” and a series of known (though unwanted and unpleasant) bodily sensations. Often these reinforce one another in a feedback loop.

But, let’s not start by judging ourselves for having moderate- or high-level anxiety. It’s common. It’s human nature to want to feel good. Instinctually, we run away from discomfort, and resort to comfort.

Plus, we live in a culture that celebrates the mind and neglects the mind/body connection:

  • We eat unhealthy food on the go because that’s what’s sold to us.
  • We sleep fitfully because we’re overworked and don’t have a village to support us.
  • We spend too much time hunched over our computers and smartphones because we’re expected to be constantly available (and we get a dopamine hit from checking our messages).
  • We drink multiple cups of coffee without a glass of water in sight, to keep up with our tasks (which are often unrealistic cultural expectations [AKA keeping up with the Joneses].)

All of these habits are known to increase anxiety, and to reinforce a tired and wired state. They’re cultural problems, not personal failings. Nonetheless, we need to find a way to cope with them until things more fully change.

I want to emphasize this point: if you struggle with anxiety, you may struggle with being embodied.

On top of that, exercise’s physical effects mimic anxiety—increased heart rate, shortness of breath, sweating, muscle tension, shakiness, lightheadedness, and more. So, you may interpret those normal, healthy exercise effects as evidence that something’s not right and that you can’t handle exercise. This makes it hard to start and maintain enough healthy movement in your life, and to be embodied generally.

What feels like the biggest obstacle to doing your creative work and caring for your health?

I believe that the solutions are the same, whether we’re struggling with our creative process or our health goals.  Continue reading

Must-Reads for Creatives is a monthly curation of articles + art for thoughtful creative parents. Each post arrives tied together by a gentle thread—because I’m not here to add to the noise. Let’s simplify creative living, shall we? (At the end of each post, I share how I’ve been doing just that.) Bookmark these posts. Savor them slowly. This month’s Must-Reads for Creatives tap into the bigger picture: the public good and the great outdoors.

Must-Reads for Creatives: On the Public Good + the Great Outdoors

Must-Reads for Creatives is a monthly curation of articles + art for thoughtful creative parents. Each post arrives tied together by a gentle thread—because I’m not here to add to the noise. Let’s simplify creative living, shall we? (At the end of each post, I share how I’ve been doing just that.) Bookmark these posts. Savor them slowly.

This month’s Must-Reads for Creatives tap into the bigger picture: the public good and the great outdoors.

They remind us that:

  • We’re not alone.
  • We’re only human.
  • Our struggles are common, and we can handle them.
  • We’re not failing to meet our potential.
  • Cultural expectations are out of whack (and filled with distractions.).
  • The personal is still political.

Step back and let go of your imperfections and worries for a moment. You’re more than them. Set those burdens down.

We are connected to the public good and the greater world around us.

Sometimes, busy modern parents feel like they don’t have the bandwidth to consider large-scale social and environmental issues. They feel like they can barely hold things together each day.

I’d argue that we can’t afford not to consider them.

Our personal struggles exist because we have so many unresolved community and cultural issues. It does take a village and, often, that village fails us.

To remember the big picture is to let go of the culturally-imposed anxieties to be the perfect parent, with the perfect home, the perfect kids, the perfect body, the perfect time management systems, and the perfect life. We’re more than consumers of products, media, and life hacks. We don’t need those things to get in tune with our creativity and our wellbeing.

What a relief that this isn’t all personal! To be sure, we often judge ourselves for not meeting cultural standards, and so often forget to question these standards as unrealistic.

Of course, that leaves us with solving large-scale issues. I think that’s where the anxiety kicks in, and we revert to business as usual. But, we can choose to turn to one another and to approach the challenges together. We each contribute a piece toward the whole. That’s plenty. This mindset clears space for fresh ideas and solutions that potentially serve us all equally. Plus, it builds in breathing space for mindful moments and fun adventures along the way. You don’t have to tackle it all; you just do what you can, when you can, in your circles of influence.

That’s not to say that personal self-care doesn’t matter. (You’ll notice I write about it a lot!) I wouldn’t recommend waiting around for social change to happen before taking care of your own and your family’s wellbeing. Obviously, you’d be waiting a long time!

I believe that we have to “molt” cultural restrictions regularly. Only then can we re-connect with awe, wonder, the natural world, and the communities around us.

We find meaning and purpose through connection with the common good and the peace of the outdoors.

These Must-Reads reflect that…

This Month’s Must-Reads for Creatives:

A Guide to the Basic Anxiety of Life >>>

In Defense of Silence >>>

Have We Lost Sight of the Promise of Public Schools? >>>

Mental Minimalism: Paring Down Thoughts Which No Longer Serve Us >>>

Billboards That Advertise the Surrounding California Landscape by Jennifer Bolande >>>

A Cinematic Love Letter to the Wilderness and John Muir’s Legacy >>>

Continue reading

When you seek out external advice and resources, you’re searching for something internal: you want to empower yourself. You seek to feel: strong, knowledgeable, capable, informed, supported (and more!). Education is power. Support is priceless. At the same time, it’s a fine line between trusting the guidance of others and trusting your own vision, skills, and timeline. No one can empower you; only you can empower yourself.

Must-Reads for Creatives: On Empowering Yourself

Must-Reads for Creatives is a monthly curation of articles + art for thoughtful creative parents. Each post arrives tied together by a gentle thread—because I’m not here to add to the noise. Let’s simplify creative living, shall we? (At the end of each post, I share how I’ve been doing just that.) Bookmark these posts. Savor them slowly.

On Empowering Yourself:

When you seek out external advice and resources, you’re searching for something internal: you want to empower yourself. You seek to feel: strong, knowledgeable, capable, informed, supported (and more!). Education is power. Support is priceless.

At the same time, it’s a fine line between trusting the guidance of others and trusting your own vision, skills, and timeline. No one can empower you; only you can empower yourself. You will have to find your own balance between the intake of influences and your own personal creative output. That’s often the struggle—the crux—within creative blocks.

Of course, imposter syndrome crops up for you at some points. It’s easy to keep educating yourself before taking action—because you don’t feel ready yet. Be willing to explore those feelings. Journal it out. Talk with someone who can give an outsider’s perspective.

Then, put a little time and energy into something that’s meaningful for you. That feels more congruous, or harmonious. It’s walking your talk. We all seek meaning, mind/body health, and creative fulfillment.

Here are a few must-reads that are genuinely worth your time. Enjoy putting it all into practice…

This Month’s Must-Reads for Creatives:

In 2017, Pursue Meaning Instead of Happiness >>>

Choosing is the Ticket Price to the Creative Life >>>

Body Sovereignty >>>

How to Take the First Step >>>

Which Personality Traits are Most Predictive of Well-Being? >>>

Installing Windows in Your Mind >>>  Continue reading

I see a world where women develop the creative habits and wellbeing to see their projects through.

In Tandem’s 2-Year Anniversary + My 7 Favorite Posts on Creativity

Just over two years ago, I stayed up late, writing and sharing my first blog post. I convinced myself it was good luck to go live on my daughter’s birthday. I’m not really superstitious. But, it felt kinda sweet to do it on a special day. The idea spurred me to bravery.

It felt vulnerable, yet exhilarating. I was encouraged as I watched the post views and comments come in. Many of my friends were up late too, as fellow parents carving out time for themselves!

These moments of creative risk fascinate me, both as they unfold in my own life and when I’m fortunate enough to watch them in others’ lives. It’s simultaneously scary and empowering to put our thoughts, ideas, products, and services out into the world!

As a feminist and an avid student of behavior change, I have a vision. I see a world where women develop the creative habits and wellbeing to see their projects through. Nothing excites me more.

My 2016 Successes:

I’ll take a moment to walk my talk. Here are my own successes of 2016. (I hope you’ll share yours in the comments below. Shed the minimizing modesty! You do so many cool things!)

My Personal Successes:

I deepened my meditation practice, my journaling practice, and my connections with friends (all required vulnerability!). I can say I really learned to feel my feelings with mindfulness. Regular practices were key, as well as working with a coach. It was a year of shifting from theory to practice, of walking my talk. I continued the things that worked well: the parenting approaches that suit my family; and the movement practices, like Pilates, Zumba, and yoga, that fuel me.

My Professional Successes:

I developed my coaching practice, working with several clients in beta mode. It’s been thrilling. I’ve met amazing people. I’ve honed many skills. I’ve loved the process of channeling my counseling and advocacy work experience (5 years and ~250 people!) into supporting women in pursuing their creative paths with wellbeing.

My style became a mix of creativity coaching and health coaching; I believe they go hand-in-hand. We gain meaning, health, and empowerment from pursuing both creativity and wellbeing in our lives.

So, I support women in the following: pursuing a creative discipline, developing a creative business, parenting creatively, and/or developing health and meditation habits. The process behind all of these is the same: you develop the skills to cope with overwhelm and anxiety, learn to internalize your strengths and accomplishments, set realistic goals and expectations, uncover small action steps, stay connected to your support people, and develop resilience and self-compassion.

A Coaching Series Giveaway!

In celebration of In Tandem‘s anniversary, I’m excited to offer two people a free six-session coaching series, to help you shift from overwhelm to clarity and self-compassion.  Continue reading

Must-Reads for Creatives is a monthly curation of articles + art for thoughtful creative parents. Each post arrives tied together by a gentle thread—because I’m not here to add to the noise. Let’s simplify creative living, shall we? Bookmark these posts. Savor them slowly. This month’s Must-Reads for Creatives are for those with wet eyes, angry fists, big hearts, and a messy, searching hope amid the current cultural atmosphere.

Must-Reads for Creatives: On Wellbeing Amid Injustice

Must-Reads for Creatives is a monthly curation of articles + art for thoughtful creative parents. Each post arrives tied together by a gentle thread—because I’m not here to add to the noise. Let’s simplify creative living, shall we? Bookmark these posts. Savor them slowly.

On Wellbeing Amid Injustice:

This month’s Must-Reads for Creatives are for those with wet eyes, angry yet eager hands, and big wounded hearts amid the current cultural atmosphere.

Many of you—as parents, creatives, healers, community volunteers and activists, and generally caring people—struggle with grief and anger after the American election. You’re searching for meaningful and effective ways to create social justice. You’re holding concerns for yourself, your family, your community, and the world at large.

These times have me reflecting on how personal wellbeing and community wellbeing intersect (and are often inseparable). Any comprehensive discussion of wellbeing must acknowledge that, even though we’re still figuring out how to support their intersections.

On Personal Wellbeing:

Let’s re-write our definition of personal wellbeing along the way; it’s a form of self-love. And, as Krista Tippett has written, “Love, muscular and resilient, does not always seem reasonable, much less doable, in our most damaged and charged civic spaces.” Self-care is more than bubble baths (though they may help). We need to turn the lens of self-compassion upon our thoughts and goals. We need to intersperse mind/body practices across our everyday lives. We need others to support us, in order to be well; no woman or man is an island.

On Community Wellbeing:

Let’s also re-write our definition of community wellbeing along the way. We cannot create true inner or outer change without activism. We can’t meditate our way to a better world (though it helps us to act from a more present and insightful place). We can’t parent, work, create, or play with true freedom within the social structures of oppression. But we must not burn out our flame in the process. We have the right to live our lives with love and play, whenever possible, and in spite of injustice.

It’s so much for us to be and do, in tandem. The good news is: to live a creative life is to contribute your part toward the whole.

Together, we can keep the candle lit.

Together, we will continue to raise the tone of our voices.

Together, we will embody and unify our creative visions for a more just and healthy world.

 

This Month’s Must-Reads for Creatives:

Self-Care Tips for Those Who Are Terrified of Trump’s Presidency >>>

How Women of Color Are Practicing Self-Care in a Trump World >>>

Amaal Said’s Portraits Shed Beautiful Light On Women Of Color >>>

What It Means to Be a Writer in the Time of Trump >>>

We All Have Our Reasons. >>>

Kimberlé Crenshaw: The urgency of intersectionality (a must-view!) >>>

Continue reading

It’s human nature to turn away from suffering. These times call for a different response. A response also rooted in human nature, but one that arises intermittently across American history—standing in our discomfort as we sustainably continue the struggle for social justice.

As You Struggle to Swim This Current of Suffering, Seek Sustainable Social Justice

It’s human nature to turn away from suffering.

These times call for a different response.

A response also rooted in human nature, but one that arises intermittently across American history—standing in our discomfort as we sustainably continue the struggle for social justice.

I say “sustainably” because:

  • Momentum can be lost quickly.

  • Activists and helping professionals burn out easily.

  • American culture quickly steers potential allies back to consumerism and a model of perfectionistic parenting, rather than a life of giving and social activism.

For the most part, if you’re white, middle-class, able-bodied, heterosexual, and/or Christian, you have privileges—reserves of time, money, energy, and support. You can use these privileges as you educate and act in the name of equality and justice.

You have power and privilege to bolster you and amplify your voice; put them to good use and be ready to give them up. Now is the time to be a true and active ally for the long haul. Don’t lose this momentum in a week, a month, a year, ten years…

Sometimes, you may need to tend to your personal wellbeing and to take breaks from the stories of suffering you hear and read.

Please return soon, though. We need you.

Learn to hold the suffering of others and act to alleviate it.

If you’re a person of color, LGBTQI2-S, Muslim, with disabilities, without documents, or of any other oppressed group, I wish you justice, respect, safe spaces, and wellbeing. You deserve to have people fight for justice beside you, as well as on your behalf when you need to restore yourself after facing hate crimes and microaggressions.  Continue reading

Living a creative life—with wellbeing—can be an act of minimalism. Often, creatives thrive when we do less, not more, with our time and energy. We lower our unrealistic expectations and judge ourselves with less frequency. We acknowledge how much we do (and do well) already. We winnow our priorities.

Breath as Metronome: How to Transform Creative Obstacles

Living a creative life—with wellbeing—can be an act of minimalism. Often, creatives thrive when we do less, not more, with our time and energy. We lower our unrealistic expectations and judge ourselves with less frequency. We acknowledge how much we do (and do well) already. We winnow our priorities.

Then, we can breathe! In that space, with fresh eyes, fewer worries, and renewed intention, we meet the blank page or canvas, the dust-covered musical instrument, or the amorphous idea in our heads. It’s not about planning and productivity. We learn to say “no,” “I deserve rest too,” “I’m not taking from my kids, I’m being a creative role model,” and “I’m enough already, but this sounds like a fun creative experiment.”

I share this because it’s a relief, and it’s empowering. Yet, we often forget that minimalism, mindfulness, and breathing can support us. Instead, our culture bombards us with off-base and ineffective creative and business advice. Sometimes, the tone seems harsh and judgmental (I don’t know about you, but I’d rather “practice” my craft than “hustle.” If you wouldn’t word it like that to your kid, or your best friend, should you aim that language at yourself?).

Where does that harsh advice leave you? What thoughts do you hold about where you “should” be in your life right now, and what you “should” be doing? I have a feeling you know them well; you think them dozens of times each day! Step back and put it in context: how exhausting are these thoughts? Fortunately, there’s a healthier way.

Mindfully Work with Thoughts, Feelings, + Sensations

Notice that I shifted from sharing reassuring thoughts to asking what thoughts get in your way. That probably brought up some emotions for you. Hang with those uncomfortable feelings for a moment. Maybe you can notice shallower breathing, a constriction in your throat, or a swirly feeling: all signs of anxiety.

The biggest obstacles to getting our creative work done are not lack of clarity nor logistical issues. The obstacles are our thoughts, feelings, and sensations.

It’s human nature to want to turn away from discomfort and toward comfort. Have some self-compassion; you’re only human.  Continue reading

Must-Reads for Creatives is a monthly curation of articles + art for thoughtful creative parents. Each post arrives tied together by a gentle thread—because I’m not here to add to the noise. Let’s simplify creative living, shall we? (At the end of each post, I share how I’ve been doing just that.) Bookmark these posts. Savor them slowly. This month’s Must-Reads for Creatives help us shift from comparison mode toward greater creative freedom.

Must-Reads for Creatives: From Comparison to Creative Freedom

Must-Reads for Creatives is a monthly curation of articles + art for thoughtful creative parents. Each post arrives tied together by a gentle thread—because I’m not here to add to the noise. Let’s simplify creative living, shall we? (At the end of each post, I share how I’ve been doing just that.) Bookmark these posts. Savor them slowly.

From Comparison to Creative Freedom:

This month’s Must-Reads for Creatives help us shift from comparison mode toward greater creative freedom.

As the fall season nears, we revisit our schedules. What if we use this transition time as a chance to rework our habits, expectations, and goals, as well?

If you’re a parent or student, you may be bracing yourself for a more scheduled fall. Instead, bring your shoulders down from your ears and ask yourself:

  • Do you have to attend every meeting or extracurricular activity?
  • Who are you trying to keep up with?
  • What expectations can you release?
  • Whom can you ask for help and support?
  • When can you restore yourself, with a moment of unstructured family time, a creative pursuit, exercise, meditation, or time in nature?

Together, we can take a stand against busyness and seasonal “should’s.” Step back from unnecessary minutiae that zaps your time and energy. Think wide lens, not zoom lens. You’re freer than you think you are.

This Month’s Must-Reads for Creatives:

You Can Be a Mother and Still Be a Successful Artist >>>

Comparison Among Moms: A Practical Solution / Well Done >>>

Being Too Precious About the Process >>>

Community Building 101 Part Two: Inviting Brilliant People Into Your Life >>>

Psychologist Writes About “Gender Creative” Children >>>

21 Incredible New Books You Need to Read This Fall >>>

“Drawing with Porcelain” >>>  Continue reading

Bring Your Own Creativity Party - Summer 2016 - createintandem.com

Join the “Bring Your Own Creativity” Party + the June Creative Prompt

Let’s get creative together this summer. You can bring your kids along…

Join the Bring Your Own Creativity Party (BYOC)!

Katy McCullough of Greens & Blues Co. had the fabulous idea to start BYOC, a summer creative party. On the first of each month (in June, July, and August), she’ll share a creative prompt, and we’ll share our responses via #byocreativity. I’m thrilled that Katy has invited me to help throw this party.

Katy captures the concept like this: “Summertime is the time for parties. What better way to party than to have a BYO…However this party is a Bring Your Own Creativity.”

I’ll share three BYOC posts here on In Tandem. In this first post, I’ll share how to join the party, why I love the concept, my creativity coaching tips to help you get started, and a peek into how the party’s starting up in my family.

Bring Your Own Creativity Party - Summer 2016 - June Prompt - createintandem.com

Here’s How to Join the BYOC Party:

On the first of each month (June, July, and August), I’ll share Katy’s prompt with you.

As Katy writes:

“Interpret the prompt and complete it in whatever way your creativity speaks to you and makes sense. These prompts are completely open-ended and can be interpreted by writing, drawing, sewing, knitting, hand-lettering, painting, taking photos, songwriting, building something, etc. The possibilities are endless!

“On the 25th of each month I, and the other ladies joining me for BYOC, will share how we completed the prompts…and we truly hope you will do the same! The prompts we are using were specifically chosen to allow room for true creative expression. Share how you responded to the prompt using #byocreativity.”

JOINING THE BYOC PARTY ARE (AND WHERE YOU CAN FOLLOW ALONG WITH THEM):

Jenn from The Spare Room Project: website; twitter; facebook.

Emily from Eltscott.com: website; twitter, instagram.

Allie from Allie Explores: website, twitter, instagram.

Gabrielle from A Life of Gab: website; twitter; facebook.

Katy from Greens & Blues Co.: website, twitter, instagram.

Julie from In Tandem: website; instagram, facebook.

“Each of these inspiring ladies practices creativity in different and awesome ways. Take some time to check them out and follow them to see updates about BYOC.”

NOW TO THE GOOD STUFF – TIME TO GET CREATING!

Your prompt for June is…Create something that represents summer (if you are not currently in the middle of summer, be inspired by whatever season you are currently experiencing).  Continue reading

Must-Reads for Creatives - On Visibility + Vulnerability - createintandem.com

Must-Reads for Creatives: On Visibility + Vulnerability

This week’s Must-Reads for Creatives encourage us to take the beautiful risk of becoming visible and connecting with one another through our common vulnerabilities. I’m always pleasantly surprised by how exhilarating and rewarding the results turn out to be. 

This Week’s Must-Reads for Creatives:

How to Overcome Isolation (And Why You’re Doing It) >>>

Should You Start a Business? 51 Female Entrepreneurs Weigh In >>>

What Becoming Visible Has Taught Me >>>

Raising the Mindful Family >>>  Continue reading