​8 Tips for the Care and Cultivation of Creativity

by Deb Goeschel, Owner & Creative Director of Message Artist

We all have our own personal definitions of "creativity" that we apply to people, activities, and situations. Many think of creativity as the domain of the artist, which is true, but it's also a quality present in any innovative decision or solution. Whatever your definition, I want to talk about the correlation between self-care and creativity.

Between my own personal experience, and witnessing how other colleagues and friends manage stress and manifest creativity in their lives and businesses, it's pretty darn clear that when one is burnt out, stressed out, or plain worn out, creativity does not flow.

Stress shrinks brain networks

It's pretty darn clear that when one is burnt out, stressed out, or plain worn out, creativity does not flow.

I worked in the corporate world for almost fifteen years, and in that time my jobs vacillated between awesome and creatively challenging to downright miserable and stressful. Unfortunately, the norm was needing to meet deadlines and objectives while always working in the too-much-to-do-with-too-little-resources situation—a situation which wreaks havoc on one's nervous system, especially if you have perfectionist tendencies, which I do. (And I know I’m not alone!)

By the time I hit the last couple years of my corporate life, I was a mess. Stress had done a vicious number on me, and it showed in so many ways, physically and mentally. As for creative thought? Non-existent. I couldn't come up with an innovative idea if you paid me lots of money (which my corporate job did)! I was just working to get through each day.

Rebirthing Creativity

The more I take care of myself, the more creative my thinking. 

I knew I wanted to leave corporate and launch my own business, but I also knew that if I didn't create some healing in my physical body and calm in my mind, I'd never have a shot at achieving my goals. So, the first step I took was consciously deciding that I needed to prioritize self-care—even before I even left my job to launch my marketing communication business. 

Remember, if you're at a place of stress and burnout, creativity isn't going to return overnight. It takes time and a dedication to self-care.

It took about a year of lowered stress levels before my creative and innovative thoughts returned. Now, it's not like my brain had stopped working completely—I was still delivering really good work for my clients—but I wasn't doing anything new. I know my work so well, I could pretty much do it regardless of what was going on. But in order to come up with new, innovative ideas and paths down which to take my business and myself, I needed some mental and emotional space in my brain, and my body needed to have enough energy to support the extra "work." Happily, with the daily cultivation of self-care activities, creativity began to re-emerge.

I can only speak to my personal experience, but it's become crystal clear over the course of the last couple years that the more I take care of myself, the more creative my thinking. I can now see opportunities and solutions rather than impediments and problems—and that excites me to no end!

8 Creativity Cultivation Tips

  1. Decide You're Worth It. This is the first step. Until you do this, all the good intentions in the world won't translate into action steps.

  2. Get Enough Sleep. Seriously. You may think you're good with six or seven hours, but it's more likely you're not. Most adults need at least eight hours. (I've discovered that eight and a half to nine hours is my perfect sleep amount.) Create a nightly ritual that allows you to wind down. Turn off the electronics and the TV about an hour before you want to go to bed—they've been proven to interfere with natural sleep patterns.

  3. Eat Well. Good nutrition goes a long way in helping your brain and body deal with both daily and unexpected tasks and problems. Your body and brain require certain nutrients in order to operate at peak performance. (Bonus: preparing delicious, beautiful, and nutritious food is a great way to exercise creativity.)

  4. MOVE. Constant sitting is dangerous! If you're always sitting or standing at your computer, your body will begin to hurt. (This is true even if you have a normal workout routine.) Pain is absolutely an impediment to creativity. If I'm in the middle of a big, focused project, I'll set a timer to remind myself to get up and move in some way. A quick set of desk pushups, squats, or Sun Salutations, or simply making a cup of tea is enough.

  5. Pamper Yourself. Schedule time—ideally daily, but weekly or monthly at a minimum—to truly pamper yourself. This can look different to everyone. Perhaps your idea of pampering is getting a massage, or going to a game, or hanging out in a bubble bath with a good book and a glass of wine ... whatever it is, make sure to make it part of your life on a regular basis. Self-love equals self-care and nothing proves to your subconscious that you actually do care about yourself than indulging in a favorite pampering activity.

  6. Ask for Help. This is a biggie. Whether it's help with a project or getting help to heal, there's no reason to struggle alone. I have a long list of people to thank for my creative rebirth: my business coach, my naturopath, my IET friend and practitioner, my various massage therapists, my yoga teacher ... and of course, my husband, friends, and family. In my business life, this means delegate tasks and free up my time to be the business owner I want to be, instead of acting like an overwhelmed employee.

  7. Say No. You are allowed to set boundaries and say no. Sometimes, you just can't take on one more thing. Or, maybe you just need a little time before you take it on. Either way, it's okay to tell a new client that you can't start work for another two or four weeks. (You know you're worth the wait!) Know what you can do, and honor what you can't.

  8. Have Fun! Go out and boogie. Run, snowboard, or walk in the woods. Listen to some live music. Go to a museum and explore beautiful and thought-provoking things. Connect with friends. Go to the theater. Play games and run around with your kids. Whatever you call fun, make sure you make time for it on a regular basis. Fun and laughter is a great way to relieve stress and stimulate creative thought.

What's your favorite way to de-stress and cultivate creativity? Add your comments and share!

Wishing you lots of self-care inspired creativity!

Deb Goeschel is the Owner & Creative Director of Message Artist, LLC. Her work is to inspire cause- and mission-driven businesses and entrepreneurs to effectively share their visions. Learn more about Deb at www.messageartist.com.