TRANSCRIPT Ep. 291: 10 Tips to Beat the Van Gogh Blues

THE INSPIRATION PLACE PODCAST

Miriam Schulman: Quality of sleep is definitely a game-changer for artists. Obviously, a lot of the things we’re talking about—it’s not just for artists, it’s for all the peoples. And it’s not just about sleeping more; it’s about sleeping right and setting you up for a day of creative flow.

Now, for me personally, I can definitely tell the difference when I go to bed, quote-unquote, on time versus when I stay up later. So that’s why I try to go to bed at the same time every night as well as getting up at the same time every day.

Speaker 2: It’s the Inspiration Place podcast with artist Miriam Schulman. Welcome to the Inspiration Place Podcast, an art world insider podcast for artists by an artist where each week we go behind the scenes to uncover the perspiration and inspiration behind the art. And now your host, Miriam Schulman.

Miriam Schulman: Well, hey there, friend. It’s Miriam Schulman here, your curator of inspiration. Welcome to the Inspiration Place podcast. This is episode number 291, and I am so grateful that you’re here. Today, we’re diving into something that is critical for your art as well as your well-being, which is mental health. But we’re also going to talk about how to really reframe your mindset in this year to reach all of your goals.

I’m actually going to give you ten tips, so why don’t we just dive right into it? I will be sure to chit-chat along the way. Don’t worry, we’re not going to be all buttoned up in business, but I do want to get into today’s content. So let’s go.

Number one is about getting better sleep. So, quality of sleep is definitely a game-changer for artists. Obviously, a lot of the things we’re talking about—it’s not just for artists, it’s for all the peoples. And if you’re struggling to find rest, you can consider cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. That’s not actually something I’ve tried, but I read about that recently in the New York Times.

It’s not just about sleeping more; it’s about sleeping right and setting you up for a day of creative flow. Now, for me personally, I can definitely tell the difference when I go to bed, quote-unquote, on time versus when I stay up later. When I say “bed on time,” it makes me sound like I’m eight and I have a bedtime, but I kind of do.

So for me, sleep is like catching a bus. If you miss the window of tiredness to go to sleep when you first feel tired, it’s like you have to wait until you’re tired again. Now, that idea of missing your initial sleep window, the time when your body naturally feels tired and ready for sleep, can definitely lead to difficulties in falling asleep later. That is supported by understanding your body’s rhythms. When you ignore those natural signals by staying up past your usual bedtime, it does disrupt your circadian rhythm, making it harder for you to fall asleep when you finally do decide to go to bed.

So that’s why I say it’s almost like catching a bus if you don’t listen to your natural rhythm of your body. It can be harder to fall asleep. And we’ve all kind of experienced that, where you push yourself and you’re almost overtired, and then you can’t fall asleep. So that’s why I try to go to bed at the same time every night. And I suggest that you do too. It definitely will improve your overall sleep habits, as well as getting up at the same time every day. Even if you are on vacation, try not to deviate too much from the bedtime and wake times that are normal for you because you’ll pay.

Number two: Navigating Anxiety. So let’s talk about, for everyone, especially us artists, it’s common to experience anxiety. Sometimes it can even be a source of motivation for your creativity. But there is a fine line between normal anxiety and anxiety that needs attention.

So let me just give you full disclosure. I’m on medication to treat my own anxiety, and sometimes that’s what’s needed. So how can you tell the difference if your anxiety is typical or something more? Well, first of all, recognize that feeling anxious occasionally, especially in response to specific stressors like the war in Israel, for example, that’s normal. And when anxiety becomes constant, overwhelming, that’s when it’s time to seek help.

So what I was saying before, I’m on that medication. I didn’t actually get put on medication this year. I’ve been on medication for a while. And my doctor said, “Well, do you want to increase medication?” When the war started, I was like, “No, no, I just I’m okay feeling my feelings. I don’t want to completely numb out, but I just felt it is responsible for me to mention this to you because if you have a persistent worry that really disrupts your daily life, it interferes with your concentrating. Maybe you have physical symptoms of anxiety. You can’t ignore this, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. So if you’ve tried all the holistic methods and you still feel overwhelmed, it might be time to visit a mental health professional. There’s strength in seeking help, and doing so is a pivotal step in your personal journey. Again, nothing to be ashamed of. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done, really is being put on medication. Once I started taking medication, it was almost the same feeling I had when I first got glasses. You know that feeling of like the world is blurry and then you put your glasses on, it’s like, oh, that’s what the world is supposed to look like. And that was the same experience for me going on medication. It was like, oh, this is what it feels like to feel calm instead of anxious and upset all the time.

All right, before we delve into more tips, I do want to tell you the story of Grace. She is one of my incubator, and then she became an accelerator client, and she overcame her challenges to align her art with her true calling. She was overwhelmed trying to juggle so many priorities, and everything seemed equally important, so she was struggling to find her focus. Does that sound familiar? I talk to artists all the time, and I have to tell you, that’s one of the number one things that comes up—they don’t know what to focus on because everything seems equally important.

Okay, so this is not to pick on Grace, by the way, but this is a lot of my clients now. Despite a promising start, the slow pace of her sales and the mental impact of the pandemic and the lockdowns really hit her hard. She found slowing down and focusing on setting intentional goals really helped her. She learned that prioritizing her steps and aligning her actions with her true passion for underwater art helped her make real progress, and this shift in approach led to renewed interest in her art and really helped her art career soar. Her journey is at the core of my goal-setting workshop for artists. It’s perfect for artists like you who might be battling decision drama—the feeling that everything feels equally important. This workshop is your chance to cut through the chaos, align your deepest artistic desires with achievable goals, and truly thrive. So if you’re ready to escape the overwhelm, that decision drama, and channel your energy into what really matters, join me at this workshop. It can be reached at SchulmanArt.com/goals. All right. And now, on with the show.

Number three: Stop ruminating. All right, artists, let’s talk about rumination. It’s so easy to get caught up in negative thought loops where your brain is thinking the same thing over and over again, kind of like skipping the record, especially if you’re somebody who strives for perfection in your work. And by your work, I don’t just mean your art, but in your life.

But there is a way out. In my book, Artpreneur, I discuss how journaling can be an effective tool to break this cycle. So, here’s what you need to do. By the way, it’s not always about doing a full-on 20-minute journaling. If you’re fixating on a negative thought, if you’re spinning on a story that’s probably not even true, when this happens, grab your journal and it’s time for a brain dump. You can write down these thoughts. Ask yourself, is this really true? Challenge the narrative. Look for evidence that maybe it’s not true, and you might be surprised how often the opposite is true.

Now, if you get distracted and you’re ruminating about thoughts about other things you should be doing, resist the urge to switch gears. Instead, jot down these tasks that you’re thinking about in your planner. So one resource that I love is David Allen and his book, Getting Things Done. He said, “Your mind often feels like everything needs to happen right now.” Writing these tasks down reassures your brain that they’re in safe keeping, ready to be tackled later.

I like to think of this as Dumbledore using the Pensieve in Harry Potter. Remember how he pulled those silver, silvery threads of thought out of his mind and he dropped them into the bowl? You think about doing the same thing. You have a thought. You can just plop it into your journal.

Now remember, journaling does not have to be an epic undertaking. It’s not about writing beautiful prose like Anne Frank. It’s not even about doing morning pages. I think that Julia Cameron really sets us up to not want to do it by saying it needs to be three full pages, because not everybody likes to write. I find sometimes just noting down, jotting down one negative thought and recognizing it as that, a thought, not a fact, can bring immense relief to me. It’s about having clarity over your thinking. It’s not about the quantity of your journaling. For example, if I get triggered and I’m thinking the thought that I’m jealous of another artist or another artist business coach or another author.

And yes, I have all these thoughts, my friend, that I’m sharing with you. But hey, you know what I’m talking about. Sometimes we just get a little bit triggered. So I will just jot that down. And when I write it down, I can laugh at myself, and it can feel a little bit ridiculous. It does really help to write it down.

Now, I want to share another true story. If you’ve been listening to my podcast for a while, you might have heard me mention that recently I took a soul-searching journey to Costa Rica. And this gave me a chance to turn off my monkey brain, and the only monkeys I heard were the real ones outside. So I did really get into journaling, reflecting on my past, crafting a vision for my future, and this powerful process of honoring your past self and envisioning your future self really opened my eyes to the profound impact of setting clear, intentional goals not just in life, but specifically in my art career.

And I returned to New York a completely different person. So I want to give you the same experience. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or the world feels heavy now, or you’re ruminating on heavy thoughts, you’re not alone. It’s easy to get lost in the uncertainty of all the things. So that’s why I just want to mention again about my goal-setting workshop. It’s not just another workshop. It is a transformative experience where you’ll be guided through a clear, actionable plan. So I’m just going to drop the URL again: SchulmanArt.com/goals. You and your art deserve this.

Number four: Tidying up your studio. Decluttering your studio is not just about organizing; it’s about creating a space where creativity can flow. Now, I did a whole series of this, “No Clutter in November.” You can check it out in Episodes 281, 282, and 283. But in Episode 283, I dived into realistic steps you can use to tackle decluttering your studio.

 

So remember, a cluttered space reflects and exacerbates feelings of overwhelm and chaos. Every piece of clutter demands your attention, which can lead to more scattered thoughts. So here’s a practical mantra for you: Clear space, clear mind. By decluttering, you’re not just organizing your materials; you’re streamlining your creative process. You can sort your clutter into four rooms: trash, things that ended up in your studio that belong in other rooms; donate, things you want to donate; put away, things where you know where to put them; and don’t know, things you don’t know where to put them.

The first couple of categories are really easy—either throw it out, put it in a box to bring to another room, donate, or you know where to put it away. Then you’ll be left with the fifth box of things you don’t know where to do with them. For me, usually, that box stays full for quite some time until it ends up being trash, donated, other rooms, or with things with a place.

But going through your studio this way, it will bring a sense of calm and help settle your brain. And it does definitely help with anxiety. Now, as I’m writing this, I’m looking around my own studio, and it looks like I need to schedule a day for my own decluttering. And so I’m going to, as soon as I’m done recording, I’m going to make a date for myself on the calendar.

Number five: Embracing gratitude. All right, we’ve heard this. You’ve heard this, and research backs it up. Research has shown gratitude can significantly boost our mental well-being. Tapping into gratitude reshapes your perspective, and guess what? It adds depth to your creativity.

Now, in my own practice, I found that journaling in the mornings really helps shift my energy, and I find it a much more easy process than just the three morning pages that Julia Cameron prescribes. I started this in Costa Rica, and what we did there is every morning we would start off by listing ten things that were grateful for. But here’s the key thing. Not just what you’re grateful for, not just make your list: coffee, health, partner, blah blah blah, but really diving into what you’re grateful for and why.

Gratitude is not just a feel-good emotion. It’s a gateway to enhance creativity and well-being. Deepak Chopra suggests that this gratitude can open you up to the universe’s wisdom and creativity, and scientific studies also affirm the link between gratitude and creative problem-solving. So while I was writing up the outline for this podcast, I realized, oh wait, Miriam, you didn’t do your gratitude journaling yet. So I stopped writing. I went to the couch, and I opened up my journal. And by the way, it makes it sound like I have one journal. I have a ton of different journals, and I just pick up whichever one’s lying around.

And I also put on YouTube. They have nice, either you can pick what works for you, but what I find works best for me is not the relaxing music but actually the sounds. So the YouTube channel Daily Calm has white noise, sounds like ocean and rain, and I use the ocean. And that really helped me drop into the space where I could just journal. And it’s interesting how even though I do this every day, different things come up for me, and the things I’m grateful for now are different than the things I was grateful for a week ago.

Number six: Optimism on aging. Your view on aging can definitely impact your mental health. It’s important to embrace that your wisdom and experience come with your age, and your art will evolve as you do.

Now, in mystical Judaism, the number 18 is the word “chai,” which symbolizes life. It’s considered lucky. So multiples of 18 like 36 or 54, which I was last year, inherit this fortuitous meaning, making them special years. This year, I just had a birthday in December. I turned 55, which some people call double nickels, and others say that’s a great year. Maybe it symbolizes doubled wisdom or strength. The age 56 is also seen positively. Every new year can represent growth and new opportunities.

Now, for you, reflecting on your age and finding a positive or symbolic meaning can be a powerful exercise. I know when my sister-in-law turned 60, she called it Ruthanne 6.0. Her name is Ruthanne. So instead of saying, “Oh, I’m 60 now,” she says, “I’m 6.0,” which I thought was a great spin on it. So see if you can find a symbolic meaning for your number. It’s a powerful exercise. Each age can carry its unique significance, whether you find a cultural, spiritual, or personal interpretation. So explore that. Explore a personal milestone, maybe a significant life experience. Take your age, see what numerologists have to say about it, and really embrace. Yeah, age is just a number, but the number could have some really special meanings for you.

All right. So I got a lot of the ideas for this article from the New York Times. And for their seventh tip, they actually mentioned art as therapy. And since you are an audience of creatives, I think you know that you feel better when you’re creating. And don’t underestimate the power of your art form to really help you. If you’ve been avoiding the studio and you’re feeling bad, maybe you’re spending too much time on the business side. It might affect your mood.

However, I also want to say that sometimes the best way to lift your mood is to explore a medium outside of what you are using to sell. Venturing into a new medium can be both liberating and inspiring. It allows you to experiment without the pressure of perfectionism or profitability, and this can lead to unexpected breakthroughs in your primary work. So when you explore, you give yourself permission to play, to discover, to learn, and you’re letting go of the idea of monetizing what it is that you’re doing.

So maybe you dabble in sculpture. If you are a painter, maybe you dabble in digital art or performance art, or maybe it’s not a visual art. Maybe you write a poem. Maybe you play the piano. Step outside your comfort zone. That can really rejuvenate your creativity and bring fresh perspectives to your main medium.

Number eight: Finding awe in the everyday. This tip reminded me of one of my clients, Priya Gore, who is a beacon of inspiration for every artist out there. She was born in India, and Priya’s journey was meant to go a traditional route. She became an engineer, a role her parents approved of. But her heart sang a different tune. In the quiet corners of her life, she sketched her soul, clinging to the art she adored. Then came the move to Australia, a land so wild and untamed that it awakened the sleeping artist within her.

And Priya, now a mother, took the daring leap. She left her stable engineering career to dance with her true passion, painting her canvases alive with vibrant wildlife. Hers is a story of bold choices and the pursuit of dreams. And perhaps you’re standing at a similar crossroads. You have this burning desire to make your art your voice heard, but perhaps fear and doubts and the realities of your life are holding you back.

So what if you could break free? What if you could set goals that align with your deepest desires and turn your art into more than just a side hustle or a hobby? That’s exactly what my goal-setting workshop is designed to do. It’s not just about goals; it’s about discovering what makes your heart sing and aligning your life to it.

So, like Priya, you can transition from dreaming to doing. I will mention that URL one more time: SchulmanArt.com/goals. But the real reason I mentioned Priya is her story shows us how embracing the beauty around us can inspire our art. Like her, find awe in the everyday, whether it’s a nature walk or observing the urban landscape. Let the world fuel your creativity.

Number nine: Tech breaks. Are you overwhelmed by the digital distractions of your phone? I feel you. Take a tech break. That means you can do intermittent digital fasting. Like, perhaps you don’t check your phone until 1:00. I find that really hard to do. So what I will actually do is remove my most addictive apps off of my phone, such as Instagram. I remove that from my phone, Instagram, YouTube, anything that has a scroll feature to it. So I don’t have Facebook, I don’t Twitter, I don’t have Instagram, I don’t have YouTube on my phone. Occasionally, I put it back on, and then I regret it. And a few days later, I take it off. For things like WhatsApp, I actually have it on mute because I end up in these WhatsApp chats where people are chatting all day with each other and sending each other videos. I find that really distracting, so I have that on mute.

And the best thing is actually just to leave your phone in a different room. One of the reasons I mentioned earlier how I’m using YouTube for my daily calm instead of the app is I used to be a really big fan of the Daily Calm app for my phone, and I used it for meditation. You may have heard me talk about that. And here’s the thing. I’d be sitting on my phone, and then things would ding in, or I would find myself checking other apps or checking my stats, so it wasn’t working for me to meditate using my phone. That’s why now I’m trying to, as much as I can, not use the app. You know, there’s always an app for that. Not to use the apps whenever I can because it just takes me away from calmness and focus every single time. So leave your phone in the next room, remove any addictive apps, do digital intermittent fasting. All these things are going to really help you.

Number ten: Deep breathing. All right. Finally, breathing can be a great way to calm your body and your mind. Box breathing is one that really helps me. So just imagine a box. Breathe in for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of four. Exhale for a count of four and hold for a count of four before you inhale again. Just keep doing that over and over. Inhale 234. Hold 234. Exhale 234. Hold 234. If you practice the box breathing technique, it will help center yourself whenever you’re feeling anxious. Or you can do it right before you create.

And I do want to mention once again, I mentioned it last week, Brett Larkin’s new book. She’s the founder of the Uplifted Yoga YouTube channel. She has a book, Yoga Life, which includes habits, poses, breath work to channel joy amidst the chaos. I’m finding her exercises in there are very helpful for everything that we talked about today. Really helps with overwhelm and calming the central nervous system.

All right, my friend, thank you so much for joining me today. Remember, a healthy mind is your greatest asset in your art practice. And don’t forget to check out the goal setting workshop. You can find that at SchulmanArt.com/goals for more on aligning your purpose with your vision. All right, friend, so until next time, I will see you the same time, same place next week. Until then, stay inspired.

Speaker 2: Thank you for listening to The Inspiration Place podcast. Connect with us on Facebook at facebook.com/schulmanart, on Instagram @schulmanart and of course, on SchulmanArt.com.

 

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