how can I create when I don’t feel like it?

People have claimed that the arts can help those who suffer with depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles. I believe this is true. Yet as an artist, I find that there is sometimes nothing more difficult than actually engaging with the arts while I’m not feeling well.

I know that playing my clarinet, painting something new, or writing will help me, yet these are the things I lose desire for when I’m going through a rough patch. (This explains why I haven’t posted on my blog for a few weeks… Whoops.)

Many people experience this. Depression makes it difficult to put effort into anything beyond simple tasks, yet these tasks are the ones that can help you to start feeling like yourself again. It’s a cycle, and it can sometimes feel impossible to get out of.

The arts demand effort and confidence, and oftentimes daily practice. This is especially true for those who try to make a career out of them. But how can I make a daily practice out of something when I struggle to find the motivation to do it for even one day?

This is one of the things that I most want to explore this year through commitment to daily practice and writing about it on this blog.

I think a great way for me to get started on this is by setting goals. When setting goals, I’ve learned that it’s always important to set attainable goals, and to set small steps along the way. It’s important to be specific.

To get started, here are some attainable goals I want to set for myself this month:

  •  Practicing my clarinet 5 out of 7 days a week
  • 1 painting
  • Posting on this blog at least 2 times a week with thoughts on how things are going

To show how I will break one of these goals down and set smaller, specific steps, I’ll use the example of finishing one painting this month.

1. First, I’ll dedicate an hour to deciding what to paint and drawing a simple sketch of it. To make this even easier, I’ll pick a time to do that within the next two days and commit myself to that as a part of my schedule.

For this painting, I’m going to do this tonight after I get home from work.

2.  Next, I’ll think about my needs for this painting. I’ll need a canvas, paint, brushes, and water. I already have all these things, so my next step is deciding where I will set up my supplies. I don’t have a table for this in my apartment, so I need to get creative

I’ll use a garbage bag as a tarp by cutting open its seams and laying it on my floor. Then I can set up all of my supplies on top of it, and feel good about having protected my floor.

3. I pick a time to begin my painting. If if got leftover time tonight after drawing my sketch, I can start then. I’ll have additional work time tomorrow at 10am.

From there, I’ll decide additional steps as I go. I anticipate this painting to take me a minimum of 12 hours.

I might complete more than one painting this month, but by setting the goal of only doing one, I’ll feel accomplished if I manage that much, and I’ll feel especially great if I can manage more.

Depression and anxiety are hard, but they don’t need to hold me back from doing the things that I love. I can do the things that I love better when I break them down into small tasks.

What favorite activities of yours are difficult for you to do when you’re feeling down?

Do you have any goals for yourself this month? How can you break them down for yourself?

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