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The Healing Power of Creativity: How It Can Help Combat Burnout

Updated: Apr 4

March is Social Work Month! I'm a proud and dedicated social worker, who also specializes in working with other social workers and healers. That's why it's so important to shed light on the fact that Burnout is the #1 Occupational Hazard for us, and for many other helping professionals (I'm looking at you, teachers, medical professionals, caregivers, and other helpers).

Not only have I been on the burnout spectrum (from low, to mid, to severe), I've also recovered many times. At this point, I radically accept that Burnout is a hazard of my career and I must try to guard against it as much as possible. I write a lot more about burnout on my therapy site here because I've made it my mission to help other healers recover as well.

I also offer a self-paced course titled, "The Art of Burnout Recovery" that has 6 modules with essentials for anyone who is ready to work toward healing from burnout so they can replenish and welcome themselves back into mind, body and soul -- their home and safe space. Find more details on the course here.

I'll be writing a lot more about burnout on the blog because this is my creative healing space, and also because it's been my creativity that's helped me claw my way out of the depths of burnout.

Here are some tips and facts on how Creativity helps us recover from Burnout.

1. Creativity (so long as you enjoy it) feeds your soul. Whenever I talk to anyone about how they engage (or used to) in creativity, their affect changes. I see their face light up in a sweet, exciting and heartwarming way. Their demeanor changes. Something magical happens in their soul when they describe a hobby of theirs, or something they used to do for fun when they were a child, or were last happy. The glimmers are short lived as they return to talking about how this feeling was gone or robbed by their current level of exhaustion or stress. But the glimmers are there and that's why I love asking about them. I can see how it fed their soul. And so a big recommendation is to do what sets your soul on fire! It'll reawaken that passion and release feel good chemicals that help us feel happy and safe.

2. New skills and mastery spark those feel-good chemicals. This means, challenge yourself a bit. Learning to make Nana's Pozole or Abuela's pupusas, or finally finishing that 1,000 piece puzzle releases the chemicals in charge of helping us feel a sense of pride and belonging. It's the way the toddler says with glee, "I did it!" We get that rush too. We're wired to create, problem solve and seek pleasure. Inviting creative ways of problem solving with brain teasers, games, recipes, etc is good for the brain. Leveling us feels good mentally and in our body.

3. It offers a break from logical thinking. Think of it as exercising a different muscle in the brain. And just like with exercise, don't skip leg day. Well, don't skip out on creativity either. It'll make you a better problem solver. I tell all the people I work with to do something completely different than what they're used to. Even if my client is in the creative arts, I'll have them engage in a different creative pursuit. So if you're a chef, go play an instrument. If you're a PE teacher, go paint. We're exercising different muscles in the brain, creating new pathways that promote neuroplasticity (i.e. flexibility). The lawyer who takes a break from their cases to go to a pottery class, will come back refreshed with more energy to engage in a different way of looking at the case. In fact, because the brain is relaxing, it might be priming for a perspective not discovered before. It's why we get all our good ideas in the shower. We're relaxed and taking a break from the screens and materials around us.

4. It can serve as cathartic release. Ever throw paint at a canvass? Well you should! Releasing creative energy is a great way of releasing stress. It helps us take deep breaths and when releasing sighs, it helps reset the nervous system. During the pandemic, I sat a lot. In sessions, meetings, and more meetings. I started crocheting baby beanies in meetings (but never in client sessions, I promise). I was able to crochet a baby beanie in 45 minutes from start to finish. It was incredibly cathartic and gave me a sense a relief and control when there was little to have control over at the time. Being able to create something to completion helps to complete the stress cycle. When we complete the stress cycle, we literally combat the adrenaline and cortisol chemicals in our body. Too many stress chemicals in our body cause inflammation and a host of other health issues.

5. It promotes relaxation, as with all things that feed your soul and help you feel safe in your body. I'll bring up crochet because it's my craft of choice. Not only is it bilateral (meaning you use both sides of the body and brain), but it's also soothing. Rhythmic movement can be incredibly helpful in soothing the body. It's why dancing, rocking, stimming, swaying help people feel relaxed. Especially with activities that require gentle strokes or intense focus, slowing down helps us regulate our breathing and narrow our attention. Adult coloring books have been on trend as a tool for self-care and relaxation. The attention, color and focus helps promote relaxation and soothing. Find what relaxes you and do a lot of it.

These are just five different ways that creativity helps us heal from burnout. I'd love to hear what helps you now, or in the past. If you need help identifying what would help you, I encourage you to think about what you used to do as a child or the last time you really enjoyed a hobby. If you can't think of any, go to a craft store and look around. Take a look at what calls to you and experiment. Sometimes we have to experiment with new hobbies and activities.

You're worth it. You're worthy of healing. You are a lot of the medicine you offer others. Take care of your spirit and craft of helping others by helping yourself first.

With all my compassion,


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