5 Ideas for Creative Rest

Updated: Sep 19, 2021

I recently came across an article that talked about the different types of rest people need to feel like their best selves. This was a very novel concept to me, because I thought rest was rest. As I read through the article, however, I became intrigued as I was introduced to the idea of creative rest. The article proposed the notion that applying creative thinking was akin to using a muscle. And just like the muscles in our arms, it needs rest days.


This blew my mind! It seemed so obvious that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t ever encountered this idea before. But it makes so much sense and explains why so many of us experience creative burnout - we’re not getting enough creative rest. Of course, I couldn’t keep this to myself, so I’m offering up five ways you can find creative rest right now.


Unplug

One of the best things you can do for your creativity is to unplug. Get off social media for a little while. I know this freaks people out because of the unforgiving nature of the algorithm. But by giving in to the demands of social media, we’re not doing ourselves any favors. We’re actually sending developers signals that say, “Yes, I’m okay with being available and making 'product' 24/7.”


That’s not healthy nor sustainable. Take back your creative power and replenish it by uninstalling apps, turning off notifications, and setting very strict time boundaries around when social media is allowed in your life. And make sure you take time to get fully away from it every now and again. Artists of the past were not expected to be making amazingly groundbreaking work every single day while also sharing their progress with everyone else in the hopes of making sales and connecting with their audience all while trying to live the rest of their normal lives. That’s insane.


Stop putting pressure on yourself (and others) to be “on” all the time. Recognize your humanity and allow yourself to enjoy what it means to be a human. We need to rest and have alone time to sort through our thoughts and generate ideas. It’s really difficult to do that when you’re being bombarded with noise all the time.


When your instincts are telling you not to post or that you need a break, take that seriously. That’s a sign that you need to unplug.


Get Outdoors

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you need to go outside regularly. I know that when I start to feel more anxious or irritable that I need some one-on-one time with nature. There have been several studies highlighting the positive impact being surrounded by plants has on our mental health and productivity. (Although productivity really shouldn’t be so high on our list of benefits.) And if researches see such positive impacts just from having plants in workspaces, imagine what going outside can do for you.


You don’t have to be a seasoned camper or expert hiker to enjoy the outdoors. If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard, schedule time to get out there every day - and, please, leave your phone inside. Maybe spend a little time cultivating a garden or watching the birds fly overhead. I’m super thankful to be really close to some amazing walking trails, and I get out there as often as I can. It’s incredible how refreshed and calm I feel when I return from a screenless walk. Do yourself a favor and give your body some time outside. It’s only natural.


Meditate

This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine, but meditation is very powerful when it comes to finding peaceful rest. You don’t have to own a gong or crystal singing bowls to start a meditation practice. All you need is a quiet place. And just in case anyone was unsure, you don’t have to incorporate any spiritual element in your meditation. It's all up to you what you want to bring to your practice.


In my opinion, the easiest way to start is with shorter guided meditations. These practices are often breath focused, which allows our amygdala to calm down so we can think clearly. There are visualization practices that involve picturing idyllic locations, crystal meditations that focus on aligning chakras, prayer-based meditations that focus on worship, and meditations that help release tension and anxiety through progressive muscle relaxation. Honestly, there's something for everyone when it comes to meditating.


I personally love meditation and have done some pretty lengthy sessions. I’m always amazed at how good I feel afterward. If you’re interested, I recommend using Insight Timer; it’s free and has lots of good guided meditations for beginners. (Not sponsored, I just really enjoy their app!)


Sleep

Restful, replenishing sleep is one of the most important ingredients to a happy and healthy life. Ask any physician, and I assure you they’ll agree. I understand that this is hard for many to achieve with medical conditions and that not everyone has the same privilege to get a good night’s rest. I’m not shaming those experiencing any of these situations.


But for those of us who are lucky enough to have the option to incorporate healthy sleeping habits into our lives, just do it. I’ve never pulled an all-nighter or put off sleep to work. I know myself well enough to understand that I cannot function properly when I don’t sleep enough. Trust me when I say you will never do as good of a job tired as you will well-rested. When you start to feel sleepy, put the brush down and go to bed.


Bonus tip: don’t waste precious art time doing unnecessary activities. If you work a non-art job and want to make progress in the studio after work, be very protective about what can happen during your scheduled painting time. When I worked in an office, I would paint for an hour every day after dinner. No phone, no television, no chores. You’d be surprised how much I got done without distractions. And I never had to give up sleep to meet my goals.


Take a Break

Sometimes, we have to step away from the easel to be able to make art again. That might seem counterintuitive, but believe me, it works. Think about it: as artists, we willingly stare at a still, unmoving object for hours upon hours. At some point, our brains and eyes are going to feel fatigued and our work will no longer make sense. That’s when it’s a good idea to step away from your work. Go for a quick walk around the block, get some healthy stretching in, or work on a sudoku puzzle to get your brain gears moving. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you allow yourself to take a minute away from your work.


Now, there are occasions when a 5 minute break isn’t going to cut it. If the idea of sitting at your work table causes anxiety or doesn’t seem exciting anymore, that could indicate creative burnout. Unfortunately, I've found that this can only be remedied with longer, more substantial sabbaticals. I personally experienced this right after graduating from college. I studied Fine Art in school and found that I had used my creative muscles so often and so intensely that I was completely burnt out. I took a few months off and gave myself permission to only create when I wanted to. Eventually, I got my groove back and was able to make work regularly again.


If you’re experiencing this, be gentle with yourself. You’re not a robot with a never ending energy supply. Incorporate other activities in your life, including some aimed at replenishing creativity, and allow yourself to get back to the easel in your own time. After all, artistic journeys are marathons, not sprints.

 

Rest is an invaluable part of the artistic experience. We can’t expect our engine to go if we don’t refill the tank every now and then. When you’re mapping out your journey, be sure to plan some pit stops along the way.


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Thanks for reading and happy creating!