Ways To Stay Creative When The World Feels Heavy

By: Kim Hoyos

I felt really alone for most of my last semester. I’m surrounded by a loving family, friends, and boyfriend, but for some reason the months of April and May were something altogether different for me.

I’ve always struggled with anxiety and body issues, striving to be as transparent as possible with myself and those close to me simply because how I feel about myself affects my work flow and interactions with others.

But, this April was different. I shut down in a different way. My stress level reached an unbearable point. Criticism weighs heavily on me and I don’t like to admit I have true weaknesses with this (but who does?). I felt trapped by the routine I found myself in, how others perceived me, and the never ending to do list I faced. I felt boring, unlikeable, uncreative, unhappy, and above all else- tired.

This fatigue and stress was a breaking point. I felt a numbness of going through motions that I hadn’t felt since my worst mental health days as a teen. I went to work, school, home, and repeated. However, I didn’t feel like I was there.

In the past, I’ve usually been able to take an afternoon to refocus my thoughts and the physical symptoms of stress leave me.  This was going to take more than an afternoon though. When I feel stress, my body takes the brunt of it. I shake. I don’t eat. I get headaches and stomach aches. I grind my teeth. I have nightmares. Yes, all of that, and sometimes more, is what happens to me when I feel extreme stress.

I took about a month to realign my priorities. I spent less time online. I unfollowed people I wasn’t truly friends with. I started sleeping more. I felt very quiet. Then I started to feel louder. I listened to my body. I set hours for myself when I was working from home. I listened to A Seat At The Table (thank you Cranes in the Sky). I analyzed the Rookie podcast. I called friends for support. I drove around. I stayed quiet. I asked for the things I needed. I took a lot of pictures of flowers. I felt like myself again.

The list I’m detailing below is a huge part of what I used to get myself back to a good place. It can be used interchangeably as a list of ways to stay creative or a list of ways to practice self-care, but who says they’re mutually exclusive?

This list has been building for around 4 years or so. I started it sometime in high school and I’ve been using it since then- editing, adding, and taking away from it as time passes. Suggestions? Please let me know. I want to share this list because it helped me so much and I hope it helps someone else.

I hope you enjoy!

  • make lists (not just to do lists, ANY lists. what are the 3 best days of my life have been so far? top 5 celeb crushes? who would i invite to a dinner party?)

  • carry a notebook everywhere to write down everything that inspires you (pictures and doodles too! i often write notes on my phone when my friends say something funny or dramatically real)

  • get away from the computer (so hard if you work from home but set off hours to not do anything work related! i try to keep all phone calls and business emails during work hours and i limit how many of each i’ll do a day)

  • quit beating yourself up (look at creative block as growth- “i’m pushing myself to make better things”)

  • take breaks

  • sing in the shower (i sing in the car when i’m alone. i can’t bare to hear anyone hear me sing)

  • know your roots (where are your parents from! what’s your ethnicity! get in touch with your culture’s music, food, art, and people! it can open up creative doors you didn’t even know existed for you)

  • listen to new music (whether its on spotify/pandora or an indie band your friend has been begging you to go to a show with, go. listen. enjoy. mine was Solange’s new album- THANK YOU)

  • be open (this can mean so much. anytime i go back to this list i find a different meaning with it. sometimes i think of it as being open to new experiences and challenges, ways of thinking, ways of being. other times i just think “girl! look up! get off your phone! cross the street without texting! be open to what’s around you and be aware!”)

  • surround yourself with creative people (see how they create, document, and exist. learn from them and teach what you know)

  • get feedback (nothing is better than talking about what you create. don’t feel self conscious! if there’s something others disagree with, listen to them and defend your work or understand how it could improve)

  • collaborate

  • don’t give up

  • listen to people you admire (me @ the Rookie podcast episode with Winona Ryder)

  • practice, practice, practice

  • allow yourself to make mistakes (big big one)

  • go somewhere new (even if it’s just a new street in your neighborhood, just get yourself around different surroundings)

  • count your blessings (i started to try to think what small things made me feel loved and happy. ex: my roommate takes out the garbage when i forget, my friends pick up their phones when i call them crying)

  • get lots of rest (sleep when you can. i’ve realized that staying up late to work is not worth sleeping all day. especially when working within business hours)

  • take risks

  • break the rules (know the rules of your craft so you know how to break them)

  • do more of what makes you happy

  • don’t force it (let creativity and love flow)

  • stop trying to be someone else’s perfect (don’t compare yourself to Instagram models *my flaw*)

  • clean your workspace (organized space is an organized mind)

  • have fun

  • talk through it (i talk aloud to myself a lot to try to figure out why i feel a certain way towards something. it’s something i learned in therapy a few years ago. just break it down. ask yourself “why do i feel this way” “how can i help myself” “what am i facing”)

  • explore other creative disciplines

  • finish something!!!!!!!!!!! do the thing!!!!


Kim Hoyos is the founder of the Light Leaks. Her past work experience includes internships at NBC's the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers, MTV, Rachel Antonoff, #GirlGaze, Femsplain and freelance work for Spotify, Millennials of NY, and more. She's independently directed, written, edited, and produced 7 short films, 4 webseries, 2 documentaries, and countless social media clips.