Why It’s So Hard to Stay Creative

Remember when you were little – like, in Kindergarten – and it’d be time for art and you wouldn’t even think about it, you’d just finger paint the day away like a maniac? Then run up to your mom and proudly show her your masterpiece? (And maybe cry if she didn’t hang it up when you got home.)

deathtothestockphoto.com
deathtothestockphoto.com

And then, around the same time, you’d get told it was time for music class and like. Somebody grab the maracas. You knew what to do.

Maybe you noticed as you got older that this enthusiasm kind of stopped short. All the sudden music class is “lame.” You suddenly realize that you’re sitting next to a boy you can barely talk to cause you have a crush on him and like, what, now you’re supposed to sing in front of him??

And then art class…yeah, you’re okay at drawing a tree. You can make pretty good branches and you’ve got the little hole in the trunk with the squirrel in it. Aaaaand then you look over at the girl next to you who knows how to make like, textured tree bark and individual leaves building up this lush tree top. Um? How did you never notice that she could do that before??

Suddenly, we have begun comparing our talents to everyone around us. When we were little, we were so excited to just try new things, test our abilities, and find the next project that our mom or dad or teacher would tell us looks amazing. And they pretty much always did tell us we were amazing, even when our drawing of them had only stick legs and arms coming out of a round head. Like, we could entirely not draw a body on a picture of a human and people would tell us it was amazing.

Sometimes, we are lucky and we have parents and teachers and friends who continue to tell us that our art – music, drawing, writing, sewing, cooking, anything – is amazing. But as we get older, it’s natural to get more insecure. We start to believe they are lying to us. We start to believe they are just trying to make us feel good. We look at what our classmates and our friends and the girls on Instagram are doing and we compare our work with theirs, and we get down on ourselves.

This is normal. Don’t beat yourself up for beating yourself up. But let’s try to fight this feeling. Let’s try to look at another woman’s work and see the beauty in it….and then look at our work and see how that is also beautiful in its own unique way. Keep the spark of creativity alive in you. Keep practicing. Keep having fun with it. Keep doing it, just because you like it. You don’t have to show it to anyone if you don’t want, but give yourself a way of expressing yourself artistically. Don’t hide any part of yourself. Let your whole self shine.

Why It’s So Hard to Stay Creative

Death_to_stock_communicate_hands_3.jpg
deathtothestockphoto.com

Remember when you were little – like, in Kindergarten – and it’d be time for art and you wouldn’t even think about it, you’d just finger paint the day away like a maniac? Then run up to your mom and proudly show her your masterpiece? (And maybe cry if she didn’t hang it up when you got home.)

And then, around the same time, you’d get told it was time for music class and likeee. Somebody grab the maracas. You knew what to do.

Maybe you noticed as you got older that this enthusiasm kind of stopped short. All the sudden music class is “lame.” You suddenly realize that you’re sitting next to a boy you can barely talk to cause you have a crush on him and like, what, now you’re supposed to sing in front of him??

And then art class…yeah, you’re okay at drawing a tree. You can make pretty good branches and you’ve got the little hole in the trunk with the squirrel in it. Aaaaand then you look over at the girl next to you who knows how to make like, textured tree bark and individual leaves building up this lush tree top. Um? How did you never notice that she could do that before??

Suddenly, we have begun comparing our talents to everyone around us. When we were little, we were so excited to just try new things, test our abilities, and find the next project that our mom or dad or teacher would tell us looks amazing. And they pretty much always did tell us we were amazing, even when our drawing of them had only stick legs and arms coming out of a round head. Like, we could entirely not draw a body on a picture of a human and people would tell us it was amazing.

Sometimes, we are lucky and we have parents and teachers and friends who continue to tell us that our art – music, drawing, writing, sewing, cooking, anything – is amazing. But as we get older, it’s natural to get more insecure. We start to believe they are lying to us. We start to believe they are just trying to make us feel good. We look at what our classmates and our friends and the girls on Instagram are doing and we compare our work with theirs, and we get down on ourselves.

creativity-inspiration-motivation

This is normal. Don’t beat yourself up for beating yourself up. But let’s try to fight this feeling. Let’s try to look at another woman’s work and see the beauty in it….and then look at our work and see how that is also beautiful in its own unique way. Keep the spark of creativity alive in you. Keep practicing. Keep having fun with it. Keep doing it, just because you like it. You don’t have to show it to anyone if you don’t want, but give yourself a way of expressing yourself artistically. Don’t hide any part of yourself. Let your whole self shine.

Mindful Eating this Thanksgiving

Good Morning and Happy Thanksgiving Eve! Well, it’s not the evening yet so…Eve Morn? Yeah. Happy Thanksgiving Eve Morn.

photo by Gabriel Garcia Marengo
photo by Gabriel Garcia Marengo

Thanksgiving can bring up a lot of different emotions for American women. There’s a high likelihood that you’ll be spending today with friends and/or family, and that can be perceived as either a good or bad thing (0r for many people, I think, a nice little cocktail of emotions). If you are unable to spend the day with family or friends, that brings up whole other kinds of emotions. And then there’s, of course, the fact that this holiday revolves around indulging ourselves with an excessive fatty, buttery, salty, sweet & sticky meal.

Women have incredibly unique relationships with eating and food, and I am not suggesting that I think that I am able to write a blog post encompassing all of that complexity. There are so many variables that come into play, shaping the way that we feel about food. It’s an interesting exercise to take a moment to look back on your childhood and the subconscious messages you may have received about food, eating, and body image as a child. What kinds of meals were served at the dinner table? Was food and its health consequences discussed, and in what tone? What was your mother’s relationship with eating like?

If you’re feeling kind of weird about Thanksgiving this year, it’s okay. Lots of people feel that way. This holiday can bring a lot of things up, including stresses about eating, health, family, drinking, and body image. It can be especially challenging for those struggling with disordered eating habits. If you need extra support this holiday season from a support group, therapist, friend, or all of the above, don’t be afraid to reach out. You deserve to enjoy the day!

When I was in college, I was a Peer Health Educator. We did a Chocolate Mindfulness Meditation that I’ll never forget. Each person takes a square of chocolate (any will do, but if you can get your hands on a high quality piece you may enjoy yourself a wee bit more) and practices mindful eating. When you eat mindfully, you take the time to consume your food while engaging all of the senses. You fight against the urge to mindlessly and quickly indulge. Instead, you try to truly savor every bite.

This graphic doesn't look like I'm suggesting you eat a brain, right? Just checking.
This graphic doesn’t look like I’m suggesting you eat a brain, right? Just checking.

Mindful eating can be helpful for anyone, whether you view yourself as having a positive or negative relationship with food. The practice encourages appreciation, gratitude, and intentional living. It reminds us to slow down. To allow ourselves to enjoy.

Headspace, a meditation app (that’s super cool), has an article on their website that details how to do a simple, enlightening chocolate meditation. Practice this meditation sometime when you’re alone and in a quiet space. See how it feels. Notice the things that you liked or didn’t like, that felt easy or more challenging. See if you can apply these ideas at the Thanksgiving table this year. And, as always, take care of yourself.

MINDFUL CHOCOLATE EATING FROM HEADSPACE:

1) Before you pick up the chocolate take a couple of deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth, just to allow the body and mind to settle a little. Mentally leave behind whatever you’re doing for a moment or two.

2) Take a moment to appreciate the chocolate. Where has it come from? What’s in it? Try and imagine the different ingredients in their natural growing environment and even the types of people who might have grown the cocoa beans.

3) Before you begin to eat it, pause to notice if there’s a feeling of impatience, of just wanting to eat it as quickly as possible. Notice if there are feelings of pleasure and excitement, or feelings of guilt and unease, about the idea of eating the chocolate.

4) Slowly unwrap the chocolate and then take a good minute or so to explore it with your eyes, nose and hands. Look at it closely, smell it carefully and then touch it to see how it feels.

5) By now you’ll be more than ready to taste it. Take a small bite (or alternatively put the whole thing in your mouth), but try to resist chewing the chocolate. Notice how it feels in the mouth, the temperature and the texture. Also become aware of the taste – whether it’s sweet, bitter, creamy etc. Try to allow the chocolate to melt in the mouth by gently moving it around with your tongue, rather than chewing it. Sit back in your chair and enjoy the moment.

For more on facing Thanksgiving with an Eating Disorder:

Thanksgiving with an Eating Disorder: 10 Tips to Help You Enjoy the Holiday

Thanksgiving Survival Guide

Coping With The Holidays When You Have An Eating Disorder

Body Image Booster: 10 Ideas to Enjoy Yourself This Thanksgiving

Mindful Eating this Thanksgiving

Good Morning and Happy Thanksgiving Eve! Well, it’s not the evening yet so…Eve Morn? Yeah. Happy Thanksgiving Eve Morn.

pexels.com
pexels.com

Thanksgiving can bring up a lot of different emotions for American women. There’s a high likelihood that you’ll be spending today with friends and/or family, and that can be perceived as either a good or bad thing (0r for many people, I think, a nice little cocktail of emotions). If you are unable to spend the day with family or friends, that brings up whole other kinds of emotions. And then there’s, of course, the fact that this holiday revolves around indulging ourselves with an excessive fatty, buttery, salty, sweet & sticky meal.

Women have incredibly unique relationships with eating and food, and I am not suggesting that I think that I am able to write a blog post encompassing all of that complexity. There are so many variables that come into play, shaping the way that we feel about food. It’s an interesting exercise to take a moment to look back on your childhood and the subconscious messages you may have received about food, eating, and body image as a child. What kinds of meals were served at the dinner table? Was food and its health consequences discussed, and in what tone? What was your mother’s relationship with eating like?

If you’re feeling kind of weird about Thanksgiving this year, it’s okay. Lots of people feel that way. This holiday can bring a lot of things up, including stresses about eating, health, family, drinking, and body image. It can be especially challenging for those struggling with disordered eating habits. If you need extra support this holiday season from a support group, therapist, friend, or all of the above, don’t be afraid to reach out. You deserve to enjoy the day!

When I was in college, I was a Peer Health Educator. We did a Chocolate Mindfulness Meditation that I’ll never forget. Each person takes a square of chocolate (any will do, but if you can get your hands on a high quality piece you may enjoy yourself a wee bit more) and practices mindful eating. When you eat mindfully, you take the time to consume your food while engaging all of the senses. You fight against the urge to mindlessly and quickly indulge. Instead, you try to truly savor every bite.

This graphic doesn't look like I'm suggesting you eat a brain, right? Just checking.
This graphic doesn’t look like I’m suggesting you eat a brain, right? Just checking.

Mindful eating can be helpful for anyone, whether you view yourself as having a positive or negative relationship with food. The practice encourages appreciation, gratitude, and intentional living. It reminds us to slow down. To allow ourselves to enjoy.

Headspace, a meditation app (that’s super cool), has an article on their website that details how to do a simple, enlightening chocolate meditation. Practice this meditation sometime when you’re alone and in a quiet space. See how it feels. Notice the things that you liked or didn’t like, that felt easy or more challenging. See if you can apply these ideas at the Thanksgiving table this year. And, as always, take care of yourself.

MINDFUL CHOCOLATE EATING FROM HEADSPACE:

1) Before you pick up the chocolate take a couple of deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth, just to allow the body and mind to settle a little. Mentally leave behind whatever you’re doing for a moment or two.

2) Take a moment to appreciate the chocolate. Where has it come from? What’s in it? Try and imagine the different ingredients in their natural growing environment and even the types of people who might have grown the cocoa beans.

3) Before you begin to eat it, pause to notice if there’s a feeling of impatience, of just wanting to eat it as quickly as possible. Notice if there are feelings of pleasure and excitement, or feelings of guilt and unease, about the idea of eating the chocolate.

4) Slowly unwrap the chocolate and then take a good minute or so to explore it with your eyes, nose and hands. Look at it closely, smell it carefully and then touch it to see how it feels.

5) By now you’ll be more than ready to taste it. Take a small bite (or alternatively put the whole thing in your mouth), but try to resist chewing the chocolate. Notice how it feels in the mouth, the temperature and the texture. Also become aware of the taste – whether it’s sweet, bitter, creamy etc. Try to allow the chocolate to melt in the mouth by gently moving it around with your tongue, rather than chewing it. Sit back in your chair and enjoy the moment.

For more on facing Thanksgiving with an Eating Disorder:

Thanksgiving with an Eating Disorder: 10 Tips to Help You Enjoy the Holiday

Thanksgiving Survival Guide

Coping With The Holidays When You Have An Eating Disorder

Body Image Booster: 10 Ideas to Enjoy Yourself This Thanksgiving

How To (Actually) Practice Self-Care Every Day

Good morning, sunshines! Today’s post is dedicated to something that, when you think about it, seems easy to do, but then when you really consider your life and realize you actually don’t do it you’re like, “oh, I guess that isn’t easy?” But then, after we internet-chat about it over our coffee, you realize that, “wait, that IS easy!”

Do you follow?

Welcome to the easy-but-hard-but-easy world of self-care.

ashleyelladesign.com
ashleyelladesign.com

In social work school, our professors excessively warned us against the mythical and dreaded “burnout.” Social Work professor Lisa Butler talked to Social Work Today about burnout, describing it as “work-related feelings of hopelessness, emotional exhaustion, and being overwhelmed, [that] may result from work environments that involve excessive workloads and little support.” She warned that burnout can lead to negative consequences, including feelings of depression, anxiety, anger, and low self-esteem. 

The antidote to burnout is the much buzzed about concept of self-care. Self-care is the act of doing something positive with the intention of nurturing your mind, body, and/or spirit. 

We should practice self-care every day. I mean, I guess I would say that, since it’s sort of the central message of this blog. But the awesome thing about self-care is that it’s something you can easily do every day — as long as it’s salient in your mind.

This idea became clear to me the other day as my Gratitude App alarm went off. Every day at 8:30pm, my phone chimes and I receive a notification that reminds me to update my app with 5 things I am grateful for. And you know what? This has been an incredible help to me.

Life is busy. Things come up. Our minds wander. This leads to just forgetting things — even things that are important to us. I have been able to keep up with my daily gratitude practice better than I ever have because I have a daily reminder set to do so.

So why not do the same with self-care? My suggestion to you is this: make a self-care calendar.

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 4.17.46 PM

Google calendar is accessible through your email on your desktop and also through your phone, so this is an ideal platform. Click the arrow next to “My Calendars” and click, “Create New Calendar.” I titled mine “Self-Care” because I’m like, very creative.

Now, just fill in your calendar and start the self-care planning! Here are some ideas about managing your self-care time:

  • Plan a week in advance. This will allow you to choose self-care activities that might be particularly relevant to you that week, or may cater to your recent interests (for example: if you’re in the middle of reading a great book, you might want to schedule in more reading time than you would when you are between books).
  • Consider your daily schedule and pick a time of day that is realistic and not stressful. For me, this is sometime after dinner but before bed.
  • Set an alarm to ring during your allotted self-care time. After a while, the hope is that self-care will become a habit, no alarm needed. But until then, there’s no shame in setting a reminder to take care of yourself!

I know all you spontaneous readers are rolling your eyes, and my planning ladies are already opening a new tab to let the scheduling begin. But to the spontaneous, I say hear me out: you can adjust this to your own liking. If you don’t like the idea of writing, “Monday, 8pm: Take A Bath. Tuesday, 8pm: Journal,” etc., you can simply pick 7 things that you want to do that week and allow yourself some agency in deciding what to do on each particular day. That way, you can be spontaneous while also being intentional about your self-care activities.

It’s also important to remember that these self-care activities don’t have to be challenging. If you know that you have a busy day ahead, your self-care can simply be to meditate for 10 minutes. If you are hanging out with a friend in the evening and are worried about fitting in your self-care time, don’t worry — that IS self-care! I even think that watching Netflix can be self-care if you are watching a movie that causes you to learn, reflect, laugh, or be inspired.

Sometimes it’s okay to put yourself first. Necessary, even.

If you’re not sure where to start with all of this, the internet has a ton of awesome suggestions, including this list of over 80 self-care ideas!

For more reading on self care, check me and me out!

How To (Actually) Practice Self-Care Every Day

ashleyelladesign.com2
ashleyelladesign.com

Good morning, sunshines! Today’s post is dedicated to something that, when you think about it, seems easy to do, but then when you really consider your life and realize you actually don’t do it you’re like, “oh, I guess that isn’t easy?” But then, after we internet-chat about it over our coffee, you realize that, “wait, that IS easy!”

Do you follow?

Welcome to the easy-but-hard-but-easy world of self-care.

In social work school, our professors excessively warned us against the mythical and dreaded “burnout.” Social Work professor Lisa Butler talked to Social Work Today about burnout, describing it as “work-related feelings of hopelessness, emotional exhaustion, and being overwhelmed, [that] may result from work environments that involve excessive workloads and little support.” She warned that burnout can lead to negative consequences, including feelings of depression, anxiety, anger, and low self-esteem. 

The antidote to burnout is the much buzzed about concept of self-care. Self-care is the act of doing something positive with the intention of nurturing your mind, body, and/or spirit. 

We should practice self-care every day. I mean, I guess I would say that, since it’s sort of the central message of this blog. But the awesome thing about self-care is that it’s something you can easily do every day — as long as it’s salient in your mind.

This idea became clear to me the other day as my Gratitude App alarm went off. Every day at 8:30pm, my phone chimes and I receive a notification that reminds me to update my app with 5 things I am grateful for. And you know what? This has been an incredible help to me.

Life is busy. Things come up. Our minds wander. This leads to just forgetting things — even things that are important to us. I have been able to keep up with my daily gratitude practice better than I ever have because I have a daily reminder set to do so.

MAKE A

So why not do the same with self-care? My suggestion to you is this: make a self-care calendar.

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 4.17.46 PM

Google calendar is accessible through your email on your desktop and also through your phone, so this is an ideal platform. Click the arrow next to “My Calendars” and click, “Create New Calendar.” I titled mine “Self-Care” because I’m like, very creative.

Now, just fill in your calendar and start the self-care planning! Here are some ideas about managing your self-care time:

  • Plan a week in advance. This will allow you to choose self-care activities that might be particularly relevant to you that week, or may cater to your recent interests (for example: if you’re in the middle of reading a great book, you might want to schedule in more reading time than you would when you are between books).
  • Consider your daily schedule and pick a time of day that is realistic and not stressful. For me, this is sometime after dinner but before bed.
  • Set an alarm to ring during your allotted self-care time. After a while, the hope is that self-care will become a habit, no alarm needed. But until then, there’s no shame in setting a reminder to take care of yourself!

I know all you spontaneous readers are rolling your eyes, and my planning ladies are already opening a new tab to let the scheduling begin. But to the spontaneous, I say hear me out: you can adjust this to your own liking. If you don’t like the idea of writing, “Monday, 8pm: Take A Bath. Tuesday, 8pm: Journal,” etc., you can simply pick 7 things that you want to do that week and allow yourself some agency in deciding what to do on each particular day. That way, you can be spontaneous while also being intentional about your self-care activities.

It’s also important to remember that these self-care activities don’t have to be challenging. If you know that you have a busy day ahead, your self-care can simply be to meditate for 10 minutes. If you are hanging out with a friend in the evening and are worried about fitting in your self-care time, don’t worry — that IS self-care! I even think that watching Netflix can be self-care if you are watching a movie that causes you to learn, reflect, laugh, or be inspired.

Sometimes it’s okay to put yourself first. Necessary, even.

If you’re not sure where to start with all of this, the internet has a ton of awesome suggestions, including this list of over 80 self-care ideas!

For more reading on self care, check me and me out!

Your Most Productive Goal Setting Ever

I have sympathy for the unsuccessful goal-setter. I am that person. I have countless notebooks and blog posts full of goals. I actually find great joy in making them and daydreaming about all the amazing things I will soon, finally, achieve. But then, no matter how much I think “This time it will be different,” the notebooks are left with goals uncrossed. Pages metaphorically tattered and torn. Pen ink flowered like watercolors, illegible from contact with my disappointed tears.

Okay it’s not like, that dramatic.

ashleyelladesign.com
ashleyelladesign.com

But it does seriously bother me when I am unable to follow through with a goal of mine that is really important to me, and I don’t think I’m alone. The University of Scranton reported that only 8% of people actually end up following through with their New Years Resolutions. That’s a really sad number!

So how do we become the 8%? Or better yet, increase the 8% statistic to 99%? (I’m a dreamer.)

In graduate school, things shifted for me when my peers and I learned about helping clients make SMART goals (and yeah, okay, definitely making them for ourselves too). Following the SMART goal formula allows you to sidestep common goal-setting errors (like making a goal that’s too vague or unrealistic) and create a super sleek, no-questions-asked goal. Using this method has really increased my productivity and helped me formulate clearer plans for achieving my goals.

SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timed

Let’s walk through an example. Say you have been feeling super fatigued every day, and it’s really affecting your work and social life. You decide it’s time to get more sleep.

Specific

Your goal here shouldn’t be “get more sleep” or “be well-rested.” These phrases are super broad and hard to stick to. “Get more sleep” could mean getting 3 more hours of sleep than usual or 15 more minutes. Your goal should look something like, “Get 9 hours of sleep every night.”

Measurable

Your goal should have some way of being measured so that you can see your progress. Going off of feelings, like, “Oh, I feel less fatigued today!” is not a great way to measure your progress, because feelings can change throughout the day, or be the result of other outliers. To measure this goal, you might keep a sleep log to measure the amount of sleep you’re getting. Every night, you could record the time that you went to sleep and in the morning you can record the time that you woke up. Find what works for you – keep a notebook or sticky note by your bed, or record it into your phone. Just make sure that you keep up with this part, so you can see how you’re doing with your goal achievement.

Attainable

As much as I want to tell you that you can achieve anything you want to achieve in life…sometimes that’s just not totally true. As someone who can barely run a mile without getting a cramp, I probably should not make a goal to run 7 miles every morning starting this week. Unattainable goals will leave you feeling super discouraged and less likely to keep trying to meet your goal. So this is that part where you assess how realistic this goal is. Consider the time that you get home from work, all of your post-work responsibilities, and then the time that you have to wake up again the next day. Is getting 9 hours of sleep every night realistic? If it isn’t, don’t worry – just adjust it! Maybe it’s more attainable to get 8 hours of sleep every night, and that is a-okay.

Relevant

Look at how your goal plays into the bigger picture of where you are in your life. For example, if you are a new mom and you have a 1-month-old baby, getting 9 hours of sleep every night may not, unfortunately, be in the cards for you right now. Make sure that your goal fits into your life and would benefit you in a way that is currently important to you.

Timed

Papers, applications, and work-projects have deadlines for a reason: they keep you on top of your work and ensure that you will get your task done! When goal-setting, remember that progress doesn’t happen over night. It’s important, however, to give yourself a deadline so that you stay committed to and focus on your goal. Though results can vary, studies show that it takes about 66 days to form a new habit. You might then make a goal to get an average of 9 hours of sleep every night within the next 66 days

You’ve now created a goal that goes way beyond “Get more sleep.” Now, you know that your goal is to get an average of 9 hours of sleep over the next 66 days. You know that you will record the time that you go to sleep and wake up every night to help you measure the progress of your goal. And you know that this goal is relevant and attainable in your life!

Have you tried making a SMART goal? How did it work for you? Share your tips below!

click me if you wanna read more about SMART goals!