Mandy Nicholson

The Creative Genius Corner

Lessons, musings and advice from the author of ‘The Life I Won’

The Connection Between Creativity And Fatigue.

Having successfully run my first weekend retreat in my ‘mini castle’ (let me hear you say YAY!!)

One of the biggest lessons was how fatigued my clients felt coming out of creative flow and how I could help them with this.

Creative flow is a wonderful place to be, in fact, scientists have recently revealed that it is one of the most addictive states a human being can experience. Any state of addictive high must have a low that follows. If we look at the behaviour of drug and alcohol addicts, they are dependent on the substance to bring them to a comfortable state, outside of that state they are depressed and in physical pain. This can also be true for many creatives outside of the creative flow state.

History supports this when we look at the plight of the artist outside of their creative flow state. Van Gogh would destroy his own work and lived for his art but was also tortured by it. Many musicians have taken their own lives when they faced the mediocrity of the world’s reality. There is a narrative throughout history underlining the dark and light side of creativity and how it can impact the creative mind.

What I observed in the ladies who attended my first weekend retreat was a level of fatigue they were unprepared for. This was particularly true for the women who would not class themselves as traditionally creative and who were doing things they had not done before such as painting and designing. Even after just a couple of hours of creating they needed a break and a nap.

I have found this myself over the years, I may be in flow for days and my output is high, and I am highly motivated, then I need a couple of days to recharge my energy and sometimes can’t get off the couch for an entire day!

So, how do you manage this ebb and flow that goes hand in hand with creativity?

Here are my top tips to help you to manage your state and help you stay in peak performance for longer.

  1. Bite sized chunks – even though you may feel like keeping going for 12 hours when you are in flow, set a timer and take a proper break every couple of hours. I literally never paint or write for any longer than 2 hours at a time now because when I allow myself to take regular breaks, I don’t feel as tired, FACT. I have learned this the hard way and pushed on through so many times, only to crash and burn. Identifying this, acknowledging it, and accepting a change has been a game changer for me in managing my energy. 
  2. Morning routine – allowing yourself a caring routine every morning will help you to face the activities of the day on a full tank. I walk my dogs for 30 minutes whilst listening to a podcast or audio book. Next, I practice gratitude and do a 10-minute guided meditation. I shower, eat breakfast, and review my diary before I even think about embarking on my first task. This daily ritual allows me to ease into my day energised and mentally focused, no matter what my plans are. It will work for you, and you will be better for it.
  3. Water – it’s a simple thing but it works! Make sure you are drinking water regularly and consistently throughout the day. Keeping yourself hydrated regularly over 24 hours will help you to maintain focus and energy levels. Find what works for you, I prefer my water at room temperature and always have a litre bottle on my desk.
  4. Move every 20 minutes – this can be a challenge, particularly if you are a writer like me, but getting up every 20 minutes to stretch and walk around will help you. This coupled with taking a proper break of 30 minutes every couple of hours will enhance your overall productivity. It normally takes me an hour and a half to write a blog, but that is one hour of focused writing and 3 x 10 minutes slots of movement. This may sound unproductive to you, but it allows me to maintain my focus.
  5. Little and often – food is an important source of energy, and it can be something we neglect when we are in creative flow, often forgetting to eat for hours on end and then eating a large meal due to hunger. Eating small amounts throughout the day will maintain your energy levels so that you have more predictable performance. Prepare some snacks as part of your morning routine that are available for you when you take a movement break or a 2-hour break and eat small, healthy portions of food, regularly. Fruit and yogurt, veg with humous, a handful of nuts or sushi are all great snack foods that will keep you fueled and ready for peak performance.
  6. Breathe – focusing on your breathing for just a couple of minutes during your regular breaks can be a huge boost to your well-being. Take some mindful deep breaths, breathing deep and filling your chest and tummy with air and then releasing all that breath until you are empty. Do this several times and notice the difference it makes to your focus and composure.
  7. Have a nana nap! – Even a ten-minute nap can be completely restorative and transform the way you feel. It may take a while to come round and get back on track but allow yourself a full hour even if you only sleep for 10 minutes. Pushing through fatigue and keeping going won’t win you any medals or admiration. Having a nana nap may make you a nicer person to be around and have a positive impact on your life and business.

As a creative you are using extreme amounts of mental energy in the creative process. Scientists have identified that there are three areas of the brain, which normally handle different tasks, that come together and work as a team when you are in creative flow. This means that your brain is working at triple speed as a creative, no wonder we experience fatigue. 

But it is how we ‘manage’ ourselves that will allow us to experience a calmer and more enriched balance when it comes to our creative genius. You are most definitely worth the effort, so give it a try and let me know if these tips help.

Love & Colour

Mandy x

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