Boring Self-Care

I know I preach self-care a lot but I’ve been noticing a trend lately that I think is a great illustration of practical self-care. And the moral is that practicing self-care isn’t always doing what you want.

Wait – boring self-care??? 

“Boring self-care” is the kind that doesn’t look glamorous, it doesn’t translate well to Instagram, but it’s the little things you do that keep your life balanced. Now this isn’t always fun to do, and it isn’t the self-care we’ve seen branded or commodified, but things like going to bed on time, eating well, being intentional about time alone and with people are all important.

Recently I saw cool art on Instagram promoting boring self-care such as doing dishes, taking medication, unfollowing social media accounts that make you feel bad about yourself, letting yourself not be busy, or doing laundry. (check out @makedaisychains y’all)

I have friends that practice self-care in so many different ways – yoga, booking one night a week off to not be social, journaling, running in nature, snowboarding, photography. The range is endless – but the little everyday things really add up.

An important aspect of self-care to keep in mind is is practicing it before you hit a breaking point – which can be part of the boring aspect. Because it might not feel important or necessary or fun – but preventing bigger issues coming up is a main function of self-care.

Duck, Duck, Extrovert

As an extrovert my boring self-care sometimes means having time alone. It’s not boring because I can’t find fun things to do alone – it’s because FOMO is real and I don’t want to miss fun things friends might be doing. When left to my own devices I’ll spend days or even weeks without proper alone time.

I currently have the pleasure of living in community with five really wonderful girls and this past weekend I took a shower and realized that was the longest I’d been alone in almost two weeks. Which. Is. Wild. I’m an extrovert and I love people but y’all shouldn’t go two weeks without time to yourself. Sometimes you gotta spend time with you.

Maybe you already do it, maybe it needs to be added to the routine – but be intentional about spending quality time with people. Go for walks, go out for ice cream, go to brunch – build relationships because they are important and so good for you. But also give yourself time alone.

But here is where boring self-care comes in. Sometimes I have to say no. I can’t let FOMO make me go on every possible outing, adventure and ice cream run (well, maybe every ice cream run). The point is sometimes I have to learn to say no. Maybe if you’re an introvert sometimes that means forcing yourself to say yes because a balance of time to yourself and time with people is important.

Outer Space and Inner Space 

In the last few days of being intentional about giving myself space I’ve noticed that my ability to process thoughts, feelings, and produce creative ideas is better when I’m alone. Even just brainstorming this blog and giving my mind time to wonder and centre myself is easier when I give myself space to be alone.

This might seem obvious to you if you’re an introvert, or simply someone who doesn’t think spending time with people, either in person or on the phone every waking moment for two weeks is a good idea. But I really love people and it’s easy for me.

Brené Brown talks about being busy as something people do to numb themselves and avoid things they don’t want to face.  In her most recent book, Braving The Wilderness she writes, ‘Crazy-busy’ is a great armor, it’s a great way for numbing. What a lot of us do is that we stay so busy, and so out in front of our life, that the truth of how we’re feeling and what we really need can’t catch up with us.”

When I know my pattern is to over socialize and not take space some of the most important self-care I can practice is to do the ‘boring’ thing and create that space. Space to think and feel and process and create, and to not be busy.


Maybe you relate or maybe it’s totally foreign but I would encourage you to think about what boring self-care you need to do.

Are you avoiding either spending time with people or yourself? Community is a lovely thing and I’m beyond excited to be where I am – but remembering to balance fun with the potentially boring but meaningful self-care is what will make me a better version of myself. What do you need to be doing?

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Post Christmas Pudge

Everywhere I look I see things that say to enjoy Christmas all you want, indulge in the holidays, but once January 1st hits we need to do the opposite and start diets and going to the gym and doing crazy ab workouts to feel better about the lil holiday pudge we may or may not (definitely have) adopted throughout the Christmas parties, the eggnog flowing and Christmas cookies running wild.

If you’re feeling stress to start a new year’s diet, please take a quick read of this post and evaluate if you still want to (spoiler: I’ll encourage you not to).

 

Body Positivity

Today’s post is the first one where I am writing about body positivity. If you’re not familiar with this here a quick definition;

“The Body Positive Movement is a movement that encourages people to adopt more forgiving and affirming attitudes towards their bodies, with the goal of improving overall health and well-being. Whether people are nurturing their bodies and maintaining their weight, or finding a place in life where they are comfortable through working out, or changing their lifestyles to find a better attitude, the body positive movement focuses on building self-esteem through improving one’s self-image”.

I think this is hugely important in a world full of photoshopped ads and men and women feeling increasingly dissatisfied with how they look to work towards a body positive culture.

There is an Aerie model I really admire named Iskra Lawrence who has become a pretty big spokesperson for body positivity, self-care and self-love in the past few years. She has a fantastic TED Talk I’m linking here where she talks about the importance of dropping the need for perfection and be more gentle with ourselves. In the TED Talk Lawrence talks about how marketing and branding are meant to sell us products. And that to do so marking is meant to make us feel insecure so we will buy the products being sold to us; “If we are insecure, we are a motivated consumer. We can be sold anti-wrinkle cream by 13 years old”.

Lawrence also tracks down the roots of these insecurities and then aims to challenge these insecurities with practicing self-care. “Why is it that we feel these insecurities in the first place? Because from a young age we have been conditioned to believe that our success, and our happiness is highly dependent on our attractiveness”. She encourages her audience to recognize feelings and pressures we face to look a certain way and think about our bodies differently.

 

Balancing Act

There is a lot of research that shows dieting can be harmful, and it’s more important to have an overall healthy life style than to stick to a crash diet or cleanse. So as we enter into the new year when so many people are swearing off carbs or sugar or whatever is trendy – remember that a healthy life style is more important than a quick fix diet. Diets are hugely psychological and can make you feel worse about your self, being on diets makes you lose more muscle than fat and over time diets can make you gain more weight and develop unhealthy psychological patterns and eating habits.

Rather than swinging in the opposite direction from the holiday treats to losing the holiday pudge, it’s better to stick to a balanced life style that is more sustainable. Trying to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle of sleeping right, exercising, drinking lots of water, and eating right (including treats every now and then) is much better for you than dieting. What do I mean by ‘healthy food’ or ‘eating right’? Well, my resident nutrition wizard/ kin student/ cherished friend Emilia says that “sticking to mostly whole foods, incorporating lots of vegetables, homemade foods – enough treats and junk food to keep you sane” is a good start.

I will just say this – please don’t stress. Healthy life styles are better and more effective than crash dieting, and healthy life styles include letting ourselves indulge in treats every once in a while. For more tips on living finding the right balance for you, for life in general, I found this article helpful!

Don’t Turn Christmas Into A Lifestyle

(But don’t forget to indulge either)

The biggest thing I can encourage you to do is not to feel guilty for treating yourself over the holidays and reacting by feeling the need to work it all off at the gym next week. It’s important to remember that we don’t have to feel bad about indulging over the holidays, we should be grateful that we get to.  Yes maybe we went a little overboard on the amount cinnamon coffee cake and hot chocolate but that’s a blessing to be able to enjoy that.

It’s okay if you’ve got a little post-Christmas pudge because your body will balance out, but even more than that, because you aren’t defined by your body. There is no ideal way we should look, perfection is unattainable and the cost of trying to attain perfection is detrimental to both our mental and physical health. A line I love from Iskra’s TED Talk when she is emphasizing the importance of redefining beauty to celebrate personality, morals, values, achievements rather than a person’s appearance is: “We need to stop trying to attain perfection because we are good enough already”. 

So, on top of trying to find a healthy balanced life style (because as much I would like  eggnog and cookies to be my breakfast everyday I know my lactose intolerant body couldn’t deal) I think remembering to practice self-care is important, especially if you’re feeling self-conscious about the way you look. Iskra suggests two activities that can help with this:

  1. Mirror challenge: pick our 5 things you love about yourself. 5 things that you love about your body for what it does for you (rather than what you look like).
  2. Gratitude list: knowledge of what you are lucky for in your life. Refuse to let things like clothes/ looks ruin your day or challenge the knowledge that you have about how great your life is.

 

As we move through holiday celebration remember that it’s a priviliege to have time with family and indulge in holiday treats, and if you have adopted a lil holiday pudge in the last few weeks (or if you’re still wokring on it, because we still have a week of holidays ahead of us) that’s okay and it doesn’t make you less beautiful. We don’t need to buy into pressures to look a certain way, and if you’re focus is on being balanced, caring for yourself and practicing self-love you’re on the right track to a healthy new year.

 

Vienna

There is this Billy Joel song I love called Vienna.

There is a scene in the movie 13 Going on 30 where Jennifer Garner’s character is processing a bit of a personal crisis, and that song is playing in the background. It was my go-to song in first year, when it was 2 am and I was still trying to finish papers or assignments, or studying for midterms, and realized I had left things too late. I had to go to the silent study room and motor.

I’d plug-in my headphones and hear:

Slow down, you crazy child

You’re so ambitious for a juvenile

But then if you’re so smart, tell me
Why are you still so afraid?

Where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about?
You’d better cool it off before you burn it out

You’ve got so much to do and
Only so many hours in a day

…………………………………………

Slow down, you’re doing fine

You can’t be everything you want to be
Before your time

…………………………………………

You’re so ahead of yourself that you forgot what you need

Though you can see when you’re wrong, you know
You can’t always see when you’re right. you’re right

…………………………………………

Slow down, you crazy child

And take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while

It’s all right, you can afford to lose a day or two

When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?

I loved it because I needed the reminder that it was all going to be okay. I was doing fine. In the midst of deadlines it was okay to slow down, give myself a break or not be too hard on myself for not getting things done sooner.

We’re all human and I think it’s a good reminder that you can take a break and give yourself grace and understanding. If we don’t, we will burn out.

Take the Phone Off The Hook

When I think about it now, Vienna sounds kinda like a self-care anthem. It was written 40 years ago before language of self-care was as pervasive in culture as it is today, but I think the message is timeless and rings true. 

If you need to take a break and rest – that’s okay.

If you need to spend some time watching Netflix or being with friends and not doing work because you desperately need a break – that’s okay.

I do think there is something to be said for idleness and wasting time – but I want to make the point today that there are different ways to be productive and taking a break can be productive too. “Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while” – go for a walk , take yourself out for a coffee, catch up on your favourite TV show, journal and take time to process your life. It’s okay.

You don’t need to be stressed or afraid that you’re not working hard enough.

The things on our to do lists often feel like they need to get done and they need to get done now. We might not be able to take a break immediately if deadlines are looming – I had to push through many late nights in the study hall prepping for midterms and writing papers. I think I might have even seen a sunrise or two, but the point is that we can’t operate like that forever.

Slow & Steady

There is something so soothing but haunting about Billy Joel’s voice singing the opening lyrics of the song. It feels a little like he’s reading my mind and can tell how stressful life can be.

And it doesn’t end with handing in the last paper and walking across the graduation stage. Sometimes it feels like it’s just getting started and the future ahead of you can be full of so much uncertainty. But as we move forward in life we can take the lessons of self-care and the understanding that it is okay to rest and pace ourselves. I don’t know what things make you feel stressed out and overwhelmed, but I think it’s a universal feeling we all experience.

I was always a fan of the 45 minutes of studying, 15 minute study break thing – it always seemed to really work for me and helped me stay on track because taking time to rest is important. There is a time and a place for resting and self-care and if you’re feeling burnt out, maybe the time and place is right now.

We live in a society that wants us to be constantly outputting work and thoughtful ideas and be ‘productive’,  and that can be so stressful. But I want to say today, if you’re putting forward your best effort in life, showing up and trying, then you’re winning.

Vienna (and the rest of your life) waits for you.

Sick Day

Do you remember how exciting it was to stay home sick from school when you were little? Getting to be pampered, stay home to watch movies and drink soup. But now that I’m older it’s a little less fun. Maybe because being in university there was never a ‘good time’ to be sick and you had to push through to keep up with assignments. And now that I’m out of school getting sick means missing work vs. missing a day or two of class.

Why am I writing about getting sick? Well, I have had a cold for the last week so it has been on my mind and I have some tips about getting over a cold. It’s also important to be mindful of wellness and taking care of yourself (even when you’re not sick), and because not everyone has the same access to healthcare and I think we should not only be grateful but maybe even proactive – to help others.

Recommendations for Sick Days

Everyone has their own tricks for getting over colds, and I love hearing how they vary from person to person. I once knew an actor who swore by apples and chips as being a perfect combination to get over a sore throat. I don’t know if it really works but I often find myself reaching for apples when I feel a cold coming on.

So in the spirit of tips to get over feeling sick, here are a few things I know really do work:

  • Herbal Teas (with lots and lots of honey) to sooth a sore throat, I especially like Teavana’s Peach Tranquility
  • Oil of Oregano, it tastes brutal but is a tried and true treatment for colds
  • Taking lots of vitamins – EmergenC is great to drink vitamin C and stay hydrated
  • Neti Pot is the love of my life when it comes to being sick – I’m not even embarrassed and if you have sinus issues this is incredible (yes you put a small tea pot up your nose but it’s worth it to breathe clearly)
  • Using melatonin spray to help me fall asleep and have restful sleeps
  • The Norwex Timeless Rescue Gel rollerball is my go to for headaches, if you get sinus headaches when you have colds this is magic
  • Speaking of rollerballs – I use a bunch of essential oils to help clear up congestion and fight colds, both in an essential oil diffuser and rollerball formtumblr_m9vvf5qcbq1qhdlk5o1_r1_250
  • Finally, comfort food! My favourite sick food is chicken noodle soup and I always crave it when I’m sick – just ask my mom who heard me plea for soup on Saturday, with a theatrical Mean Girls cough and everything (she made me homemade chicken noodle soup which was even better, shout out to amazing moms!)

 

 

Sick Days & Self Care

Every time I get I think about self-care, about how much more gentle I am with myself when I’m sick and mindful of putting good things in my body. It is a good reminder that you’re not indestructible and it’s good to take things slow, rest, and be intentional about taking care of yourself.

Just like each person has their own personal remedies for getting over being sick, self-care also varies from person to person. I have another self-care post coming soon, and all the forms it takes, but for now I’ll leave you with this brilliant article about self-care that my friend recently sent me; This Is What ‘Self-Care’ REALLY Means, Because It’s Not All Salt Baths And Chocolate Cake. I highly recommend checking it out because it does a fantastic job of explaining the different forms self-care takes and contains wisdom like:

“If you find yourself having to regularly indulge in consumer self-care, it’s because you are disconnected from actual self-care, which has very little to do with “treating yourself” and a whole lot do with parenting yourself and making choices for your long-term wellness.”

Grateful for Health

There is nothing that makes me feel more grateful for my health than getting sick, and being reminded how frustrating it is not to be able to function the way you usually do. Recently, however, I’ve also been thinking about how grateful I am to have access to the health care I do, because I know that many people don’t. As someone who believes in the importance of intersectional feminism, it feels wrong to write a post about wellness without acknowledging my privilege.

I’ve been thinking about people, here in my community and around the world, that don’t have the same resources. Not everyone can afford to take time off work to rest, or buy the things I find comforting when I’m sick, and many people don’t have health insurance to take care of their needs. It is a privilege to wake up and feel a tickle in my throat and know I can go downstairs and find vitamins and tea and essential oils and other naturopathic medicine. Those are all expensive things and I’m very lucky to have them.

So how do I wrap this post up without being a total killjoy? Well, I’m going to say that other than being grateful for being able have access to health care you can look into donating to organizations that work to provide health care to those without it. WE (formerly Free The Children) is an organization I strongly believe in and I have personally toured their health clinic in Kenya that provides health care to families who otherwise would be without it. They have a wide selection of Christmas gifts of which the proceeds support their health programs – and since Black Friday and Giving Tuesday are coming up this week and next, it’s a great chance to stock up for the holidays!

As cooler weather and the holidays approach remember to take it easy and take care of yourself!

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Lets talk about em-pa-thy

Lets talk about you and me

Lets talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be

Lets talk about em-pa-thy

*jazz hands*


Empathy is one of those terms, like vulnerability, that has been popping up in my life lately. It is relevant because I think when we feel people aren’t empathetic to us it removes the willingness to be authentic and vulnerable, and essentially it has a negative impact on relationships.

Defining Empathy

One of these days I’ll write a post that doesn’t quote Brené Brown, but today is not that day, folks. In this video (its short, sweet, and if you have five minutes you should go watch it) she describes empathy as “the skill set to bring compassion alive”, and “communicating deep love for people so they know they aren’t alone”.

Brené Brown has another video called Empathy vs. Sympathy that I saw in countless classes throughout my degree, it’s brilliant and worth sharing. She talks about the important differences between being empathic and sympathetic, how empathy fuels connection and cites Theresa Wiseman’s 4 Attributes of Empathy, which are:

  1. Perspective taking
  2. Staying out of judgement
  3. Recognizing emotion in others
  4. Communicating the emotion you see

My favourite line from this video is, “Rarely if ever does an empathic response start with “at least…”.” I always think about that when I’m about to say “well at least” to someone and notice how those comments can impact people and relationships, and what better alternatives can be said that foster empathy.

Feeling WITH Others

In both of the videos I linked to above, Dr. Brown talks about “feeling with someone” and I love this language and imagery. Often, we don’t need easy solutions to challenges, we just need people to stick by our side, and let us know they understand how we’re feeling. Sometimes I think of empathy as “voluntary vulnerability”, when people say “I get it, I’ve been there too” and it requires opening themselves up to let you know that you’re not alone.

While I was writing this post I kept thinking about how the challenging experiences we go through actually enable us to be more empathetic to people. If you’ve got your heart-broken, or lost someone you love, gone through a serious illness, moved away from a place you loved, or whatever difficult things you’ve faced it actually enables you to understand and empathize with people when they go through their own hard things.

Even though life has its share of hard, sad, challenging experiences – the silver lining is that we can learn to be more empathetic and loving to people.

You can repurpose every moment of feeling hurt, let down, left out, unheard, forgotten, and use it to love people harder. You can use it to understand their struggle and to empathize with them.

But wait…

Empathy is wonderful, it grows relationships, makes people feel connected – why wouldn’t it be your go to response? The thing is empathy can be hard. One of the biggest challenges we face when practicing and discussing empathy is that if you don’t know the feeling, it is hard to empathize. You might have a friend going through something and you’ve totally been where they are, but if you’ve never experienced it what do you say? I know I’ve had experiences where I just didn’t know what to say or how to relate to what a friend was going through, but recognizing and honouring their struggle is a good place to start.

Another challenge to empathy I’ve experienced is people thinking the thing you’re going through isn’t that bad or they want you to empathize with them. A while back I was at the grocery store after working an 8 hour shift and I was staring at the sushi bar a little longer than necessary. A lady asked me if I was okay and I laughed and said “yeah I just got off work and I’m tired” and she launched into why she was more tired than me and I didn’t have a reason to be complaining.  It struck me that she wanted to make it clear that she was more entitled to feeling tired. I also thought about how exhausted she must have been for that to be her immediate reaction.

Empathy isn’t always easy, and it requires energy we might not always feel like we have but moments of empathy from strangers, or when friends surprise you with how much love and empathy they can give you, can be so meaningful and I love being on the end where I can empathize with others.

What Next?

A story of empathy that I’m inspired by is from the book Love Does by Bob Goff. He talks about being in a car accident and having someone drive through a stop sign and hit his car. But his first instinct was to go check on the other driver. It was an elderly woman and he talks about how she was worried she wouldn’t be allowed to drive anymore and he empathized with her. Now, I’ve actually been in a similar situation and empathy was not my first thought, which is why this story really strikes me. He was not angry his car was totalled, he was empathetic to a woman who might lose her license.

I think if we interact with people from a place of love, like Bob, we are able to empathize with people and connect with them in ways that are truly meaningful.

So this week’s take away?

  • Empathy does not need to be earned. If you feel like you are working to earn empathy from someone who is a big problem. If you share something with someone and they need you to share more or justify why you deserve empathy, well that’s just frustrating and they probably aren’t the best person to talk to.
  • Practice self-care to give you strength and energy to empathize and care about other people. If you don’t change your batteries you burn out and lose the ability to love people well and empathize.
  • Be as empathetic as possible to everyone you encounter

 

 

I cry when I’m Hungry

I celebrated Canada 150 in Ottawa this summer with one of my best friends, Emilia. On Canada Day we were wandering around downtown, desperately looking for a place to eat. Eventually, after an incredibly long search, we found a cute little pizza place with a precious courtyard that didn’t charge insane Canada Day prices. It was perfection.

When we sat down, completely relived to know food would be coming to our table any minute, I turned to her and said “You know sometimes when I’m really hungry I get extra emotional”. She laughed and said “OH I know. It’s my job to keep you fed so you don’t get like that.” I genuinely did almost tear up when the pizza came because it was 2 pm and we hadn’t had lunch yet and I was just overwhelmed with being so happy to be about to eat.

Overwhelmed is a key term in that sentence that I’m going to dive into because the moral of this week’s post is that  it’s important to take care of your body and read the signals that you’re in need of a little TLC.

Connecting Emotional and Physical Health

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. I think when discussing wellness it’s important to think about how nurturing ourselves physically improves our emotional wellbeing.

We don’t always give enough credit to the fact that managing our emotions or processing stress sometimes requires lots of energy. For myself, if I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed I ask:

  • Did I get enough sleep the past few nights?
  • Have I been eating well lately?
  • Have I been drinking too much coffee? (Sometimes one cup a day is still too much for me – thank goodness for decaf)
  • What’s going on in my life to make me feel this way?

When we are feeling physically burnt out we have a harder time managing stress and other emotions. We don’t function at our highest levels or bring our best selves to our work, school, or relationships. Being in a place of exhaustion, hunger, burnout, or stress can make us more irritable and cause an increase in conflicts in our relationships – hanger is so real guys.

As much as it is funny to joke about crying when I’m hungry I think it really is important to take care of yourself and to pay attention to signs that you need to put more effort into taking care of yourself so you can function at your best.

Take Care

We should be mindful of taking care of ourselves and remember that refuelling your physical and emotional energy is super important. This article talks about the importance of sleep and what impacts it can have on you.

Sometimes it is seen as a badge of honour to be tried, to be so hard-working that you’re exhausted, chugging coffee to keep going.  Do you remember when you were a baby (of course not but just play along), and you got so over tired or hungry you would cry? And your parents we responsible for keeping you fed and well rested? Well if you’re reading this you’re probably a grown up and its your responsibility to care for yourself now.

An article from Everyday Health states that “Total health depends on a healthy mind and body. Take time to nurture both.” and encouraged readers that the best way to care for your overall emotional and physical wellbeing including :

  • “Eat right. A healthy, regular diet is good for the body and mind.
  • Go to bed on time. Losing sleep is hard on your heart, may increase weight, and definitely cranks up the crankiness meter.
  • Go out and play. Taking time out for relaxation and socializing is good for your emotional health and your physical health.
  • Exercise. Exercise is proven to improve your mood and has comprehensive benefits for your physical health.”

I could list article after article here for you to get the point across, like this one that says  “To have good emotional health, it’s important to take care of your body by having a regular routine for eating healthy meals, getting enough sleep, and exercising” or this article which states that “good physical health supports good mental health.” There are so many resources I could keep going, but I think you get it, not taking care of your physical needs has a negative impact on you including your ability to manage your emotions.

Laugh & Sleep

The Irish proverb “A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything” feels pretty spot on and it is advice I really live by. I tend to get over tired and some days I just get to a point where I need to sleep. And we all know laugher, especially shared with friends, is the best medicine. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, maybe you’re so hungry you’re in tears – focus on the things you can do to make it better.

For the sake of full disclosure, I really need to take this advice. As you may have assumed from the anecdote I opened with, I cannot claim that I have perfected the whole “always being well fed and well rested” thing. There have been multiple days already this week (and it’s only Wednesday!) that I had too much coffee, not enough sleep, or I skipped a meal because I was running late for work.

I’m the first to admit that it’s hard to keep a normal sleep schedule or resist the urge to drink coffee when you know it’ll keep you up and fuel your stress. But what I want to emphasize this week is that it’s not about achieving perfect health, it’s about practicing self-awareness and recognizing that the way you care for your body has a direct connection with how you feel and are able to function.

Life is busy, unpredictable and we will not always be well rested, but we can strive to take the best care of our selves. Making sure you’re taking care of yourself means you will be able to handle life the best you can. You’ll function at a high level, be able to manage stress, and avoid crying in pizzeria courtyards. If you want to bring your best self to work, relationships, vacations, what have you – you’ve got to take care.

 

 

P.S. Thank you Em, for being a great friend, keeping me fed, and (almost always) preventing me from getting so hungry I cry.

Make it into Art

I’ve always loved making art. When I was in elementary school it was my favourite subject and I was lucky to grow up in a home that encouraged creativity and artistic expression. This week I’m talking about the power art has to teach you new things, how it can help you process emotions, and the ways which creativity makes life better.

Benefits of Artistic & Creative Practices

Even if you’ve never painted or thought of yourself as artistic, you might want to consider exploring art. A study by Girija Kaimal, cited in Study Says Making Art Reduces Stress, found that “45 minutes of creative activity significantly lessens stress in the body, regardless of artistic experience or talent”. The study goes on to explain that making art can relieve stress for anyone. So why not stop by your local arts and crafts store and invest in some art supplies that could help you reduce stress?

I’m currently reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and it felt fitting while writing this post I came across the line in her book “while the paths and outcomes of creative living will vary wildly from person to person, I can guarantee you this: A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life.” You don’t have to believe me, but take it from Liz, creativity is crucial.

My friend, and former camp counsellor, Nicki Gallo wrote a really cool article, I Played Every Day for a Month And This Is What Happened, about incorporating play and creativity into your everyday life. She wrote “One doesn’t have to wait for vacation or the weekend to bank up all our play days. We can invite play into our daily lives. It can be simple and weird and whatever you want it to be.” I love this idea and the reminder that creativity and playfulness truly can be incorporated into everyday life.

A Range of Applications

Art is a stress reliever and creativity makes life more interesting and enjoyable, but why else is art important and cool and helpful? I’m glad you asked. Art is more than just pretty pictures, it can be used in a wide range of ways to process emotions, stressful or traumatic experiences, or as a source of knowledge. Allow me to introduce you to Art Therapy & Performative Inquiry.

Art therapy is the use of “art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem” (American Art Therapy Association). Giving it Form: Exploring Conflict Through Art by Marian Leibmann explains art therapy can “help people work toward creative solutions… using art to explore conflict can help us to increase our understanding of conflict in a holistic way”. An experience of this I have encountered is when I had the opportunity to hear Shannon Moroney speak at a gallery about her experiences of trauma and the incredible way art helped her to express herself in a way she couldn’t with words.

Performative Inquiry is a concept so obscure it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. It is a perspective that argues art as a way to do research and develop new knowledge about the world. The Production of Knowledge in Artistic Research by Henk Borgdorff states that “research in and through artistic practices is partly concerned with our perception, our understanding, our relationship to the world and to other people. Art thereby invites reflection”. I got to explore this concept in my final university term and through my own assignments I realized making art truly does have the power to produce new knowledge and help you to see the world in a new way.

Creating art can be such a cathartic experience, as Carrie Fisher once said “Take your broken heart, and make it into art”.  I really love that quote (hence the title of this post) and I have found from experience that art can be a powerful avenue to express hard emotions and find healing.

Yes YOU can make Art

We are all amateurs at some point, but it does no good to limit yourself because everyone starts somewhere. Comparing your first painting to a Van Gogh is silly. Comparing your shower singing to a Grammy award winner doesn’t seem fair. When you remove the standard that you are trying to live up to you can appreciate yourself and your creations for what they are.

Exhibit A: Last year I was in a course that required I do an art project, so I bought a watercolour palette. When I was done with the project I kept painting because I had so much fun with it and it has become one of my favourite types of self-care. I’m not planning gallery shows anytime soon but I try to dedicate time a few days a week, even just 15 minutes, to paint and be creative and I really enjoy it!

Recently someone told me they aren’t artistic because they can’t paint and that made me sad because there is so much more to art than that. Art comes in many forms; writing, photography, painting, drawing, dancing, music, etc.

So what is this week’s take away?

Making art has the capacity to help you work through complex emotions, discover new things through artistic research, or it can just be a fun way to de-stress. Creativity is important, making art – even if you’re really bad at it – can make you feel happier, and I highly encourage you to do something artistic in the coming days.