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20 Tips for Being Creative When You are Tired or Sick

painting of oranges with a warm yellow building behind it
The piece I am working on while using the below tips.

Being creative can be a challenge, especially when you're feeling under the weather or exhausted. I was in this situation over the last few weeks with allergies and asthma. My productivity is low but I am still making progress even if its not up to where I would like. These were some things that kept my creative juices flowing. Here are 20 tips for being creative when you're tired and/or sick:

Just a note before I go into these. When I say "sick" I mean something mild like a cold, seasonal allergies or stuff like that. Where you don't feel 100% but not so sick you need bedrest or more.

  1. Take breaks often. Rest is crucial for your body and mind to function properly especially when your not feeling well. Take you breaks if you need to and throw away the guilt you'll be better off in the long run for it.

  2. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water to keep your body and mind refreshed. Apparently drinking copious amounts of coffee doesn't help with this. My doctor told me at the very minimum have a glass of water for every coffee I drink and that had made a real difference so far.

  3. Listen to music. Music can be a great source of inspiration and can help you relax. There are certain songs that just get me into the mood to paint and others that make me want to write. some will put me to sleep and others will pump me up. playlists can be helpful.

  4. Take a nap if possible. If you're feeling particularly tired, take a short nap to recharge your batteries. They are not just for toddlers. My natural sleep cycle is up early, short nap after lunch and up late. For me that's when I feel the most rested. I have always been like that so when I am stuck in a routine that doesn't allow that I can get wiped out pretty fast. If I am under the whether it is even worse so being proactive and not letting myself crash saves time in the long run.

  5. Meditate. Meditation can help you clear your mind and focus on your creativity. It doesn't have to be the traditional kind that you think of, just find something that helps you clear your mind and start there. For me music and a hot cup of coffee does this for me.

  6. Exercise. I know its easy to say I'm sick or tired but even a short walk or gentle yoga or some stretching can help boost your energy and creativity. That doesn't mean you need to do a triathlon. Just work with your energy level and if you are to the point you are that sick and/or tired that you really can't then don't push it your body knows when it needs full rest, listen to it. I enjoy walking but to be honest I rarely ever walk when I am at home and walk at least 15km a day when I travel. So I made it a priority to start taking at least a 20 min. one everyday. In the winter I am the worst so have decided I will go to the indoor track. Most times I really do feel more awake afterwards.

  7. Eat healthy foods. A balanced diet can help you feel better and more energized. I really need to start focusing on this when I am home. Again as above when I travel I tend to eat so much better.

  8. Work in short bursts. Take breaks every 20-30 minutes to stay focused and avoid burnout. If I don't remind myself I will work for hrs and hrs until I stop then get up like an 80 yrs old stiff and sore and exhausted mentally. The breaks really help. If I am sick or tired I will remind myself maybe only a short session is doable that day.

  9. Use natural light. Natural light can help you feel more alert and focused. Strangely full afternoon sunlight makes me tired but early morning or late afternoon diffused sunlight invigorates me.

  10. Surround yourself with inspiration. Keep a vision board or inspiring quotes nearby to keep you motivated. If you've seen pictures of my walls where I work, they are filled with things I find inspirational and bring me joy.

  11. Try a new medium. Experimenting with a new medium can help spark your creativity. I love learning new things and learning something new gives you the spark to play around and be creative. You know nothing, have no expectations of yourself so it is easier for you give yourself permission to just play.

  12. Collaborate with others. Working with others can help you generate new ideas and perspectives. I enjoy working with other artists. It can be lonely sometimes working in solitude so much and being around other people wakes me up and gets me hyper. If you are sick doing something over zoom or online in someway might be helpful and not get others sick.

  13. Take a hot shower or bath. The warmth can help you relax and clear your mind. One of the thing I had learned when dealing with my anxiety was a hot shower helped with so many aspects of it including the fatigue. It was like a rest button for me. If I am sick I always feel so much better just taking that shower. It gets me up and lets me assess if I can do a short session or just need to go back to bed. I wouldn't try it if I was so sick I might pass out but in cases where I have a mild cold or stuff like that it helps.

  14. Get organized or declutter. I know the last thing you want to do when you're tired or sick is clean up. A cluttered workspace can be distracting, so taking some time to tidy up can be helpful. If you are anything like me I am not organized but I can't work in a lot of clutter. I need thing to be out or within reach and ready to use but not overwhelming my space. When I feel myself feeling overwhelmed by my space ,and this threshold is lower if I am sick or tired, it is usually better to stop and deal with it because that does end up showing in my work. If that's all I do that day at least I know when I come back tomorrow ill be set up for success.

  15. Journal. Writing down your thoughts and ideas can help you organize them and generate new ones. Just a simple note can remind you of an idea for later on when your are ready to get back into full swing. I tend to do this on sticky notes that end up in my sketch books. They are quick and easy and always easy to go through is i need an idea.

  16. Take deep breaths. Deep breathing can help you relax and focus. Throw that in with the meditation and see how relaxed you end up and how much more focused you can be.

  17. Practice self-care. Taking care of yourself can help you feel better and more creative. With the only person putting expectations on you being yourself it can be harder to let yourself just do things that take care of you. In the end at some point you will have to deal with it. So why not do it on your schedule. Taking a day off is not the end of the world. Especially in cases of health, if you leave minor health issue that could grow into bigger issues it may force you to take even more time off than that hr or two it took to just go to the doctor in the first place.

  18. Visualize your goals. Visualizing your goals can help you stay motivated and focused. If you know where you want to end up working backwards and seeing what steps you need to take to get there can be helpful. In doing this you can break it down into smaller steps. If your tired and tell yourself you only have to do this for 15 mins instead of looking at the whole thing mentally it is so much easier to just do that task and then get some rest. If I don't do that I will drive myself crazy with every detail and end up getting nothing done and losing rest over it also.

  19. Watch a movie or read a book or do something else you enjoy outside of art. Sometimes taking a break and immersing yourself in a story or activity can help recharge you and your creativity. Try it with something you enjoy doing and see how it relates back to your art.

  20. Don't be too hard on yourself. Remember that it's okay to take a break and that creativity comes in waves. Be kind to yourself and trust the process.

Rose drawing done in black and white charcoal
Charcoal flower I did for my daily practice

Jackie ❤️

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I do all those things even when I'm not sick or tired!

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