Creatives, I can’t get over how the universe works in cycles and patterns. Part of the magic of my job is to vicariously experience, like a fly on the wall, so many different walks of life- I truly feel the magnitude of the gift of hearing your stories. It is from my third person perspective that I see cycles emerge- patterns of high and low energies, trends in struggles and successes, commonalities in content and themes. I am in awe and amazement of the beautiful intricacies of life that unite the human experience. Time and again I watch people who don’t and will probably never know each other struggle together, succeed simultaneously and seek the same insights at the same time. I find myself giving the same models, theories or suggestions in bursts, to be immediately followed by a fresh wave of commonalities. And so again this week- I bring you a theme that has been a focus lately in the Creatively rooms. I trust to the ebb and flow of the universe that it is timed well for your journey.
Today’s topic is our innate psychological capacity to handle stress. There are many ways to conceptualize this- but by far my favorite is commonly called “spoon theory.” Imagine a psychologist at a restaurant with her psychologist friends, trying to describe a phenomenon she has observed in her work. She has noticed that the ability to take on stress is finite- each individual seems to have a unique threshold. She scoops up spoons from nearby tables and lays them down in front of her- representative units of stress management. She postulates that each part of our lives takes a certain number of spoons- some more than others- and when all spoons are in use (being “out of spoons”) you are in trouble. She suggests that psychological illnesses represents a certain number of spoons (depression, anxiety, bipolar) other psychosocial factors of life represent others (medical problems, financial worries, jobs, relationships).
Her theory has many other facets, and also isn’t presented without solution- she also recommends activities that “free up spoons.” These are your personal recharging strategies- some of them fairly universal- a good night’s sleep, good nutrition, good activity levels, being around good and supportive people. Other strategies are more personalized- (read: individual coping skills), “me” time for introverts, “others” time for extroverts, “creative” time for creatives, and more. The short answer here is you are in need of your own personal cocktail of spoon-freeing things, and part of your regular self awareness should be checking in with and improving the effectiveness of this recipe.
Let’s take this theory and apply it to our creative process. I have said before that creativity necessitates giving of ourselves (see creative personality posts) and therefore- takes spoons. We also talk about creative flow of energy, being in the creative zone- this happens when we have enough spoons. In a creative rut? You guessed it-possible explanation: out of spoons. The other thing to remember is you are caught in a feedback loop a bit here: creating takes spoons, but it also frees up your spoons. I suppose this just proves what I regularly say to the creative people I work with: creative people need to be creating to stay well. Feeling stuck? Create more. Feeling low in energy? Create more. Yes- that first push will take spoons- so do other “spoon-freeing” activities to generate some initial energy- but if you are creating regularly you can be in your own self-sustaining cycle of spoon maintenance.
This is simple language to start a conversation ultimately about balance and psychological self care and use of resources in your life. Come sit on my couch and let explore.
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is a Creativity Coach, Creativity Counselor and Professional Artist in Sykesville, Maryland. She provides Online Creativity Counseling in Maryland and Virginia, and Online Creativity Coaching throughout the USA, Canada and the UK.
The information provided in this blog is from my own clinical experiences and training. It is intended to supplement your clinical care. Never make major life changes before consulting with your treatment team. If you are unsure of your safety or wellbeing, do not hesitate to get help immediately.