Self Care For Creative People

I don’t know about you other creative types, but my creativity really relies on my life being as balanced and healthy as possible. If I’m feeling overwhelmed, burned out, stressed, and so on, my inspiration and motivation become a lot harder to access and translate into something tangible – or as tangible as a song can be. So I’m learning that it’s really important for me to have strategies to manage those feelings in order to stay open to inspiration and to keep creating.

All of the more general self care suggestions – like taking care of your physical and mental health (eating and sleeping well, spending time outside, exercising, socialise, talk to someone if you’re going through a difficult time, doing things simply for fun, and so on) – still apply but I wanted to create a list aimed more specifically at creative people or people that have creative jobs. I’m coming at this list as a songwriter but hopefully it’ll be applicable to all sorts of creative people and creative pursuits.


Create a schedule – We’ve all had those wonderful moments where inspiration has struck and we just have to write or draw or sing the thing right then and there but most people creating on a consistent basis know that it’s about much more than the lightning strikes of inspiration. It’s about putting in the work. But it’s very easy to get carried away and just work for hours and hours on end so, to avoid getting burnt out, it’s important to set working hours (with breaks!) and try to stick to them. Planning what you want to achieve each day can also be a useful tool. It’s not an approach that works for everyone but it’s definitely worth trying (and I mean really trying) because there’re so many variables that you can tweak. For example, what time of day are you most creative? What time of day are you most productive? Do you work better in long or short stints? All of these things need to be considered and potentially experimented with when creating a schedule for yourself.

Organise all your creative projects – It’s not the most glamorous of tasks but creating some sort of order to your projects can be really helpful. I’m all for exhilarating chaos when it comes to imagining and experimenting but when you take a step back and look at the different things you’re working on, I think a sense of order and clarity can help you be more productive, help you focus, and also switch off when you need some space to breathe. Plus it can save you hours when you just want to find that one specific thing to add to whatever you’re working on. And who knows what you’ll find in the process: a project you loved but had to sideline because of other commitments, an idea that you loved but forgot about because you were in the middle of working on something else… who knows what you’ll find?

Consume different types of media – Watching films and TV shows, listening to music and podcasts, reading books, going to see art and installations… it all feeds our creative brains and you never know what will spark your next idea. I’ve fallen in love with writing from the point of view of fictional characters during the pandemic as a result of watching more films and TV series; I used to find it really uncomfortable but now I love the challenge it presents.

Learn about another creative – Whether they work in your field or another, learning about another creative – what inspired them, how they approached their work, etc – and trying out their practices and methods could inspire a new piece of work or even an evolution in your own creative approach. Big or small, it could create some really interesting, fresh, and inspiring results.

Try a different creative pursuit – Sometimes trying a different form of art can just shake things up a bit and refresh your approach to your primary form of creativity, if you have one that is. But it can just get you looking at things differently. It doesn’t have to be wildly different to what you do normally – I write poetry when I get stuck writing songs because it feels less restrictive – but it can just get your brain looking at what you do from a new angle or, if you want to be more ambitious and try something completely new, it can change the way you look at your art and turn your approach on its head.

Make sure to move – If your form of creativity is very stationary, movement and exercise are important to build into your day, even if it’s just a few circuits of the room you’re working in. It keeps the blood flowing and your muscles from getting stiff but it also – especially if you’re going somewhere to exercise like the park, the gym, or a pool – gets us out of our heads, breaking any loops or unhelpful thought processes. And, more often than not, our brains keep working in the background and it’s quite possible that a new idea will pop up while we’re taking a break.

Disconnect for a bit – Turn off your phone. Turn off your laptop. Get away from the internet. Get lost in your own little world for a bit where the only voice that matters is yours, where there aren’t any critics or competition. Recenter yourself. Make sure you love what you’re working on and that you know why you’re making it. You’ll want (and need) to talk to other people later but make sure you’re solid in yourself first.

Engage in opposite action – I learned the technique of taking opposite action very early on in therapy. Sometimes, to avoid feeling stuck or anxious or depressed, we have to do the opposite of what we feel like doing and break the cycle: go out if we feel like staying in, take some time alone if we like to always be busy, write or draw or dance anyway even if you don’t feel like it, and so on. As I said, my creativity is very closely linked with my mental health so the better I take care of my mental health, the more creative I feel able to be.

Give yourself permission to let go – Sometimes a project just isn’t meant to be. Maybe it just won’t translate into something tangible or maybe it just isn’t ending up the way you intend it to but sometimes, you have to let a project go. It’s tempting to want to obsess over a piece of work until it’s perfect but as we all know, perfect doesn’t really exist. Sometimes a project just needs more time, to go on the back-burner for a bit, but sometimes giving up is the right thing. It allows us to move onto something new.

Take a break from creating – Sometimes we get burned out, sometimes life gets in the way… whatever the reason, sometimes we have to take a break from creating. But if that’s the case, it’s important to remember that our ability to create doesn’t vanish, as much as it may feel like that sometimes. It’s a skill we nurture and practice and taking a break for a little bit won’t cause it to disappear. But consistently creating can be emotionally and physically taxing so taking a break isn’t a bad thing; we all need to recharge now and then. And no doubt your brain will keep working on things in your subconscious.

Try not to beat yourself up – This is definitely easier said than done, I know, but try to be kind to yourself while you’re creating and especially when you’re struggling to create. The beautiful thing about creating things is that you never know what’s going to happen next and while that can be scary, it can also be freeing. Try to let it be freeing.


I’m definitely not perfect when it comes to self care. I can get really fixated on a project and forget to look after myself and my ongoing struggle with my mental health can result in me pushing myself far too hard but I’m learning and I’m trying, which is one of the reasons for this post. I want to be better; I want to be more creative and more productive and to go about it in a way that doesn’t put me under ridiculous amounts of pressure or cause me distressing levels of anxiety. But self care is a tool box of sorts and hopefully with each skill I learn, I add to that tool box and become better at managing my life as a creative person.

Another resource (x)

It’s A New Dawn, It’s A New Day, It’s A New… Medication

TW: Mentions of self harm and suicidal thoughts.

In the last week of January, my psychiatrist told me to stop taking the Bupropion since it was so obviously having such a detrimental effect. In theory, after the wash out period was complete, I’d start taking a new antidepressant, Moclobemide. It’s an MAOI, like Phenelzine (the antidepressant that I’ve ever had the best response to – the only one I’ve had a halfway decent response to), so my psychiatrist thought it was the best option. But I was so depressed that I just couldn’t take it: knowing how these medications affect me, I just didn’t feel emotionally capable to handle the change.

But then, after a hellish few days and some kind of breakdown, I started taking Moclobemide. At that point, it was self preservation: I didn’t want to but I knew that I couldn’t keep feeling that awful – or worse – because something terrible was going to happen if something didn’t change.

This change was somewhat complicated by the fact that I was taking other medications at the same time. I was taking a lot of Diazepam with my anxiety so bad and I was also taking 20mg of Propranolol (recommended for anxiety and POTS – which was diagnosed by a cardiologist after a first round of tests – although I’m not sure it’s doing anything for either).

As is always the case with posts about medication, this is just my experience. Please don’t start, change, or stop taking any medications without the advice and support of a medical professional. 


WEEK 1 (150mg twice daily)

The first week was bad. I was completely overwhelmed by my anxiety and needed constant Diazepam to be even vaguely functional, just to get out of bed. I was very depressed, feeling exhausted and hopeless and worn down. I was still having thoughts about self harm and suicide although not as much as I had been but I just felt utterly overwhelmed, by everything the world wants from me. Life just felt like too much.

I was still struggling to fall asleep (there was one night when I was still awake at seven thirty am). My sleep schedule was completely fucked up; I was almost nocturnal. And even then, I was falling asleep in the day, regardless of how hard I tried not to. As I said, it was a whole mess. I was exhausted all of the time.

My struggles with food continued too. I could barely eat and on the rare occasion where I did feel able to eat, nothing appealed – at all – or satisfied the feeling. But between my mental health and my sleep issues, food felt like the least of my problems.

I also spent more than half the week with at least a low level migraine, which wasn’t exactly pleasant.

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WEEK 2 

The second week was also pretty tough, although in a few different ways.

I was still feeling very anxious – the Diazepam was only doing so much – and my depression was still very present. I just couldn’t engage. I was miserable. I felt very overwhelmed; life just felt like it was too much.

At the beginning of the second week, I started taking Temazepam – prescribed by my GP – to help with my sleep. It gave me a couple of good nights but after that it didn’t seem to do much. Most nights, I was still awake for hours and struggling up in the afternoons; waking up was miserable. I was exhausted and sleepy and kept falling asleep in the day, despite drinking Red Bull, something I haven’t felt I needed in ages.

I did have one pretty intense day: despite only getting about three hours sleep, I was up early and writing a song from start to finish – something I haven’t been able to do in months. It’s usually a sign of how good or bad my mental health is: things are getting bad if I can’t write. I’m not jumping for joy just yet but I am cautiously optimistic that if this is possible, things are improving. I felt really good for a couple of hours but then all of the bad stuff crept in again: I went to bed feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by my anxiety and depression.

At the end of the week, I spent two days in and out of a hospital in London, having tests done (I wasn’t taking the Propranolol for a few days as advised so that it wouldn’t affect the results). Just being in the hospital and the staff’s general lack of understanding around Autism was stressful and frustrating and exhausting. The first day was quiet but it was hard to relax with the blood pressure monitor going off every twenty minutes. The second day was more involved with more than three hours of tests. It was exhausting – I could barely stay awake for the rest of the day – and my whole body hurt afterwards, so badly that even getting upstairs when we got home was a struggle. I don’t have a whole lot of faith that these tests will show anything different than the first round (which resulted in the POTS diagnosis) or in medical tests in general anymore but I guess we’ll find out what they say in a few weeks.

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WEEK 3

At the beginning of the week, I officially gave up on Temazepam since it didn’t really seem to be doing anything. My GP had prescribed melatonin for when the Temazepam ran out so, with her blessing, I started taking that instead. It definitely improved my ability to sleep: after months of being awake for hours on end, I was falling asleep within half an hour every night. But I was still sleeping late – into the afternoon – and feeling sleepy in the day. I had several RedBulls in a week for the first time in months, which is a step backwards that I’m not happy about. I don’t know whether it was the melatonin or a side effect of the Moclobemide (not unlikely since I had the same side effect with Phenelzine) but, regardless, I hate it. This was one of the reasons I was so excited to try the ADHD meds; I thought I might finally feel something other than exhausted or sleepy or tired.

My chronic pain kicked up again, which was deeply unpleasant. My whole body hurt all week: every joint felt ache-y and crunchy and grind-y. I took painkillers throughout the day but the pain woke me up at night almost every night. But the only painkillers that help are ones that I can only take for a few days at a time and when those three days ran out, I was back to Ibuprofen and Paracetamol – neither of them do much – which was miserable and so frustrating: this has been going on – on and off – for almost two years and all I have are sporadic three day periods where I’m somewhat pain-free. The lack of progress is enough to reduce me to tears.

Mental health wise, things were up and down. Some days were okay and I actually got things done for the first time in ages, but some days were really hard. My anxiety was still bad and I was restless and uneasy; I didn’t know what to do with myself. I just felt like I was making everything I worked on worse. I was depressed, feeling overwhelmed and hopeless.

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WEEK 4 (450mg daily)

I was sleeping but sleeping restlessly and waking up a lot. And come morning, it was such a struggle to wake up. I would fall asleep again and again; staying awake felt impossible. I don’t know if that’s the melatonin or something else but it’s pretty miserable. I feel like I cannot open my eyes, cannot make my hands work. It’s not fun. At the other end of the day, things are generally better. It can take a while to get to sleep but it’s nothing like it used to be. It can take a while to get comfortable, wind down, relax but I’m still getting to sleep easier than I was without the melatonin.

In the daytime, I was getting sleepy within an hour of getting up and drinking Red Bull almost daily again. It’s not something I want to make a habit of but I was just too tired to figure out what the right thing to do was so I just focussed on getting through the day. But even with the Red Bull, I was tired and sleepy and all I wanted to do was close my eyes. Again, I don’t know if this is the melatonin or the Moclobemide but either way, I don’t know what to do. If it’s the melatonin, I can stop taking that and hope my sleep stays okay but if it’s the Moclobemide, then I’m pretty stuck. I really don’t want to spend my whole life feeling tired and sleepy because this is the only medication that works.

I’ve started working again – a bit, given how unpredictable everything’s been recently – after being completely unable to since the end of last year. That’s been good and hard (and completely exhausting) in equal measure, socialising too. It’s nice to be in contact with people again but so often, at the moment at least, it also makes me feel defective and broken. My friends are telling me about their jobs and their relationships and so on and all I have to talk about are the new meds I’m trying and the new therapy I’ve been thinking of trying. When you’ve been depressed and suicidal for the past four months, there aren’t a lot of light and fun conversation topics to reach for. So I just felt very lonely. I’m not putting that on my friends – I want to hear about their lives – but the disconnect is hard.

My chronic pain was bad too. My whole body was hurting, my joints aching, even my fingers. I still haven’t heard anything from the Pain Clinic so all I’ve got are over the counter painkillers that I can only take for a few days at a time. What I’m supposed to do on the other days, I don’t know; nothing else helps at all.

I’ve realised that I’ve been feeling cold a lot, pretty much all of the time. I’m not sure when it started but it’s been going on for a while. Even with a thick jumper, a scarf, wooly socks, and a blanket, I’m freezing.

Mentally, it was a tough week. I felt very anxious and overwhelmed. My depression was pretty bad too, although not as crippling as it has been, and I was just miserable really. I cried a lot. So, yeah, a tough week.

WEEK 5 (600mg)

My energy and sleep continues to be troublesome. It’s so hard to wake up in the morning: I keep going back to sleep, I can’t keep my eyes open, and my hands won’t work. I’ve found that eating right away helps but I hate it as a strategy; food is the last thing I want right after I wake up. Despite the difficulty, I have been managing to wake up earlier than I have been over the last few months and getting to sleep has been a bit easier (with the help of the melatonin – although it does sometimes feel like I have to focus really hard on falling asleep sleep, which seems to be somewhat counterproductive). But I was still very sleepy during the day, falling asleep accidentally a couple of times, and so tired, although it was a busier week. I was doing more, socialising more, and feeling everything more intensely. There were some really good moments but it was hard too.

And, of course, more activity has resulted in more pain. I’ve been in pain constantly but it’s gotten worse. Multiple long car journeys and more time on my feet has caused problems with my back; I’m sure that with time, sensible exercise, and slowly building up my stamina, things will get better but it’s really hard to be patient. The pain has also been really bad in my hands (from my elbows down to my finger joints), which instantly instills a cabin fever-like feeling inside my own skin. I’m still waiting to hear from the Pain Clinic but experience doesn’t exactly encourage high hopes for what they’ll come back with, if they ever do.

My mental health has been all over the place. Five weeks of this medication and I still don’t feel like I’ve got my head on straight. As I said, I’ve had some good moments this week but I’m still struggling, more than I feel like I should at five weeks of a medication. I’ve had a lot of anxiety and my depression is still very present. My suicidal thoughts aren’t as constant as they were but they are still there. I guess, I just would’ve hoped that, at this point, I’d be feeling better mentally. It’s hard to not lose hope.


So, I’ve been taking Moclobemide for five weeks and while things are very different from day one, I’m still not feeling great. My depression is still a constant, day-to-day battle, which is one thing if I’m waiting for medication to kick in and for it to get better but if this is it, it’s not enough. I’m grateful that things are better – that I can write songs again – but living like this is really, really hard. I just want to feel better. I don’t want every day to feel like a mountain that I have to climb. I guess, I just want to feel normal. Although, having said that, I don’t know if I even know what normal feels like.

February Album Writing Month 2022

Over the last few years, I’ve been attempting the challenge of February Album Writing Month, also known as FAWM. For those of you who don’t know, FAWM is an annual songwriting challenge where all of the participants attempt to write fourteen songs in the twenty-eight days of February. I wrote about my history with this challenge in last year’s post so I won’t repeat myself but I look forward to it every year.

Even before 2022 began, I knew it was unlikely (very unlikely) that I was going to be able to complete the challenge this year, or even do it at all, given how badly the ADHD meds were affecting me. I was so anxious and depressed that I could barely get out of bed – for months – let alone write. Not that my brain was working anyway: my creative brain seems to go into hibernation when I’m depressed. But then, after I stopped taking the ADHD meds and started taking antidepressants again, a song dropped into my lap and I thought that maybe I could use the challenge to get back into writing, even if I didn’t manage to write fourteen songs. So here are some the songs that I wrote (there are a few that I don’t want to write about right now because I don’t know what’s going to happen with them and/or they’re not mine to talk about)…


  1. Eventually – I’ve done a lot of writing from the perspectives of different characters over the last year and I really enjoy it; it feels really different and I love the challenge of trying to get make the song sound like the character, like using certain words and avoiding others. It needs to sound like them. I love it. This song just appeared as if out of thin air and came together like magic. It’s from the point of view of Daisy Johnson from Agents of SHIELD in the gap between Season 3 and Season 4 when she left SHIELD because she felt like everything that happened – all of the tragedy – was her fault and that the people she cared about were in danger because of her. It’s a really sad song and not a hundred miles away from how I’ve been feeling recently, the depth of the sadness and grief. But it was good to write and I’m proud of it.
  2. More Time – Another fiction-based song, this one was inspired by Mary and Francis from Reign. I haven’t watched it in years but I always loved the two of them together and the fact that they never got the happy ending they deserved always made me really sad. I’d like to write a song envisioning that happy ending but this one was from Mary’s point of view grieving Francis’ death and mourning the life they should’ve had together. It’s not perfect yet but I think it’s a solid first draft.
  3. My Voice – This song was also inspired by fiction. I wanted to write a song about reclaiming your life, your voice, after it feels like everything has been taken away from you. When it feels like you can either burn everything down and run or stand your ground, you stand your ground, even if it isn’t pretty. I’m not sure the first draft is right yet but there are a lot of lines that I’m really proud of so it feels like a good start. While inspired by a fictional story, it also applies to my life, which – to be fair – many of my fiction-based songs do. Sometimes I just need some help to put it all into words.
  4. You – I wrote a love song! I’ve written very few love songs in my time – songs about love being good, at least – so it’s always a bit of a moment when I do write one. This one is also based on fictional characters but I loved their dynamic so I had to write about it: an instant something that, over time, turns into more. And the fictional storyline had some great visuals to pull into the lyrics, the part I’m most proud of. The whole song felt very in keeping with the character whose perspective I’d borrowed and that was very pleasing.
  5. Making Up Memories – It took a while but I finally wrote a FAWM 2022 song about me and my life, although it is based on a dream I had. I was unexpectedly called by someone that I’ll never hear from again and it was like I’d slid sideways into a parallel universe because they were acting so normal while it felt like my head was exploding. It’s a dream that’s stayed very vivid over the years, especially since I wrote down exactly what we said to each other before it faded. But the whole thing – all of the colours, sensations, feelings – is still so clear and I’ve always wanted to write a song about it. I’ve been moving the pieces around for a long time but I think I’ve finally got the lyrics how I want them. I’m not sure about the melody – I might take it to one of my trusted cowriters – but for now, I’m just really pleased to be happy with the lyrics.
  6. Closure – This song began years ago and while I loved the track, I was never happy with the topline I wrote for it. I’ve had the track on my laptop ever since and for some reason, I just pulled it out and started to fiddle with the lyrics. It was about the end of a relationship and at the time, it was still quite raw but with the perspective I’ve gained over the years, it was easier to put those feelings into words. I’m not sure it’s finished but the amount of progress in one redraft (basically a re-writing with all the work done) is kind of mind-blowing.
  7. Control – Over a year ago, I wrote a song for a uni assignment and, to be honest, hated it and so abandoned it. But recently I’ve been thinking about a specific section of that song and how much I liked and related to that part, even though the song as a whole was fictional. So I took that section of the song, used it as a chorus, and built a whole new song around that. I’m really excited to work on it further.
  8. Drown – I didn’t finish this one but I was working on it when the clock ran out so I’m going to include it. It’s about how, being autistic, I not only feel my own emotions really strongly but also those of the people around me. It’s a lot of emotion to deal with and it can feel really overwhelming. I’ve wanted to write about this for ages but I haven’t been able to get it right. I’m still not sure I have but I’m trying. I’m still playing with it.

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Had this been another year, I would not be happy with having not reached the goal of fourteen songs but the last few months have been so awful that I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to write at all. So eight (plus) songs after months of depression and no writing at all is definitely progress and I’m proud of that. It’s been really fun to write again and it’s reminded me why I love it and why I wish I could spend all of my time doing it.

I do want to write more about how my depression (and medication) affects my writing but I think that deserves its own space. So that’s another post for another day. I hope everyone who took part in FAWM enjoyed themselves, whether you reached the goal or not, and I look forward to doing the challenge again next year, as well as working on the songs I’ve been writing over the last month.