How to Stay Creative As An Exhausted Mom

How to Stay Creative As An Exhausted Mom | Writing Between Pauses

Have I ever mentioned that I'm really tired? Are you really tired? 

Everyone has different reasons for being exhausted. And I'm definitely not one of those people who thinks that, just because I have a kid, it makes my exhaustion more valid or more intense than other people's. This isn't the Olympics and no one gets a medal for being more or less tired than anyone else. 

I will say, however, that having a child drastically reduces the amount of time that I have for 1) recharging and 2) creating. Two things I know I need in my self-care arsenal to make sure I'm not cannonballing off a diving board into the anxiety pool. 

The more tired I get, the less able I am to be creative. The less creative I am, the more anxious I feel. The more anxious I feel, the more tired I feel. You get where I'm going with this? It's an endless cycle for me. 

After I finished Blogtober (October), NaNoWriMo (November), and Blogmas (December), a friend asked me: just how did you manage to do three solid months of constant writing & creative output without absolutely losing it? 

The answer: I just... did it. 

Ok, it's not that simple. Let's what through how I did it--and how I start creative, outside of that 3 month timespan, with raising a toddler. 

A Little Disclaimer

I wanted to start with a little disclaimer: it's ok to not have creative output. 

If you're a mom, who is creative, who based her life on creating prior to having a child, it's ok to not create anything if you genuinely don't want to. It's ok to not feel inspired. You don't have to force yourself to do it if you think it will be damaging to your mental health. Your health takes priority over writing, or painting. Getting sleep, eating meals, and having time to relax is more important that writing a week's worth of blog posts. 

So this is just my gentle way of saying: this is what works for me. This is what helps me to feel better. It is not for everyone. Take care of yourself first!

1. Make the Time

When Forrest plays in the afternoon, I often sit on the couch with my cell phone and take flat lay photos, or I write Instagram posts. Or, if I don't feel like doing that, I cross stitch. Both of these activities stimulate my mind, but don't invite Forrest's attention (he is obsessed with my work laptop) and aren't so time consuming that I can't focus on Forrest as well. 

I am someone who needs to be "productive"--and for me productive means actually producing something. This is why I sometimes struggle with handling my anxiety around cleaning and doing laundry; it doesn't necessarily "create" anything. So little things like editing photos, doing cross stitch, or organizing my bullet journal during playtime help me to stay creative and mentally stimulated--without throwing myself into a larger project. 

This is what I call "making the time." It isn't forcing yourself into a big project during a one-hour nap time or anything like that. It's just doing little creative things, when you can, to keep your mind active. 

2. Have a Goal

I've said this before but: having Blogtober, NaNoWriMo, and Blogmas as goals really helped me to focus and stay on top of creating, in a way that was motivating and didn't make me feel like I was wasting time. I like having goals that are relatively simple to meet--all that Blogtober and NaNoWriMo required of me was writing a little bit every single day. So instead of spending my evening watching TV or cleaning the kitchen, I wrote blog posts or I worked on my NaNo novel. 

Having a goal to works towards, for me, keeps me working towards something. I'm not a huge fan of big, big goals--but writing a blog post every day or creating a small piece of art every week is absolutely doable. And once you do it enough that it becomes habit, it's a part of your life--and it's something that can keep you creative every day, even when you're very, very tired. 

3. Create What You Can 

You aren't always going to be working within your medium of choice. I am a writer, but sometimes, I keep myself creative by taking on other tasks that keep my brain stimulated and help sooth my anxiety. Things like bullet journaling, coloring, cross stitching, and baking are huge stress relievers for me, and allow me to experiment, create, and feel productive--without being quite as mentally taxing as sitting down to write a short story or even outline a novel. 

You won't always be creating art that will win awards. Sitting down to doodle a page in your bullet journal or start a new cross stitch pattern might not feel like you're working towards any kind of goal, but you can multitask with both those activities (such as watch Married at First Sight, my guilty pleasure) and they help keep your mind from getting bored and sluggish. 

4. Take Care of Yourself

Like I said: you can't be creative if you aren't taking care of yourself. I don't stay up late writing or working on anything anymore. I certainly used to, but these days, when my sleep is at a premium anyway, I simply don't allow myself to do it. I make myself stop to make dinner or go to sleep. I make sure to spend time before bed reading, doing a face mask, or simply lying in bed, dozing or going through my day. Relaxing is an important part of creating. And even though I like to be in near constant motion through working and writing, I know that if I don't take some time to not create, the next time I really need to buckle down and write... I won't be able to.