Justin Anthony is the co-founder of Artwork Archive. He is an all-around arts enthusiast, budding art collector and sits on the board of CRUSH walls in Denver, Colorado.
I was brought up in the Midwest by parents with a very strong work ethic. It was drummed into me at a very early age that hard work translates to good things.
My default reaction to fatigue has always been to push through it.
My default reaction to a challenge is to rise to it.
And, my default reaction to all things relaxation is to dismiss them indulgences.
The upside to that approach is the fact that you can get a lot done by blindly forging ahead and ignoring what your mind, body and loved ones are telling you.
The downside is pretty much everything else.
Not only is that approach unsustainable, but it can also negatively impact your health and those around you. Plus, it can prevent you from tapping into your inherent creativity and ultimately leads to burnout.
Embracing the importance of self-care not only makes you a better person and artist but most importantly, it makes life better.
Here is the pure truth of it all—a lot of this is common sense. But, when I practice these few things, I know I am a happier and more productive person.
These are a few things that have helped me get over my default of “pushing through” and embracing what I once thought of as indulgent:
Treating myself kindly (both physically and mentally)
There is a physical and a mental aspect to treating yourself kindly.
On the physical front, I realized that many of the things that I once viewed as selfish indulgences are the very things that now put me in a frame of mind to thrive. Take for example something as simple as a 15-minute chair massage.
Ten years ago, I would have shaken my head wondering how anyone could afford to take the time to indulge in something that seemed, at the time, so frivolous. Over the last few years, I've made an effort to quiet those voices and open up to things I previously would have dismissed.
Each time I did, it turned out to be a welcomed calm during a stressful day.
The most surprising part? It made me more patient. More generous. And, it left me feeling flooded with positivity. For the first time in a long time, I took the time to draw something that felt inspired—my creativity flowed.
Physical activity of any kind, even a short walk or stretch break, is another "indulgence" that I now include as part of my self-care routine. Short bursts of physical activity give back to you twice the time you spend on them, as it translates into productivity and more active mindset. The gifts that I have received from brief moments of self-care have only lead to more good in my life. Care compounds on itself and leads to more care in other areas of your life.
Just as you can’t run out of creativity, it only leads to more creativity. Treating myself kindly has only lead to more kindness, patience, and creativity in my life.
Starting my day with a quick meditation
Treating yourself kindly also takes the form of mental self-care.
Self-criticism comes naturally for most creatives. We all can all slip into a mindset where we are too hard on ourselves, too critical of our work, and the self-criticism is too loud and constant. It’s important to realize these patterns when they are happening and cut yourself a break by shifting your thought patterns to something else for even a few minutes.
I credit meditation with having the most significant positive impact on my life than anything other single behavior.
There has been significant research on the positive effects that meditation has on creativity and the brain. A connected brain is a creative brain. We directly benefit creatively, personally and intellectually from taking just five minutes out of our day to be mindful of ourselves, our actions and our intentions.
Shifting my perspective with a smile
It’s easier to act yourself into thinking than think yourself into acting.
There is something about smiling that translates to the rest of your body and mind.
Next time you find yourself engaged in some strenuous physical activity or tough mental exercise, try smiling and see how much easier it gets. It also has the benefit of being contagious so it’s something I try to do as often as possible.
I’m being hyperbolic when I say a chair massage changed my life.
I’m not being hyperbolic about how critical self-care is to our well being and to a successful and long career as an artist.
There is some truth to the saying that creativity comes from pain and suffering but I can assure you that no matter how great you become at taking care of yourself, life will continue to deliver both.
It is the nature of humanity and we’ll never have a shortage of either.
What I’m advocating for is that we embrace both versus fighting either—that we place the same value and importance you put on a good work ethic that you do on self-care.