• Michelle Carlos

Self Love for Creatives

Updated: Feb 13

For the month of February let us talk about why loving ourselves more would help us be more creative and productive.



Mermaid in Bath | Watercolor and digital collage | 2021

Emergency Room

Once again I laid on a cold bed in my night slip and just a knit sweater after being rushed in the middle of the night to a hospital in Stuttgart and thinking, what the hell is going on with me? I've been having "episodes" and it is getting worse and none of the medical experts could give light to my condition until more tests are done. The frustration of the uncertainty pretty much set my mood in the past weeks and now I am either just writing or watching a movie or having tea.


Believe me I have written a couple more juicy Blog topics but just couldn't concentrate on any of them until I decided to take a breather and just go ahead and discuss with you a more pressing issue: how much our health affects our entire well being and obviously our work.


Luckily there is no immediate deadline to meet after handing over my work for the first book—Yay to that! Book 2 is also nearing the finish line while Book 3 is waiting for client feedback. Book 4 is confirmed. Hoorah! Fortune blessed me with a longer break and I decided not to do anything except to focus on my inner self as best as I could.


Love Yourself

Perhaps January was such a rush as we all tried to scramble back into the rhythm of our daily routines after the holidays that we went completely out of sync with our own bodies. Which better time of the year is it to just give ourselves a lot of loving than the month of February? Actually any time all the time is preferable but we tend to forget that, right? In case you have forgotten how to love yourself, you could try a few of these suggestions that almost always work for me.


Ohm | Watercolor and digital collage | 2022

Breathe

Our breath is our source of life. Acknowledge it. Appreciate it. So just breathe and listen to the sound you make. Wherever you are now, just absorb that O2 freshness and let it flow into your head, through your heart straight to your belly, further down to your finger tips and toes and then let it out through your mouth with a whistle. Sounds and feels nice, right? Repeat.


Move

True, I am stationary right now, but in a few minutes I would be going downstairs to prepare my meal and then maybe wiggle a bit and if I push myself more, I would go down 80 steps further to do the laundry or throw the trash and perhaps stroll in the park across the street. A lot of apartments have shared laundry rooms in the basements without lifts. It is great because you are forced to move. If you want to go extreme, dance in your living room like nobody cares! Humans evolved to be able to move.


If you are like me who is into yoga and would like to practice at home, I always go to Adriene for bubbly guidance. She has an entire series of flows dedicated to self loving and moving. Check out her blossoming February calendar.


You would also be surprised at how much mundane activities could fill your empty cup.

Another form of movement is changing your routine. While it is true to some that in order to be productive you need a strict routine but that too, could bite you really hard. Keeping time on your activities can become stagnant, too. Even my daily yoga practice became mindless sequences of movements. You are not a zombie!


Since I began my art career, I have developed a schedule, which I have described here in an interview with my agency, Astound US. But I am on a mini break and I needed to shake things up. Instead of waking up at 6:30 am, I would get up between 7 and 8 and then carry on doing nothing significant such as house chores until it is my next meal time. I have veered away from my studio and spent my time, laptop in tow, either in the living or dining room. I have begun to really appreciate the new space we are living in, our home. You would also be surprised at how much mundane activities could fill your empty cup.


Eat

Who gets hangry? Don't you just feel irritated, unstable or unfocused when you have an empty stomach? To function well our body needs nutrients from food so just eat but properly and mindfully.


To understand what goes into my body and because I was concerned about my colon, I went to see a nutritionist a couple of years ago in Joburg and she just explained to me what food is: fuel. We only need so much and the right kind in order to function. You don't put diesel into a gas tank, right? Following her meal suggestions and counting the macronutrients in each food via an app Yazio with regular exercise, in three months I lost about 15 kg. My nutritionist was so impressed with my progress that she even asked for my recipes to show her patients. Though I was also proud of my achievement I was exhausted! I was measuring everything before I ate and denied myself of the simple pleasures. It's so typical of me to overdo things, huh?


Live a little.

In the end I realized I just wanted to educate myself and maintain a healthy relationship with food and my weight. I was not obese to begin with but only needed improvement and better understanding of proper nutrition. I've come to the point now when I know exactly what I should eat and how much without pulling out my weighing scale from the kitchen drawer each meal time. So for emergencies or special moments a tub of Ben & Jerry's sometimes hang out with my frozen dim sums and ceremonial matcha powder. Live a little.



Cry

Give yourself permission to sulk, self pity, grumble and release all those negative energy. Being the anxious type, I worry a lot. With my history of cancer, no one could blame me if I have become a hypochondriac whenever I feel something is not right with my body despite my conscious efforts in taking care of my health. I would rather be proven wrong of my suspicions than right and I would rather go to the preventative route before it is too late.


There is also nothing wrong with being emotional. Get rid of that guilt. I have learned not to apologize for it unless I have hurt anyone with the actions and words I chose. It is just you being a human. So just let it go. You would be surprised how refreshing it is once you have cried your heart out—the same freshness you feel after a heavy downpour.




Dress Up

If you have been working at home like me sans pandemic, you would soon realize that you start to not really care anymore about your appearance. I shook out of the habit of staying in my decades old holey T-shirts and jogging pants combo all day. Instead I put on my dresses or outfits that I don't get to wear anymore since becoming domesticated. I also splurged, rather took advantage of the January sale season, on updating my wardrobe (also my sleep wear—silk, baby!) just because I felt so bored in my everyday homey look. It also feels more professional and so GOOD without the clacking heels and callouses! Add a touch of rouge on your lips and cheeks, too, to finish the look.


I also started dressing up our home just to spice it up and make it feel more us. After all it is the space I see everyday. Expat living taught us not to acquire unnecessary stuff but I wouldn't mind having more greens and some wall art here and there. Our home is my gallery. Besides, we are not moving again at least in the next couple of years. I hope.



Drink Tea

Regardless what you drink, hydration is key here. My own personal poison is tea obviously but there can be times when it is much more enjoyable when drunk with a friend or two. Since we came back to Germany, I have been feeling lonelier, which is unusual because I am so comfortable with my solitude. It has probably to do with knowing that my good friends are living on the other half of the equator and that I needed now to reconnect with old friends here who have moved on. In addition I am needing that company of creative people. The first step I did was become a member in an art club in Stuttgart that might open more opportunities for me to creatively socialize. I have yet to see the results of that.


Meanwhile, a fellow artist, Megan Kudlack, asked to interview me about self care and I willingly obliged since these are questions I would love to cover. I later on invited her to have tea with me since I saw her last post on Insta about being burnt out. We made the date and just chatted about our lives as creative people. There was no motive or even a theme. We were just hanging out virtually. Don't you find it fascinating to be able to connect to anyone anywhere in the world? In the end we had a refreshing conversation that boosted our day. She was starting hers and I was about to end mine. Megan also cares about her creative self and has been interviewing creatives all over to talk about their many ways of self loving. Read about it through her Blog.


P.S. The olive tea recipe above may just give you that extra TLC as you reap its benefits as a heart tonic.


There is no point in pushing myself to create when I know in my heart I have no juices left.

Make Art

Art is therapy. But I have been making art nonstop in the last months that I didn’t even want to enter my studio. I have also been skipping my latest MATS assignments. Now that is telling me something for I have been a MATS advocate in the last three years. My lame attempt to create resulted into making mindless marks on paper stocks that I never used with idle paints. Those abstract paintings lay on the floor in my messy studio. That is also fine. There is no point in pushing myself to create when I know in my heart I have no juices left. I find that taking the time off often allows me to reboot and restore my energy to create better art. Which then brings me to my last solution...



Dolce far niente

Do nothing and appreciate the dullness. We are often slaves to doing things because we should. Down times are acceptable and even encouraged. Even our heartbeats rest in intervals and that is just as meaningful. I know that now because I have been diagnosed with hypertension, too!


Find pleasure in the stillness not because you deserve it but because it is there for fleeting moments. Like your breath, acknowledge it, befriend it, walk with it. Watch a movie, lounge, be lazy! And that is exactly what I have been doing. Do I feel better? Yes. Am I still worried? Yes. Am I watching Eat, Pray and Love? Shamelessly! But I am still breathing and I know that things have a way of working out. My body and soul will heal. We humans are amazing that way!


Loving one's self is really not rocket science and is not suppose to break your bank but the point is to pull back into ourselves by attending to our basic needs. Whenever you feel like you are being bombarded by the outside world, take a deep breath, find yourself within and give it a hug.



Flowers for You | Watercolor and digital collage | 2022

Find pleasure in the stillness not because you deserve it but because it is there for fleeting moments.