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Art and a Song - "Processing" and your Self-care Toolbox

Updated: Sep 16, 2023

It is that time of year when we are putting away the holiday sparkle or working on putting it away, in my case, lol.

How I love the lights, the colour, and the glowy warmth of the holidays, and I admit I am one of those people who will keep the tree up until late in January. I need the light this time of year more than ever!

For this blog, I wanted to talk about colour and how it "inspires," but I kept circling back to a topic on my mind that I think deserves attention. It has to do with colour, light and sparkle but on the other end of the spectrum - The darkness.

It is January, and this time of year has new energy, fresh goals, and I have excitement about new opportunities that have been hard worked for. Still, at the same time, I am having a slow start to projects, and I am not sure if this is due to the gluey sluggishness lingering from eating extra holiday treats, the stress of the newest pandemic wave, the lack of light during winter or the endless rain, snow and cold, wet weather we have had that is making it all feel heavy, dark and hard to get out of low gear. That's enough on its own right?

I feel it's kind of like this; I've got new runners, I've been training for the race, and I'm at the starting block... but I hesitate. But WHY the hesitation out of the starting blocks? I don't think it is fear or overwhelm as I am excited about the new prospects and opportunities this year and I feel prepared, so could it be that I am "processing?"

Let's talk about it.

We have all been through a lot in the last couple of years. It has been so much to navigate, not only with a mind-bending amount of information that is constantly coming at us from all angles, but we also each have our own stories of how we have been affected. It has been hard, and it is ok to say that out loud. So let's just start with that - "IT HAS BEEN HARD!"

As artists and creatives, these heavier feelings can either be the grit and deepness that inspire us to create more and "process" through our art, or heaviness or the feeling of not being able to put the finger on what "it" really is can sometimes be utterly paralyzing.

I can only speak about my own story, so here is something I want to share; A lot of hard work is paying off, and I am excited for the direction of my business and the new opportunities that come with it, but still, I found myself over the holidays, especially that week between Christmas and New Years, feeling deep emotions and a feeling of "mourning" the loss of the "old and the familiar." I wanted nothing more than to put the challenging feelings of the last two years far behind me and jump into 2022 with complete positivity, but I finally had to sit in this feeling of "mourning" that kept coming up. It was time to "process," and it was time to release the old.

It has taken me a long time to accept this, but IT IS OK to allow the uncomfortable feelings to come up and sit for a bit. For me, I am slowly learning that the way to truly process is to deeply acknowledge those feelings so they can be deflated and put to rest. I feel squirmy just writing this out as it is uncomfortable on so many levels to look at this, talk about it and be vulnerable.

Words or feelings that came up that week were: "Wasted time, not good enough, fear, ego, let down, loss, evaporation, not fair" These words weren't what was happening in the present, but I knew these feelings needed to be addressed and "processed" to be able to fully move forward.

And then eventually, during that limbo week in the holidays where many of us reflect on the past year, as I sat in these waves of "feelings," it started to shift and NEW words started to come up... "Growth, coming out the other side, healing, learning, new beginnings, true calling, gifts, art and song...thankfulness."

It is almost like I had to look at each of the old feelings to really start to be in the present with the new. So my thought is that over the end of the holidays and into the first couple of weeks into the New Year, many of us have not only been dealing with winter weather and world events, but maybe we have been "processing" the last year or two years.

So many of us in many many industries have had to pivot and survive at a head-spinning rate. We have barely had time to catch our breaths and process even the last year, let alone the last two and then here we go again, a New Year!!! Should we feel excited about the fresh New Year, or should we be worried about "what next?"

We all have dreams, wants and goals but let's face it, our adrenals are taxed and moving forward into 2022, it can feel like we are being asked to jump into the deep end of the pool from the high dive after two big belly flops! I think it is safe to say we could all use an easy entry into this next year! No splash or waves please!!! (As I am about to publish this there is a tsunami warning as we speak - go figure

If nothing else, if you are encountering something similar, I just want to let you know I feel you!

Maybe this year is less about expectations and resolutions and more about listening to ourselves to understand what really matters and then taking care of ourselves and each other.

I encourage you to take a step back, take stalk of what you have navigated and give yourself a pat on the back! No wonder we are feeling a little heavy or gluey!

Treat yourself by seeking out tools and "practices" to help you navigate what might be coming up for you and I say "practices" as administering self-care and supporting your own mental health is like exercising, brushing your teeth and eating - it is constant and a part of daily life.

Setting yourself up with self-care tools can help you as an artist to stay out of overwhelm and paralyzation and STAY IN CREATION.

This is another long-learned lesson that took me having to hit many mental brick walls until I STARTED to figure it out. And I don't have it all figured out - it is still constant practice, but I am getting better at moving on more easily out waves of doubt or overwhelm. If my mind is scattered and pulled in a million directions, and if I have unease, I cannot create, and I cannot be of service anywhere. So self-care and getting centred is non-negotiable now.

Think of these "practices" you choose as items in your toolbox. You may rely on some more than others depending on what you need to navigate at that time, and not any one tool is a magic bullet, but together this toolbox can be the support you need. These can be books, podcasts, health food, healthcare practitioners, organized clubs, meditation, courses, coaches, animals, counselling, hiking, exercising, fresh flowers, and the list goes on. Of course, we don't always get it right, and maybe one tool will work for one person and not another, and that is ok too, so we need to be easy on ourselves and each other and just keep "practicing."

I am not saying anything new here, as we have all heard this before. But I just wanted to gently remind myself and anyone else who needs to hear it that you are not alone in navigating all this worldly intensity and to remember to take care of yourself, give yourself space to process what you have gone through or are going through to then make room for the new!

You are an individual, and your toolbox will be customized to you, and it is a gift to YOU from your higher self.

Here are some items in my self-care toolbox... what's in yours?

  • Dogs.... need I say more.

  • Hot baths with essential oils.

  • Coaches and education.

  • Simplifying EVERYTHING and getting back to basics.

  • Focussing on gut health and quality supplements - probiotics, psyllium and tumeric elixir in the morning, bone broth soup lunches, digestive enzymes and collagen in coffee to highlight a few.

  • "Animal Cards" and "The Artists Way" Cards (and book) - inspirational cards you can pull daily cards that are uplifting, beautiful and inspiring for quick blasts of goodness.

  • Sunday family day - I try to keep Sunday or one day a week to slow cook, listen to records, spend time with family and friends and create freely with no agenda, whether that is practicing an instrument or songwriting, and sometimes it's not doing much at all. But, we all need days to let the throttle idle.

Here are my two book recommendations. I found these concepts and practices very helpful over the years and I continually use the skill sets to this day.

Remember, the world needs your ART and your SONGS more than ever, so stay healthy, KEEP SHARING YOUR SPARKLE and take care of each other out there!

About the author:

Ellen Crossley is singer-songwriter, vocal coach and artist coach based out of Victoria BC.

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