If you’re feeling creatively blocked or stuck in a spiral of negative thoughts, there are two things to keep in mind to help you overcome your struggles. One, you’re not alone, and two, a meditative practice can help foster greater awareness and less stress.
In this week’s episode of In the Details, author and business coach Cathy Heller joins host Karen Allen to help familiarize us with how an understanding of the brain and an open attitude can create a better reality for us all.
The brain makeup
Ninety-five percent of the brain is the subconscious, whereas 5% is conscious action. Every single day we relive the past, as the thoughts in our head that were programmed by our parents and the environment from ages birth-12 are on a loop. These thoughts are accompanied by feelings, which help to determine our actions.
The crowning jewel of being human is having a prefrontal cortex, which allows us to both be in the moment and have a drone-like view of having that experience. It’s a critical structure for executive function, or our ability to attend to ourselves, focus on our tasks and think flexibly, among other things.
Why we get stressed and creatively blocked
Chronic inflammation has been linked to the development of several diseases and health issues, and can also cause our cortisol levels—our body’s natural anti-inflammatory—to soar. The hormone is not only responsible for keeping our bodies running smoothly, however; cortisol also has a significant effect on the regulation of stress.
When we sense danger—even if it’s only perceived by us—our fight or flight mode gets activated. The ensuing stress prevents creativity. While small doses of stress can jump-start our brains and promote inspiration, higher or more constant levels of stress can disrupt focus and prevent ideas from forming. These constantly-high cortisol levels can also have a detrimental impact on our overall health.
That’s why people who have a meditative practice are able to add years to their life and be more creative. Through regular meditation, they can lower their cortisol levels and heighten serotonin levels, reducing the stress response.
Imprint and align with your best self via mindful awareness
We all have a very unique imprint, so when we move things like the egocentric imposter syndrome out of the way, we’re better able to align with the expansive energetic. And while a formal meditative practice can be helpful, being a witness to your thoughts through the simple act of mindful awareness can also help you become more realistic.
We all create limiting beliefs for ourselves, and what we’ve chosen to see becomes our reality. If you think you’re not enough, then you’ll find evidence to confirm it. But everything in the universe is designed to thrive to its full potential. So witness your thoughts, understand your limiting beliefs and get in touch with the truth of reality so that you can reach your potential.
How to begin with mindful awareness? Drink coffee and pay attention to the taste of each sip. Notice the road beneath your feet when walking. And then translate showing up in the present moment to your thoughts, so that you can see them and then separate yourself. The more awareness you have, the more you’re able to change your behavior.
It’s also important to keep returning to your conscious mind lest you be taken over by your subconscious, which can drive emotional addictions. The longer you’ve gone practicing limiting thoughts and self-doubt, the more your body will crave this type of thinking. On a very physical level, you’re craving an emotional addiction to suffering. So knowledge, through podcasts, reading, etc., truly returns you to reality.
Find your purpose, and remember it won’t be #perfect… at first
People don’t have a business problem when deciding to write a book or create a gluten-free cupcake line. Rather, it’s a courage problem. Think of preschoolers. Most children are unafraid to get messy and rework—or just reiterate—their creative methods when making something.
Therefore, consider adopting a preschool-like mentality when undergoing a creative endeavor. Get past your ego and get comfortable feeling uncomfortable. Perfection won’t happen the first time, which is part of the creative process.
Showing up and making the sale
Creative pursuits also don’t have to be an all-or-nothing game. If you keep showing up, it will open up more opportunities you couldn’t see with your (at the time) limited view. And with each opportunity, you’re being guided toward your greater purpose.
In our world, we’ve become obsessed with the vanity of numbers: I want 100,000 followers, this many TikTok views, etc. But in whatever you’re doing, if you’re trying to pursue something creative in a business, non-hobbyist manner, it’s critical to make one person completely satisfied with your work. It’s the best cupcake they’ve ever tried. They loved your first chapter. If this person/consumer is enjoying what you’re doing, they’ll tell another person, and you’ll be able to receive that energy.
Abundance is reality. We don’t get what we want, we get what we are. So stop being hijacked by your subconscious and consider doing the educational and awareness work to build up who you are so that you can better discover what you want.
Jill McDonnell is a Chicago-based content writer and communications professional. She has a bachelor's degree in magazine journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a master's degree in public relations and advertising from DePaul University. She is currently at work on a psychological thriller novel.