Creative Tools, Empowerment & Seeking

12 Quick and Simple Acts of Self-Care for 2018

This is part manifesto, part skills-training and part to-do list for feeling good and staying mentally well in 2018. This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a starting point, and I’ve tried to include a few “less often shared” ideas for self-care. There’s also a free 18-page workbook available at the end of the post covering each step in more detail, with space to write your own answers in. 

I know all of these things, but sometimes I forget about them.
And self-care sometimes feels like just another item on the to-do list.

The Self-Care Checklist

So, I thought I’d make a little list and figured, if I struggle to remember this, and I teach it; what are the chances you could do with a reminder too?

This checklist is designed to give you a little guidance for those moments when you don’t have a lot of energy or time, but want to make a tiny positive step to improve your day. Because baby steps add up.

Let’s do this.

 

Put On Your Signature Costume

No matter what we’re doing, feeling comfortable and “okay” about ourself really makes a difference to how we feel.  Apply whatever armour will make you feel confident. For a lazy day, this is my jeans, tank top and all of my rings. For a work-day, it’s my favourite earrings, a really subtle bracelet I can play with, and a bit of eye-liner.

Breathe In

When we’re stressed or on autopilot, we tend to change our breathing. Try to breathe out slightly more than you breathe in, and as you exhale, relax your shoulders. Take a moment of space whenever you remember. Put a reminder on your phone if it will help.

Physical Health

The mindset of looking after ourself has a ripple effect on our mood and how the day feels. Make one ‘healthy’ choice. That could be drinking a few sips of water before lunch. Perhaps do 5 squats in the loo cubicle before you return to your desk at work. Maybe the above breathing technique is your small healthy step.

Make Progress

As humans, we thrive on a sense of progress. It doesn’t matter how big or small: just tick something off your list, or make some kind of progress towards a goal.

Wash up one cupSend that email that’s worrying you. Take the rubbish bin out. Put the clean washing away in your bedroom. Then counting “putting it away in the wardrobe” as a second task: and a second tick.

Connect

Disconnection and Loneliness is killing us. Connect with anything and anyone. Pet the cat outside. Smile at the person walking past you. Text a friend “how’s it going?” Tell someone you really appreciate the help they gave you last week.

Be Spiritual

Or make a personal, inner connection, somehow. For some, prayer is an option. For others, stand barefoot in the grass outside. Hug a tree. Care for something: water a plant.

Labels

We all want to feel seen and recognised. Label the thoughts and feelings in your own mind to help soften their shouts.

“This is fear. I’m worried about paying my bills this month. I feel tearful.”

This won’t make the worries go away, but that sense of “Hi brain, I hear you. thanks for letting me know. I’m working on that” can sometimes take some of the pressure off those negative thoughts.

Sound a bit weird to you? Try it. What have you got to lose?

Mental Blocks

Equally, distracting yourself from those thoughts can be healthy in small doses. Dance, run, watch a comedy DVD or name 5 things you can currently see which are blue. Take a break from your thoughts: they’ll still be there when you get back.

Grow

Again, we’re looking at that sense of progress. We thrive on growth, on learning, on understanding.

I grew up with this quote by Gail Sheeny taped to my ceiling:

If we don’t change, we don’t grow.

If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.

Inspiring

In this modern day, we spend so much time going through the motions: we exist rather than experience.

So this step focused on re-connecting with who you are and that feeling of being alive. For you it might be volunteering or donating to charity. It might be listening to classic audiobooks. Watching war films.

Maybe one of the earlier tips automatically ticks this off: I love dancing to violin music, standing with bare feet in my back lawn and reading autobiographies. They connect me to other humans, to the world around me and remind me how it is to feel alive.

TA DA! List

A fantastic tip I first saw from Ellie Di Julio, rather than a list of pressures you have to do today, reflect on what you accomplished. What’s on your “ta-da!” list today?

Motivation

Finally, one of the key issues with making changes is that lack of motivation. One of my favourite ways to combat this, is to find a “big why,” to identify a quest or value that will motivate me whatever the weather. What’s your personal quest? What are you here to do; what’s your legacy? 

Will you Prioritise Self-Care this Year?

Again, this is not an exhaustive list. But it does give us a few things to think about. Baby steps add up, and some only take a few moments each day. And in time, that effect is cumulative.

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Download the free workbook with space to write in your own answers to these well-being ideas? Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. Youll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to grab yourself a copy of the 2018 Resilience Check-list! 

Creative Tools

On Soothing the Fear of Imposter Syndrome

Psst! At the end of this post is a link to my free worksheets on managing those imposter syndrome fears, so you can make progress on your personal quest.

As human beings, we worry. Our minds focus on the problems we might be faced with, and try desperately to do fix problems before they arise. We plan for conflict, or confusion. We question what we’re doing, and if it’s okay to be doing it. Especially when thinking about starting or transforming our lives or business.

That voice creeps in, sometimes amidst the excitement of expansion. At other times it lurks in the back of your mind as you stare up at the ceiling.

We ask ourselves “What do I have to offer?” or “Why would anyone trust me?” We worry “Can I really deliver what I promise? What if they don’t like my work, or feel cheated?”

The Imposter Syndrome

Fears of not being good enough, or feeling like an ‘imposter’ can change our behaviour from self-talk to the way we act. This often results in down-playing what we do, and missing out on opportunities.

Often people worry about not living up to a set expectation, fearing they actually can’t do what they’ve said they can, or just don’t know what to expect of a change.

But these thoughts are just that: thoughts.

And our thoughts are not facts.

Honest.

And not only that, but we actually have some level of control over how we think and what we say to ourselves or other people. Let’s get started:

  1. What are you afraid of? Define the worry that is holding your fear hostage. When we know a specific concern, it’s much easier to really question it, and make a balanced judgement.
  2. Is this worry ‘real’? Ask yourself if there is some truth behind the concern. Have you let people down before, or received negative feedback that you haven’t analysed and made changes based on? What evidence is there behind the thoughts?
  3. Is there another side? Our thoughts do come from something, so it’s likely you found some evidence for that concern — but we often forget to look at the whole picture. What evidence do you have against the concern? Have you ever completed a task or created something that you didn’t feel ‘qualified’ for, and it didn’t go entirely wrong?
  4. If this worry came true, how bad would it be? Often the worries we have are quite out of proportion to the ‘realistic’ outcome. If the event were to go badly, or someone didn’t like it, would it really be as bad as you think?
  5. Balance it out. Use the evidence you’ve found to balance out the worry. “Although I may not be an expert, I can definitely help my client improve in this skill, which is all they are asking for.”

Our imposter worries come from a place of self-preservation. After all, we want to be liked, which is especially useful in business. We want our clients to be happy with our work to buy from us again!

Therefore, it’s good to remember that these concerns aren’t ‘bad thoughts trying to harm us’ but actually a tiny worried voice that just needs some reassurance.

And if we befriend that concern, taking on board the truths behind it, our mind becomes a uh more pleasant place to spend time.

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Want to download the free worksheets on actually working through these Imposter Worries? Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. Youll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up for the Managing Imposter Worries Worksheets! 
This post was originally published on Her HustleIt’s been refreshed and re-shared here for your enjoyment, with a link to it’s new companion worksheet.

Creative Tools

Why Creativity Matters, and How To Cultivate It

Creative thinking is a tricky thing to define. Some call it a skill; one that you either have or you don’t. Some say it requires inspiration, while others say it can be cultivated and “learnt”.

When I looked at creativity as a student, Einstein was viewed as a creative scientist, Leonardo da Vinci was seen to be a creative artist and composers like Mozart had their own version of creativity.

However, the definition is still hazy around the edges. Is creative art the same as creative science or even “innovative problem-solving?” Are engineers and mathematicians creative too?

What might the difference be between the Mona Lisa and the Theory of Relativity? Would you call one more creative than the other?

Despite these differences, two common aspects of defining a creative thought are purpose and novelty.

One of the purposes I can usually find for creativity is that it allows us to problem-solve. If you feel stressed and need solutions, or you’re faced with a new change, your creativity allows you to stand up to that event or situation, and find a way through it.

Therefore, nurturing our creativity is part of nurturing our resilience.

The Process

The scientific view of creativity and creative-thinking seems to have a short-fall in the literature. However, the explanations of some movement practises and anecdotal experience can give us a peek at the neuronal systems which support this event.

For those without a neuroscience degree, essentially, our brain is a bunch of wires which connect all areas to nearly all the other areas. However, the wires are not all linked to each other directly; but via many connections (i.e. A-B-C-D connects A-D, but there may not be any no wires from A to C or A to D directly).

In practices which utilise a mixture of skills, our brains can actually create these short-cuts and join areas which previously didn’t communicate at all, or only slowly (via ten little paths). This is where the “epiphanies” or new, creative ideas stem from: new or improved communication between parts of the brain that didn’t previous chat leads to insights we hadn’t previously accessed.

Connecting the Dots

Each time you act, neurons fire along the wires in your brain, and that path gets strengthened. For example, if you were to cross a field, you may find it slow-going. You trip over the molehills while falling down the surprise ditch and weave around the dog excrement and broken glass. It takes effort and time to watch out for danger and keep in line with your destination – a tiny gap in the fence at the other end which takes you onto the pavement.

After walking the route 5 days a week, for 2 years; the grass is flattened where you walk; the molehills are squashed down and you automatically hop over the ditch without even thinking. It takes you less time and energy to get across the field than it did before.

In your brain, there are little pulses of energy which travel down wires. In between two wires; there are ditches. If they use the same route enough; the neurotransmitter is increased; creating a kind-of bridge at the ditch so you save time; not even having to jump over it. The pulses slide down the wires instead of pushing through the bracken, so the whole journey is faster and more efficient.


So, creativity can aid our resilience: our ability to ‘bounce back’ from set-backs in our lives.

Want more creativity to flow your way? 

1. Do Things Together

The best way to connect your brain is to learn new things; or do things differently. Mix these up with something you find easy or is automated to draw on an already-existent connection.

So for me, brushing my teeth is an automated process. I don’t have to think about how to hold the brush or which tooth to brush next; it just happens. So, I can change the hand I hold the brush with to start changing my neurons. My balance is mediocre, so maybe I’ll stand on one leg throughout brushing my teeth too.  If that’s not your thing, what about re-learning the second language you took in school? Stick up a list of Irish verbs on the wall; and read them while brushing your teeth. (I did this every day for a year… “Go n-ithe an cat thú is go n-ithe an diabhal an cat!” is a useful phrase.)

2. Mix It Up

You want to mix the areas of the brain up; using a bit from each. So we have spatial, verbal, numerate, physical movement and visualisation/planning which all have their own areas.

This is why the above example uses movement (brushing teeth), spatial or balance (where my leg is in space), and verbal (second language learning), which will likely use visualisation if you visualise the action / object vividly.

3. Short but Strong

Do these mixed-up-items often, intensely, but for short bursts. And rest a lot between them. I brush my teeth 2 – 3 times a day, for 3 – 4 minutes each time.  That’s enough for a big change, and is more efficient (and less time-consuming) than spending two hours on one day each week doing it.

4. Keep Changing It Up

Once it becomes habit, switch it up! Keep that brain learning new routes! Move onto algebra equations and tap-dance or hold one arm out while brushing your teeth. Or waiting for the kettle to boil. Put 100 new Italian nouns up to learn on the wall by your bed.

How do you get creative?

New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Creative Tools

Three Steps to Reach Effective Creative Energy

Being a creative soul can hold specific challenges. The skills used to keep creativity going mean we tend to analyse things, and notice patterns differently. Although this gives us part of our power, in creative endeavours, it can also mean that we get blocked in quite specific ways.

Whether you write stories, paint landscapes, write musical scores or choreograph dance moves; we all get blocked.

Commonly referred to as ‘writer’s block’, I know that all creative folk can experience that mental block which stifles our creativity. Some people find it helpful to push though – writing despite the lack of inspiration, while others feel that taking a bit of space from the project can let our mind settle down, and encourage the shy muse to appear.

1. Mindfulness

Whatever is blocking you, a few minutes of mindfulness can really help create some space for that mental block.

It can be as simple as closing your eyes taking a low, deep breath and connecting with your body. Feel the floor beneath you, and notice the sounds, temperature or smells around you. Just connect to this moment, for 10 seconds. If you can take a bit longer, do so.

Reconnecting with the moment gives our mind a chance to reconnect with ourselves.

I have a little bell sound on my phone which goes ding twice a day to remind me just to pause, and check in with myself. This really helps bring my mental energy back into focus.

Could you create a minute of mindfulness each day?

2. Check Your Story

Our own self-talk is a crucial part of how we perceive ourselves. How do you think about your creative journey? What obstacles have you overcome to reach where you are now? Sometimes it can be helpful to just ask yourself if your thoughts, if that self-talk is helpful right now.

Are you worrying about being good enough, or feeling like your work isn’t good enough?

Do you have those voices in your head saying you’ll never reach success, or wondering how you’re going to get out of your current rut?

Not every thought is a fact, and our thoughts CAN be controlled, to some extent.

It’s a great idea to just check in with the things we tell ourselves, particularly as, being creative thinkers, we often come up with elaborate possibilities which likely don’t have any evidence behind them: including negative thoughts about ourselves and our creations.

What story are you telling yourself? Is it entirely true, or could you re-frame it a little?

3. Permission to Stop

I’m currently committed to writing at least one word of new fiction a day, but sometimes allowing yourself a break from a project is the best action to ‘reset’ your creativity. To some extent, finding what works for you is key, but even between different projects, times of year or just your own mental state, different things will work for you.

The next time you feel blocked, take a day off and see how you feel about the project after a bit of a break. Let yourself brainstorm or put the project away for a few days and don’t let yourself think about it.

How much ‘downtime’ do you allow yourself from your creations, to let them percolate? 

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New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!