A Primer On Self-Care For Creatives

Whoever coined the phrase “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” obviously never came up against an end-of-the-fiscal-year deadline, departmental budget cuts or the short runway of a fledgling startup. Even creatives who love the opportunity to build and share beautiful pieces of work with the world (yes, catalogs and ad copy can be beautiful) often experience stress and are subject to producing this beauty on demand and according to the specifications of internal or external stakeholders. If you’re a creative who’s currently feeling in need of some self-care, consider these four first steps:

Get enough sleep

The negative consequences of not getting enough sleep are well-documented, so don’t underestimate the impact of a lack of rest on your mindset and mood. In fact, research has shown that moderate sleep deprivation impairs your cognitive and motor skills to the same degree as being intoxicated. Aside from warding off negative health effects, getting adequate rest can boost your creativity. If you aren’t feeling inspired at your desk lately, you may need a few more hours in your bed.

Avoid the productivity trap

How much of the time you log at the office each week is actually spent immersed in focused, useful work? As this infographic from Atlassian shows us, probably not that much. You might be working hard, but are you working smart? Ask yourself if you’re directing your creative energies toward projects that have an impact. If, after auditing your recent output, you discover you’re prioritizing quantity over quality or allocating big chunks of time to low-value tasks (endless email chains, meandering meetings etc.), it might be time to assess what’s on your plate and whether it truly belongs there.

Set boundaries

For decades, research has shown us that autonomy–the degree to which you influence and control your own work–is the number one determinant of job satisfaction. If you’ve started feeling as if you aren’t captaining your own career ship as much as you’re being tossed around on the waves, it’s time to take stock of whether you’re acting as your own strongest advocate and setting clear expectations with others. Identifying how you can both create a more productive work-life balance and empathetically but firmly communicate your boundaries around it may represent a big step toward curing your creative malaise.

Cultivate other aspects of your personality

When you make your living in a creative field, it can be hard not to look at the world through the lens of your calling. That subway ad has too much white space. How did no one catch the glaring typo in this menu? Ugh, this Instagram is nothing but blown-out highlights. Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it? Switching gears to seek out leisure pursuits that challenge you to use another part of your brain is one way to recharge your creative batteries. If you’re a designer, think about rock climbing. If you’re a writer, learn to knit. Choose activities that don’t involve your career-based skill set.

Doing what you love will never mean that you’ll love what you do every day, but by practicing adequate self-care, you can spend more time creating from a place of happiness vs. one of obligation.