• Michelle Carlos

Self-Care for Creatives: Root to Rise

Updated: Jun 1

This post, which is a follow up on Self Love for Creatives, is about how to get back in full force to work after a nice long break.



"Morning Routine" | Digital | 2019

To March Ahead (pun intended)

Picking up from where we left off last month, I have now resumed working on my third picture book, while I juggled doctors appointments and physiotherapy in between plus a bout of cold that slowed me down a bit that also delayed my tooth surgery for another month. My health condition is still in limbo but not hopeless.


Hope. Always a positive word, isn’t it? It is a single word that only means what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I am breathing. I am alive!

So, as soon as I heard back from my client about the few changes they wanted from the sketches I submitted in December along with a go-signal to color the rest, I plotted my schedule. After gaining more experience from the last two books I worked on, I realized I needed more time. I immediately communicated with my agent about asking for a longer period while explaining my current health issues that might affect my working hours. Through her mediation the client gave me till the end of March to finish. So grateful for having an agency who has my back!


By now I have had three weeks of rest but also have been diagnosed with vertigo, tinnitus, hypertension, cervical kyphosis (straight neck syndrome) and hypothyroidism. What has been causing all of this and why is it happening all at once is still unknown. At least my dizzy spells only occur at night, every night, and so I have the daytime exclusive for normal function. I had to move fast and stick to schedule. But I soon realized I have had too long a break and therefore it became a struggle to concentrate due to sluggishness, anxiety and excessive external distractions.


Get Back

Generally I shun planning my life but it is a different story with work especially when deadlines are factored in. Apart from the obvious planning of how to color the picture book pages, exercise and ample breaks are compulsory in the task list. Continuing with my morning routine: wake up at 6 am now, yoga, breakfast and so on, I decided to pick a daily guided and varying yoga practice that would help me keep motivated and energized. I used to just follow my own sequence of asanas that became redundant and mindless. In fact I was inspired by Adriene’s Root to Rise yoga session in writing this, which was designed to...

“... ground physically and energetically. In this session, we will focus on using the power of breath and movement to create equilibrium from the inside out. This practice is ideal if you have been feeling off-center, or out of a routine that feels supportive. A perfect jumpstart to your day… or to your year…” - Adriene Mishler, yoga teacher

Now, you might ask why I always cite yoga as an example. Like art, yoga is a practice that requires dedication and discipline. You also need to show up. The more you do it, the better you become. There is plenty of room to play, too.


To further amp my first work day, I also dressed for power: a crisp linen shirt, boyfriend jeans, red lips, a hint of Chanel and fluffy slippers. Then I entered my cold and dusty studio, warmed it up and myself by drawing lines. When your fingers are shaky after a long break from drawing, remember to always start light with linear sketches. Music also always helps particularly when you put on a playlist of new songs. There is something about the foreign melody that rewires the brain and therefore renews your energy—at least for me.


"Break Time" | Watercolor and digital collage | 2020

Art is Work

To date, I am still on schedule with the book, half way through actually, while keeping to my daily routines, chores, appointments and tea breaks. I even squeezed in a virtual chat and an actual meet-up with a couple of fellow MATSies and just talked about tea, art and women’s health, which was refreshing and definitely healing. I also made sure that weekends are free for family time or socializing. People, we need people. We have all moved away from our native tribes that we have become even more isolated. It is alright to come out and open up to others every once in a while.


Having calculated steps or tactics make you view your creative activities as real work regardless of real earnings. Treating it only as a past time gives you less accountability. Also if you want to be taken seriously as an artist, you have to take your art practice seriously as you would any job or project. The significant difference is you actually love what you are doing. Plus you have real reason to work at home and at your own pace. Successful creative people have long been known to have established daily routines and sure enough they have drawn a clear line between work and break. In the end it really is all about balance. First, we ground ourselves by keeping in tuned with our minds and bodies and then gradually rise up and hold that stance, let that energy within permeate until tea time. Then repeat.





Like art, yoga is a practice that requires dedication and discipline.