Category Archives: Habit Change

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

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

How Creatives Can Enjoy Productivity AND Play This Summer -

How Creatives Can Enjoy Productivity AND Play This Summer

This is one of my favorite Monthly Notes from In Tandem’s newsletter. Usually, I don’t share my notes on the blog, but I decided to make an exception! So many of us feel the summer tug-of-war between productivity and relaxation. P.S. I’ll be back in early July for the next Bring Your Own Creativity (BYOC) Party post!


Do you try to work on your creative pursuit or business, but lose momentum when summer’s weather and adventures call? 

I do. This spring, I’ve had weeks where I’ve been motivated and productive, and weeks where I only want to head outside with my kids, or enjoy a good book from my growing to-read pile. I call this the productivity vs. relaxation tug-of-war. For most of us, summer amplifies it!

This tug-of-war takes up so much mental space! Often, guilt crops up when we don’t work. Fear of missing out pops up when we do work. Our anxieties aren’t unfounded. Research shows that we struggle to complete repetitive tasks on good-weather days.

Here’s the good news: sunshine’s mood boost fuels creativity! Of course, any creative pursuit or business involves both repetitive and creative tasks. But, at least we know that all is not lost.

Creativity involves flexibility and what’s called divergent thinking, exploring many solutions rather than limited ones. So, consider angling your summer goals toward creative projects that would benefit from this divergent thinking. Write blog content that blends your past strengths with fresh topics. Experiment with new-to-you techniques and colors in your visual art. Explore big-picture ways to structure your burgeoning creative business and services.

Continue reading

Must-Reads for Creatives - Set Boundaries + Use Your Strengths -

Must-Reads for Creatives: Set Boundaries + Use Your Strengths

In June, Must-Reads for Creatives becomes a monthly—rather than weekly—feature.

Why? This allows me to share the most meaningful reads with busy creative parents. Let’s encourage one another to get out and enjoy our creativity (in all its forms) this summer!  

I look forward to delving into more writing projects and to freeing up space in my creativity coaching practice. If you’ve got a creative dream or project that’s just not gelling, let’s have a chat. I’m available via email + Skype (no sales pitches, I just love building creative community). In creativity coaching, we talk about meaning-making, the creative process, emotional and psychological blocks, and collaborative and marketplace issues. Be vulnerable, ask for support, and you’ll be surprised by the shifts it creates for you.

This week’s Must-Reads for Creatives help us clear out the revolving mental clutter. Hint: it helps to set boundaries and make use of your strengths…

This Week’s Must-Reads for Creatives:

You Don’t Owe Anything to Anyone >>>

A Self-Improvement Secret: Work on Strengths >>>

The 4 Differences Between Introversion and Social Anxiety >>>

The Truth About Inspiration + 5 Ways to Cultivate Your Creativity >>>

How to Make Time for Your Passion Projects >>>

Minimalist Photographs That Pick Out the Colour, Symmetry and Patterns of Cities >>>

Borders & Boundaries: Embroidery Art That Highlights the World’s Humanitarian Crisis >>>  Continue reading

1 Simple + Helpful Mindfulness Practice for Creative Clarity -

1 Simple + Helpful Mindfulness Practice for Creative Clarity

Fear of overwhelm feels like a summer haze that leaves you spacey and immobile.

What fuels the oh-so-common fear of overwhelm? You know, the one that prevents you from even considering a new creative project, or following through on that long-held dream?

  • Is it emotional wounds from past experiences?
  • Is it avoidance of anxiety’s physical discomforts?
  • Is it fear of appearing vulnerable and incapable?

The good news is: we don’t need to decipher that in order to feel relief! Let’s start there. Breathe. Shift out of your head and into your body before we move on!

We’re in good company here. I know overwhelm well, and you likely do too. Overwhelm quickly spirals into inaction. Often, we stop our creative projects before they’ve truly begun (though, often, we’ve researched them into oblivion, so we falsely “feel” like we’ve begun).

Recently, two concepts have helped me to take action on my creative dreams (Wondering what mine are? Frequent stream-of-conscious writing to release thoughts and emotions, and developing my creativity coaching practice with bravery).

Concept #1: Become Aware of Your Decision-Making Style.

Psychology researchers have identified two decision-making styles: the maximizer and the satisficer. Maximizers “take their time and weigh a wide range of options—sometimes every possible one—before choosing” (as Elizabeth Bernstein writes). Satisficers “would rather be fast than thorough; they prefer to quickly choose the option that fills the minimum criteria (the word “satisfice” blends “satisfy” and “suffice”).” (Note: If you’re unsure of your style, try this quiz.)

You can be a maximizer in certain spheres of your life, and a satisficer in others. Historically, I’m a maximizer when it comes to work/career and creative projects; I research, ruminate, and end up stuck in analysis paralysis. What’s your style? I ask you to reflect because it matters.

Research demonstrates greater wellbeing for satisficers. I take that to heart in my work here, supporting others in taking creative action with wellbeing.

In our modern culture filled with choices, satisficing might prove satisfying (as Barry Schwartz emphasizes in The Paradox of Choice). Aiming for satisficing just may help us launch and follow through on our creative pursuits (with a spirit of experimentation and play!).

There’s no hard science on how to shift from maximizing to satisficing, but I love these suggestions from “Field Guide to the Maximizer: Set deadlines, simplify the low-priority decisions, commit to being “all in,” and express gratitude.  Continue reading

Must-Reads for Creatives - Constraint vs. Freedom -

Must-Reads for Creatives: Constraint vs. Freedom

This week’s Must-Reads for Creatives shatter persistent myths about the creative process, work/life balance, constraint vs. freedom, and personal development. What’s helped you shatter the myths you’ve held: becoming a parent? Immersing yourself in a new creative medium? Love and loss? Travel and adventure? A good book? I love this batch; bookmark it for when you need a kickstart during the week!

This Week’s Must-Reads for Creatives:

Creativity Is Much More Than 10,000 Hours of Deliberate Practice >>>

The Three Questions You Must Ask Before Taking on a Project for Free >>>

Pursuing Work-Life Balance Preserves the Status Quo >>>

Finding Joy in Constraint: 3 Tips for Flourishing Creatively Amidst a Busy Life >>>

FOMO: Fear of Missing Out >>>

How to Avoid the Trap of Self-Improvement >>>  Continue reading

Must-Reads for Creatives: Spring Clean Your Creative Process -

Must-Reads for Creatives: Spring Clean Your Creative Process

This week’s Must-Reads for Creatives bring the energy of spring cleaning to your creative process. What mental clutter can you clear out (because your thoughts feel like a broken record)? Say “no, thanks” to the unnecessary, and make space for creative pursuits + adventures with the people you love. Do what gives you a burst of energy. We can approach our creative work with a lighter touch, and tap into the spirit of creative play.

This Week’s Must-Reads for Creatives:

Clear Away the Excess >>>

Five Strategies to “Spring Clean” Your Creativity >>>

If You’re Waiting for Clarity >>>

The Importance of Mentally Disengaging from Work and Practice >>>

What I Really Want to Say About Creativity >>>

Continue reading

Must-Reads for Creatives: Improvisation for Your Work and Wellbeing -

Must-Reads for Creatives: Improvisation for Work + Wellbeing

This week’s Must-Reads for Creatives encourage improvisation—within your work, and for your health and wellbeing. Improvisation isn’t just for jazz musicians, dancers, and comedians (or procrastinators!). Most creatives desire to bring an element of improvisation to their work.

What if we allow a dabbler’s spirit into the areas of our work that feel like they need the most structure? What if we stop thinking of ourselves as self-improvement projects, loosen the mind/body health rules, and experiment with different kinds of exercise, food, or mindsets? What do you need this time? Which formulaic approaches can you shed? What’s changing for you? You’re freer than you think you are…

This Week’s Must-Reads for Creatives:

Is Dabbling a Form of Procrastination? >>>

Creation Without Burnout >>>

Meera Lee Patel on Mindfulness, Following Your Dreams and Running a Creative Business >>>

Mapping Creativity in the Brain >>>

21 Reminders Every Creative Needs to Hear Right Now >>>

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Jettison Comparison + Share Your Own Unique Creative Vision -

Jettison Comparison + Share Your Own Unique Creative Vision

Recently, I had the pleasure of being a guest on the Digiscrap Geek Podcast. We chatted about getting past creative comparison. Listen here! Read on to hear my thoughts and tips on the topic…

Jettison Comparison + Share Your Own Unique Creative Vision -

We compare ourselves to one another in a thousand small ways each day. It’s automatic behavior. Often, it’s encouraged by others—our friends, co-workers, peers, and partners. (Teens, especially, busy themselves by egging each other on!). It’s a cultural phenomenon with personal implications (like everything!). Certainly, comparison affects our self-perceptions. And it has the potential to complicate our relationships with others. For example, it can construct a wall of difference where, instead, we could unify through our shared experiences and vulnerabilities. Comparison alters our filter of the world and colors our self-talk, often in unproductive ways.

Now, I believe that it’s possible to use comparison as a way of articulating fresh dreams and goals for ourselves and, sometimes, as a playful way to connect with others. However, I know many creatives want to shed the toxic forms of comparison—the ugly forms of competition that fly in the face of feminism, the I-don’t-accomplish-enough blues, the self-hatred, and the struggles with articulating your own voice as distinct from the chorus of others.

So, this piece is about shedding the toxic forms of comparison, and growing clearer and more confident in your own creative vision.  Continue reading

Must-Reads for Creatives - Breathing Room for Creativity + Self-Care -

Must-Reads for Creatives: Breathing Room for Creativity + Self-Care

This week’s Must-Reads for Creatives help us expand the breathing room that creativity and self-care require. Start by giving yourself credit for who you are and what you’re already doing. Seek solace in your favorite activity, community, or nature spot. Go scout out a laugh (George Takei? Arrested Development?): deep breaths galore! You have time, space, and energy for the small moments that fill your sails. 

This Week’s Must-Reads for Creatives:

When You Think You Don’t Have Time, Try This >>>

Creative Tips For When You’re Tapped Out and Have No Idea Where To Start >>>

Breathe. You’re Okay. >>> 

How the ‘Do It Yourself’ Movement is Evolving into ‘Do It Together’ >>>

How Nature Boosts Kindness, Happiness, and Creativity >>>

Continue reading