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  • Writer's pictureSue Bulmer

My Top Ten Strategies for coping with the lows of living a creative life

In navigating the inevitable ebbs of a creative life with grace and resilience, there are several practical strategies that can help us along the way. Having come out of a dip myself recently, I've realised that fighting it wasn't helping at all and acceptance of where I was, was key to feeling a bit better about it all.

1.Mindfulness: offers a powerful tool for staying present and attuned to the rhythms of our inner landscape. By cultivating awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations ‘without judgment’ (now that’s the tough part), we can navigate challenging times with greater clarity and composure. It’s one of those things that I dip into every now and then and when I'm in it I do feel the benefits. Even if you don’t have a regular practice taking small moments of mindfulness every day is a step in the right direction. For more information about Mindfulness you can check out the link here

2. Self-compassion: practice can be immensely valuable during periods of darkness or uncertainty. Rather than succumbing to self-criticism or harsh judgment (yes, I’m just as susceptible to this as the next person) we can offer ourselves the same kindness and understanding that we would extend to a dear friend facing similar struggles. This compassionate attitude not only soothes the wounded parts of ourselves but also fosters resilience and self-worth in the face of adversity. Again this is something that I ask my clients to do – it’s clear I need to take my own advice and get a bit better at doing this myself.

3. Creative expression: can serve as a powerful means of finding meaning amidst the darkness. Whether it's through writing, painting, music, or any other form of artistic expression, channeling our innermost thoughts and emotions into some kind of creative activity can be profoundly cathartic and transformative. Through the act of creation, we not only honour the cyclical nature of existence but also cultivate a sense of agency and empowerment in shaping our own narratives. Art isn’t just for the good days!! Recently when I was coming out of a period of feeling low, I made some imagery in a handmade sketchbook. It felt different to the art I make and share on Instagram. It felt deeper and more personal, for my eyes only. But there again, we don’t have to share everything we make. We can keep some just for us.

4. Connection: meaningful connections with others can provide invaluable support during challenging times. Whether it's reaching out to friends, family members, or support groups, sharing our struggles and vulnerabilities with trusted individuals can help us feel less alone and more understood. Who do you have in your support circle you could talk to? Are you part of an accountability network or do you meet regularly with other people who share similar creative interests? Chances are they will have experienced similar feelings too. Choose carefully though. Sometimes we don’t need solutions, just a friendly and compassionate ear to listen.

5. Physical Well-being: Taking care of our physical health can have a significant impact on our overall well-being, especially during difficult times. Although I must admit, during the lowest days of my recent dip, going to the gym was the last thing I wanted to do. I did take a few days off and was very self-compassionate but now I’m back to it I can feel the benefits of getting the blood pumping and really enjoy the natural endorphin high I feel afterwards. We all know it but sometimes needs reminding that engaging in regular exercise, eating nourishing foods, prioritizing sleep, and practicing relaxation techniques like yoga or tai chi can help us manage stress and maintain a sense of balance.

6. Spending time in Nature: Spending time in nature can be incredibly healing and grounding. Whether it's going for a walk in the woods, sitting by the sea, or simply enjoying the beauty of a garden, connecting with the natural world can provide perspective, inspiration, and a sense of peace. Back in February when the effects of seasonality really hit me I knew I needed to get outside more. I made the effort to drag myself round the nearby field with my dog, and I think sometimes he felt as unenthused as me. But it did help. Seeing the deer, hearing the birds and noticing the small changes as the weather warmed really did lift my spirits.

7. Gratitude Practice: I don’t know about anyone else but when I’m feeling low I do really shift into the negative mindset. Cultivating a gratitude practice can shift our focus from scarcity to abundance, even in the midst of challenges. Taking time each day to reflect on the things we're thankful for can foster resilience, optimism, and a deeper appreciation for life's blessings. I must admit, I do find this more difficult when my mood and energy are low and sometimes just write a couple of things down in my journal rather than filling the page. This is ok. A few things to be grateful for is better than none.

8. Learning and Growth: Some may wonder whether this is easier said than done but viewing difficult times as opportunities for learning and growth can help us reframe our experiences in a more empowering light. And if you know me, you will know I’m a sucker for a reframe. We might not be able to do this when we are stuck in the mire of the lows but maybe with time, reflection and retrospect we might be able to go there. However you choose to do it, embracing a growth mindset can foster resilience and personal development.

9. Solo Retreat: Taking some time for a solo retreat can provide an opportunity to disconnect from daily distractions and reconnect with your inner creativity. Whether it's a day trip to a peaceful spot in nature or a weekend getaway to a secluded cabin, carving out intentional time for solitude and reflection can help recharge your creative batteries and inspire fresh perspectives. I took myself off on a solo art retreat just over two years ago. I had an amazing time, it was just what I needed. You can read all about that experience in two blog posts I wrote, just before I left and after I returned.

10, Seeking Professional Support: Sometimes, when we have tried all of the above and we still aren’t noticing a shift, navigating challenging times may require the assistance of someone else: a trained therapist, counsellor, or coach. Seeking professional support can provide valuable guidance, insight, and tools for coping with the lows of our lives and help us to be ok with it being not ok.

By embracing these simple suggestions and incorporating some of them into our lives, we can learn to navigate the ebbs and flows with greater ease and less avoidance, resistance, and denial. Rather than fearing the winter and the darkness or resisting the inevitable downturns, we can find solace in the knowledge that every phase of the journey serves its purpose and holds the seeds of growth and renewal and usually has something to teach us.

Have your down times taught you any valuable lessons? I'd love to know. Leave me a comment and tell me...

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