RESOLVE TO BE GOOD TO YOURSELF

Resolutions don’t work because they’re usually based on some external, nebulous, often unattainable goal. “I will lose 15 pounds.” “I will eat only salad.” “I will paint every day.” We usually start off well, but when one day goes by that we don’t do what we said we would, we say “screw it, I’ll never change” and go back to our old ways.

But what if your resolution is to simply do your best to take care of yourself, so you can handle what life throws your way? What if the idea is just to try and feel your best, more days than not? Because feeling better helps you make tough decisions, move through difficult feelings, and create more. Here are some tried and true ways to help you take good care of you this year, and beyond.

Get off of your phone

More and more studies are showing us how addicted we are to our phones. We now know for a fact that checking your email or social media first thing in the morning is one of the worst things you can do for your emotional health. First, it sets you up to keep checking and checking your phone all day long. Second, it contributes to ongoing depression, anxiety, and stress.

How do you break this habit? First, try charging your phone somewhere other than your bedroom. Get an alarm clock so you don’t use your phone as one. (You can get one for under $10 at pretty much any general store or second-hand shop). Then, instead of rushing to your phone in the morning, go do 10 – 20 minutes of exercise (see below), mindfully make yourself a cup of coffee or tea, or take a longer, more rejuvenating shower. Your brain will thank you for the slow wake up.

Other ways to break the phone habit include leaving your phone at home when you go out to dinner, removing social media apps from your phone (you can check Facebook on your desktop or even just on the browser), or turning off notifications to your social media apps so they don’t ding or vibrate at you constantly. Is the comment on that Instagram photo of your food really so important that you must see it RIGHT NOW? Probably not.

Last, because you’re charging your phone somewhere else, you won’t be looking at your phone right before bed. This can seriously disturb your sleep. Try reading a physical book instead or, if you must have your phone nearby, set up one of those guided meditations I mentioned earlier and put your phone on the other side of the room to listen and help you drift off to sleep.

Move your body every day

Seriously. Every. Day. It helps with a myriad of physical and emotional issues, including depression and anxiety. Preferably first thing in the morning. While this might not give you the biggest muscle building benefit, when you’re done, you’re done and it sets you on a path to all-day productivity. Now, does this mean getting up at 6 am to hit the gym every day? Absolutely not.

 

Twenty minutes, even as little as 10 minutes of exercise, will give you a big boost in mood and energy.

 

Any movement is good. Whatever your body will allow you to do. I love the rock’n’roll yogi, Sadie Nardini. She has a ton of yoga routines out there in cyberspace. Her 21-day Yoga Body course on DailyOm (where you pay what you want!) is a fabulous way to start doing 10 – 20 minutes of yoga each day. It also includes recipes and journaling prompts to help you transform from the inside, out. I’ve now moved on to her 21-day Yoga Shred, which involves more intense yoga workouts, including High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). I’ve now been working out every morning for the past 30 days using these programs. I have NEVER worked out every day before. And no, I’m not making any money off of Sadie’s programs. I just love her stuff!

Of course, if you miss a day, IT’S OK. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Get moving the next day. And you don’t have to do double the workout – just start right back up again.

Meditate

Do I really need to show you how meditation is good for the brain? Alright, alright, I’ll give you this: Meditation can literally, physically change your brain. A recent study on 155 adults showed that after eight weeks of meditating, the amygdala – the fight or flight center of the brain that gets overworked and causes anxiety – actually shrunk. At the same time, the pre-frontal cortex got thicker, which helps in concentration, focus, and decision-making.

Yes, meditation can be hard. No, it does not require hours of meditating every day. Just like exercise, as little as 10 minutes a day can be beneficial. I highly recommend guided meditations. Sit comfortably, put your headphones in, and just listen. Check out some of my favorite meditations on YouTube. I also love the Relax Melodies app that contains guided meditations and lets you create your own soundscapes for relaxation and sleep (again, I’m not affiliated with these guys, I just use and love their app).

Plan your big and small creative moves

I know, it can be difficult and overwhelming to plan. But living with intention, which is what is required to truly move forward and get things done, requires planning. You need to know what you want and make a plan to get it. Start out with a list of your goals for the year. Write down at least three. This can be an ongoing list – you don’t have to finish it now. From there, break it down into smaller goals that will help you accomplish your bigger ones. Want to be part of a gallery show some time this year? Ok, then you’ll need smaller goals that include researching and contacting galleries, organizing your work, and planning for any new pieces you might create. If you feel stuck and are worried about how you can get your creative process moving again, try my DIY coaching e-course, Creative Lightning (it’s also pay what you want!)

Even when I put things in my google and iPhone calendars, I tend to sometimes forget things I should know are going on – until I write them down. The act of writing things down helps to solidify them into your memory. I love Danielle Laporte’s Desire Map Planners. I use the weekly version to just get a good grip on my appointments at the start of each week. This planner goes along with Danielle’s Desire Map process that asks you to define exactly how you want to feel and then set your goals based on finding that feeling. You can find that book and so much more of her cool, conscious stuff here. (Disclaimer: I AM an affiliate for Danielle Laporte. I love her stuff so much and recommend her so often that I decided to sign up for her affiliate program!)

Write down your thoughts

Journaling is an age old practice that many of you may have left behind in your high school years. But studies show that it is beneficial to your mental and emotional health, helping you to process thoughts and emotions, and better solve difficult problems. I find often that many of my more visually and performance-oriented clients can express themselves very well through their mediums, but have difficulty defining and communicating their emotions verbally, which can be a strain on relationships. Journaling can help you to sort through your feelings and help you to see helpful and not-so-helpful patterns that may be holding you back. Try to journal without judgment. Just write and read it afterwards, even days later. Write knowing that this is not about how you want to present yourself to others, it’s just how you are, right now. You can journal on your computer or phone, but the act of writing (and getting your eyes off of a screen) can hold even more benefits. Personally, I can’t resist a blank sketchbook with some good, heavy paper and a quality pen.

Say “NO.”

If the last year was filled with a bunch of things you wish you hadn’t agreed to do, and left you exhausted and filled with resentment, then you may want to add this one to your list. When should you say no? Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does it feel like an obligation, rather than enthusiastic yes?
  2. Do I feel like you couldn’t possibly say no because of what the other person might think of me or how they might feel, but the idea of doing the thing makes me feel down, overwhelmed, overworked, or under-appreciated?
  3. Do I want to yes to just to get someone off my back rather than deal with conflict or set a healthy boundary?
  4. Do I realistically have enough time in my schedule to do this?
  5. If I do this, what are my expectations about what I’m going to receive in return? If I’m to receive nothing, perhaps not even a “thank you”, am I ok with that?

Now, if it’s difficult to answer these questions, I want to let you in on a little secret: WAIT. You have every right to say, “Let me think about it and get back to you.” Give yourself time to think it over. Journal about it. Then decide how you’ll answer.

Connect and share IRL

Technology is awesome for connecting and sharing stories with people and about things we may never encounter personally, but it won’t give our brains the same benefit as physically sitting and talking with someone. Emotional growth and development comes from authentically connecting with others. This means sharing the light and the dark with someone you trust. It means talking about your struggles, as well as your triumphs. I know, it can be hard to admit when you’re having a hard time – you don’t want to bum someone out; you don’t want to look like a mess – but doing so will help you heal from those hard times faster and better. You’ll probably find that you’re not alone in your experiences, your feelings and thoughts aren’t weird or wrong, and that another perspective can really help you move forward. This also means truly listening to others and not just trying to fix things for them by giving advice (unless they ask for it). BONUS: Your relationships will deepen and become more meaningful.

Banish negative self-talk

You know that voice in your head that says, “You’re not good enough. You’ll never get it done. You don’t deserve that.”? That’s not you. It’s messages that you’ve received, probably from a loved one, that have wormed their way in and wired your brain to think this way. Because it’s not really you, you can talk back to this voice. When it shows up, respond to it with evidence to the contrary. Or simply say “I AM good enough.” I don’t care if you don’t believe it at first, just try it. It will feel wrong and weird. But over time, you’ll start to believe the new messages more and more and be able to stop the negative ones a lot faster. If you find you’re struggling or stuck, maybe it’s time to find a therapist to talk to.

Start with these practices to take good care of yourself this year. Try one or all of them.

 

Most importantly – BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF. Believe it or not, discipline can be achieved with compassion and without brute force.

 

If you want even more help, consider taking my workshop this February. I’ve teamed up with awesome Life + Wellness Coach, Julia Flaccavento, BCC, CCC and created a three-hour workshop to help creative empaths like you beat overwhelm and burnout with tried and true self-care strategies. Check it out!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the suggestions above and hear about any other ways you’ve resolved to take care of yourself this year. Scroll on down and leave a comment!

THE EMPATH’S GUIDE TO MANAGING FEELINGS

When you’re an empath, feelings, even other people’s feelings, can be so powerful they become overwhelming.

Empaths are notorious for feeling ALL THE THINGS. Which is both a blessing and a curse. For some, emotions can get so overwhelming that they become frightening. When negative feelings show up, there’s often a fear of going out of a control and feeling that way forever. When loved ones are in pain, there’s this need to fix it because you’re feeling it, too. Trying to fix things for people gets exhausting and can eventually lead to really restrictive ways of interacting with people. Emotions you perceive as negative, both within yourself and others, become intolerable. You might try to control your feelings, and maybe even other people’s feelings. You try to block out the bad and embrace the good. Unfortunately, you can’t banish pain and get only joy. So with this avoidance of the bad feelings, you tend to lose the full impact of the good feelings, too. And so the tension builds. Your shoulders get tight. Your stomach hurts. Your head aches. You might be able to express your emotions when you paint, write, or sing, but you find it hard to be truly vulnerable with those you love.

Think about a time, probably when you were a kid, when you felt you could express yourself freely. Remember how loose you were? How easily you could move between utter devastation and vibrating joy? How you could ache with someone else and then move on to gleefully play with another? You just naturally knew that feelings were nothing to be afraid of because feelings were temporary.

As you got older, you started to learn that adults had to “keep it under control” or “suck it up”. You got messages about certain feelings being appropriate only at certain times. Or maybe you saw first hand how destructive anger, sadness, or fear can be when they aren’t handled well. Maybe you’ve been stuck in your own depression or anxiety before and you’re terrified of going back there. So you try to move away from the bad feelings and try to make sure others don’t have bad feelings either.

But here’s the irony of it all: Feelings only become dangerous if we try to change or deny them. 

Sadness, anger, and fear are not inherently bad and in fact, are necessary to our wellbeing. Pain tells us when we need to take care of ourselves. Or when we need to change something. We prolong our suffering when we avoid our pain.

feelings-are-fleeting

You can learn to feel negative feelings without letting them take over your life.

You already have many, many times. You really can handle the full range of emotions from yourself and from those around you. Here are a few tips to help you through the process:

1. When a negative feeling arises, take a deep breath, feel it, and allow yourself to just be. If you get scared or anxious that you might get stuck there or go off the deep end, tell yourself, “This is only temporary.”

2. Empaths in particular tend to have a lot of guilt around feelings like anger and frustration. You can see the other person’s perspective, so you know why they’re being the way they are. But just because someone has been hurt before or has learned to cope in a certain way, doesn’t mean they have a right to treat you badly. If you feel guilty, remind yourself that you have the right to feel whatever it is you feel. Try to remove the judgment and self-talk about what you should be feeling. Instead, think about how you can take care of yourself. Do you need 10 deep breaths? Do you need to talk a walk? Do you need to engage in your art? Do you need to call a friend for support? Sharing your guilt over your feelings to the right friend can help alleviate the pressure.

3. When you have trouble knowing what’s your feeling and what isn’t, take a moment, breathe, and assess. Ask yourself, “Is this mine?” If you find that you’re feeling something that isn’t yours, remind yourself, “I am not responsible for other people’s feelings.” Then do something physical. Go for a walk or run or do some yoga. One trick I like is to rub my hands on my arms and legs in a sweeping motion, like I’m dusting the bad feelings off of me. Like this!

Feelings are fleeting. Thoughts are temporary. If you get anxious about something, it doesn’t make you an anxious person. If you get angry at someone, it doesn’t make you an angry person. If you’re sad, you’re not automatically a depressed person. The same goes for the people around you. It’s ok to feel however you feel at this moment. It’s what you do with your feelings that matters.

 

SOLO ARTISTS AREN’T SO SOLO

soloWe Americans idealize independence. Even the most socialistic, progressive people I know can get down on themselves when they can’t hack it and get things done all alone. It’s a weird thing we’ve all convinced ourselves of. We know deep down in our guts that we need people. Loneliness has a purpose: it tells us that it’s time to reach out to people. But instead of reaching out when we’re feeling down or lonely, we think, “No, I’ve got to do it on my own.” Nonsense!

I KNOW this stuff. I studied couple and family therapy – all about the importance of connection and how people interact and help each other and I STILL hate on myself for not being able to get stuff done when I try to exist in a vacuum. Reprogramming your brain is hard.

I work with people all the time who think they have to do it all on their own. I think a lot of our struggle comes from this belief. I’m always asking my clients who they can reach out to. Whatever it is we’re working on, other people can help. At some point in our work, they often say, “Hey, Lauren. I just realized that when I involve someone else I’m able to really stick to my guns and get stuff done!” I congratulate them and often laugh and say, “Who knew?! Oh wait, that’s what we’re doing right now!”

But that’s the difference between knowing a thing and actually doing a thing. It only gets into your bones when you actually do it. You can say you know you need other people until you’re blue in the face, but when you’re struggling with your creative output do you beat yourself up for not being able to do it alone? Or do you tell someone about your plans and ask for advice?

Here’s how connection helps me creatively:

I haven’t made much solo music in the past year. It’s been a rough year. But being in my bands and having people ask me to compose, arrange, or perform for their events has kept me going. I am SO thankful for them because making music keeps me sane. Plus, being asked to do new and different things inspires me to think differently about my work. I try out new instruments. I write in ways I’ve never written before. It helps me EXPAND. Because believe it or not, I can be really stubborn and boxy about what I like and what I want to create. (I can hear my best friends sarcastically saying “OH REALLY?”) So, when someone asks me to try something new, I try to check in with myself. There are clear YESes and NOs… and then there are the fearful, scoffing NOs. The ones that say, “Oh, I’ve never done that before. Why are they asking ME? That’s SO not a thing I do!” I try to follow the fear and attempt the thing I scoffed at. It might not work out, but I get to do something different and new and stay fresh with my ideas.

It usually does work out, though. Maybe not in the way I expected, but it pays off somehow. With new ideas or recognition. Always with new friends or deeper connections.

So, if you find yourself stuck and saying to yourself ,“WTF, why can’t I ever get anything done on my own?!” Remind yourself that no one does it on their own. Not even writers! (Although you all probably have the least collaborative art.) Even the most hermity creators experienced life with others at some point. They read other people’s books, listened to other people’s music, saw other people’s works and were inspired to make their thing.

Remind yourself of this and then go tell someone about it – preferably another creator. Share your struggle. At the very least you’ll probably get a little commiseration around it. At the most, you’ll get an offer of help or maybe even a new idea.

So what’s your struggle? Share in the comments! Maybe someone will read it and help you out.

 

 

Want connection? Get curious and get open

hands

Have you ever been in love? Or at least in major “like”? Even if you never talked to the person, you were super curious, right? And you wanted that person to notice you, to ask you questions, to know you.

I remember when I first developed a crush on my husband, I wanted to know EVERYTHING about him. “Where did you grow up? Who is your best friend? What do you like to listen to?” And I crazily wanted him to know EVERYTHING about me. I practiced talking to him when I was alone, blasting music in my car, figuring out what to say that would sound cool. “Yeah, I love Nine Inch Nails. I’ve been listening to them since I was like 10.” (Bless his heart, my husband tried so hard to get into NIN. He just doesn’t like Trent. It’s ok… lots of people don’t like Trent.) I blurted out the most random and personal stuff when we were getting to know each other. Shit that I would never tell someone I just met, but I wanted him to really KNOW me, just as much as I wanted to know him. I was super curious and I really wanted him to see me, so I was willing to be super open.

This applies to friends and romantic love. I know I’ve had some friend crushes that started this way, too. If you think someone is cool, you ask questions and you get really open for them. (more…)

The problem with being creative & intelligent

HOLY CRAP I MADE A VLOG.

I was writing my blog for this month, again talking about vulnerability and connection and it just wasn’t feeling really exciting for me. It didn’t feel right, but I figured I was just in a mood or something and I would post it anyway.

Then yesterday, it hit me: How can I ask people to be really vulnerable when I’m not willing to do it myself? Whoa. I’d been considering doing video for awhile, but I had tons of excuses as to why I hadn’t done it, yet. The truth is: I was afraid. And for a multitude of reasons (maybe you’ll identify with some of them when it comes to your important work): fear of criticism, fear of being seen, fear of being more successful, oh and the ever-present “fraud police” – Who the hell do I think I am?” But yesterday I quieted those voices down a bit, put my phone in my office window, and hit record.

So, here’s my vlog all about how, despite how amazing you are, I know it can get lonely being highly creative and intelligent. No matter what, we’re human and humans need other people. Here’s how you make meaningful connections (hint: you have to put yourself out there.)

This was a scary one for me, folks. Really putting MYSELF out there.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on the loneliness of being creative and how you take risks to be fully you and make connections.

Also – do you want to see more vlogs? Now that I’ve taken the big leap, I’m perfectly happy to make more in the future. Let me know what you want to hear about!

Share in the comments below, on my Facebook page, or on Twitter.

Remember, you’re not dysfunctional, you’re creative and you are awesome!

xo

Lauren