This week, I’m happy to welcome Lanie Smith as my guest blogger. Lanie is an Art Therapist, artist, and self-care aficionado. In this post, she shares how she learned to slow down, listen to what she needs, and use creative self-care to live more authentically, joyfully, and healthfully.
Are you running in a dozen directions and feel like there’s nothing left over for you, your health, or your creative work?
Do you feel guilty, pressured, or unfocused when you do take time for yourself?
Are you ready to finally make space for your own needs without feeling exhausted and burnt out so that you can enjoy your life?
Slowing down, tuning in, and using your body as a guide can help you experience the present moment without all the distractions. For some, body awareness may come naturally. For the perfectionist, overachiever, and a lot of driven professionals, not so much! It may feel like torture as focusing your attention on other people and things is often a valuable coping skill adapted for striving forward to get that adrenaline rush of achievement that so often delivers a sense of worth and approval. The problem is this is not sustainable.
Don’t wait until you’re burnt out, sick, and exhausted before you start taking care of yourself.
Unfortunately, it took a physical diagnosis to slow me down.
I haven’t always been so great at taking care of myself despite being a self-care advocate from the start of my career. Even after entering the field as a helping professional and setting the intention to take better care of myself, I would often continue to ignore my own feelings, needs, and desires with compulsive tendencies masked as hard work and productivity.
Art had always been my refuge, and I turned there when things got hard. Though writing and artmaking brought awareness, reflection, and insight, they didn’t change my behavior. It showed me I needed support from someone who could mirror and help guide me to my natural wisdom. Someone to see and love the best and worst parts of me when I could not. Someone to help show me where I could love myself more through my choices and to help me see that my own choices did not always match my values.
Self-care is a lifestyle that evolves with your needs.
Depleted by physical illness, I had less energy and knew I needed to move at a slower pace. I made some changes in my professional work as an Art Therapist and I took a sabbatical from making art for anyone other than myself. I decided that art would just be for me. My artwork was raw to begin with, but it got even messier. I got creative when I was inspired as well as when I was hurting. I gave up trying to impress myself – or anyone else – and granted myself permission to trust the process and learn every step of the way.
As an Art Therapist, I was surprised to find myself uninterested in collecting art media, creating a final product, and/or archiving its existence through photography to prove I made something or showcase my creativity. Instead, I found I preferred to step outside and play with natural materials. I could arrange flowers, rocks, or leaves on my breaks. I could stop in the mountains on a hike and form a cairn of stones.
I had to grant myself permission to slow down and rest more at first, but also tune in to what was right for me moment by moment. I had to stop comparing myself to others.
As I allowed my creative process to change with me, my definition of art expanded to encompass seeing all of life as an evolving piece that didn’t need approval, wasn’t dependent on critique, and was much more about the journey than the destination. It reinforced my mindfulness practices including my understanding of impermanence and non-attachment allowing me to enjoy the present while still moving forward.
Creative self-expression expands your life.
A chronic illness became my teacher and taught me to simplify my life.
As the old adage goes: “nature has a way of breaking that which does not bend.” As I created more white space in my life to listen, I experienced more joy. I applied less pressure and allowed in more love. This enabled me to trust more, hire others, delegate, outsource, and expand my business all in service of accepting my health limitations and respecting my body’s request to work fewer hours.
I found greater compassion for myself each step of the way.
The way we do the big things is the way we do the small things, so it’s important to start where you are. Allowing compassion for myself created space for discovery and I found myself developing a signature approach to self-care I call EcoArt Wellness.
Here are some of the essential steps you’ll need to create a lifestyle that nurtures you:
- Slow the Eff Down. Slow your breathing down and focus your attention on your belly rise and fall. Now watch your central nervous system settle as a result
- Tune in and listen. Art and nature are my go-to’s. Schedule some white space now as a compassionate first step to being with yourself. Try journaling or one of my unique EcoArt Wellness activities that allow major transformation for me and my clients.
- Trust what you hear and take inspired action from a grounded place aligned with what you most value.
- Notice when you are stuck and let go of old stories. They protected you once, but now they’re likely keeping you from what you truly want.
- Reach out if you are struggling. We are social creatures meant for connection. Shame keeps us in isolation while connection brings light and energy when we open to receiving.
- Take an inventory of the areas of your life that feel light and heavy and ask what you CAN do in each area. It may very well be acceptance and gratitude if action is not possible at this time, but if action is available, schedule a baby step this week.
- Rinse and Repeat. This practice of slowing down, tuning in, trading in old survival patterns for nurturing aligned action and self-care practices is an ongoing process.
Do remember: practice makes progress. The art of letting go to make space for the new is the creative process of renewal in life and nature at work. When we resist this cycle, we create resistance that prevents flow. When we allow this process we experience greater ease, joy, gratitude and natural flow.
Lanie Smith, MPS, ATR of laniesmithcoaching.com and integrativearttherapy.net is a Registered Art Therapist + Vitality Coach for driven helping professionals whose success has come at the expense of their own zest for life. Using her signature approach she calls EcoArt Wellness, Lanie is passionate about supporting healers in designing a sustainable self-care lifestyle using the power of art and nature (no art skills necessary) with a creative + spiritual approach to burnout prevention and recovery that promotes resilience from the inside out for less stress, more energy, and joy with greater natural, creative flow. You can download Lanie’s EcoArt Wellness 5 Step Burnout Prevention Guide here.