Yoga has always held a special place in my heart. It centres me, allowing me to slow down, tune into my body, and listen to its whispers of stress or strain.
In yoga, we’re often encouraged to maintain poses longer than what feels comfortable. This practice fosters resilience as we hold challenging poses or return to them after faltering.
Think of the challenge in holding a downward dog for an extended period or maintaining balance in tree pose. These experiences bring up feelings of discomfort and it can be really challenging to not try and wriggle our way out of those sensations.
Away from the yoga mat, life and creative practice offers similar experiences of discomfort. And similarly, it can actually be good for us to persist in these moments. Staying put and enduring the sometimes unpleasant sensations that exist outside our comfort zone can help us grow, and build resilience as we do so.
Currently, I’m working through the very uncomfortable final stages of a creative project—my second novel. This phase demands my focused attention to ensure all elements of the story seamlessly come together. With life’s day to day busy-ness and challenges, it’s been feeling like a herculean task to keep all of the moving parts of the story clear in my head.
Then, as someone who likes to flit from project to project, it’s also very challenging to stay the course with one piece of work for a prolonged period. But this is it now, I’m committed to getting to the end of the second edit and handing it back to my editor in a few months. There’s nothing else to do, really, but grit my teeth and keep going.
But, I have some tips on what I’m doing to stay sane while also staying in this place of discomfort – and I hope they might help you stay the course as well – and grow as a creative practitioner at the same time.
What is Mindful Creativity?
Hello, my name’s Jordan. Mindful Creativity is a great way to relax, unwind and enjoy creativity to enhance our sense of wellness. If you’re looking for a way to connect with your inner voice as you develop your own personal creative practice, it might be just the thing for you.
My Mindful Creativity blog, resources and tools provides ways for you to deepen into a more nourishing creative practice!
My six tips on how to idle in discomfort – in yoga, creativity and in life
Resign yourself to the discomfort. Accept it, and allow it in. There’s no getting around it, and there’s no wiggling out of it. Be present with it, and realise it’s OK to feel out of your happy place.
Feel the feels: do everything you can to feel, and then name and identify the sensations of discomfort that you’re experiencing. The more you get familiar with the sensations, the better chance you have of making friends with them.
Being ok when your ‘material’ shows up: we all have stuff. And stuff can show up when we’re under pressure. On the yoga mat, as well as in life, our personal material can be the things that can keep us from staying the course. Limiting beliefs. Self –doubt. For me, staying the course with my book means showing up to my ambition – because it’s taken no less than ten years to get this thing to a second edit. And what on earth is wrong with me that it takes that long to write a book? Negative self-talk can start to surface when we’re starting to push through discomfort – so be OK with it being there – but recognise it for what it is – and give yourself permission to change your narrative.
Dig deep, sing loudly: when you’re on point, and trying to stay there, a good music track does wonders to keep you in the zone. I have much-loved albums that are on high rotation when I’m deep in concentration mode, and YouTube playlists for when I’m on struggle street, flying high and diving into the depths of despair – which can all seem to happen in quick succession when you’re out of your comfort zone. Gather your best music and release tension by singing along – its one of my favourite things!
Reduce, off load, streamline and free up: you know those movie scenes, where the engine of the plane is faltering, or it’s running out of fuel, and so people start throwing cargo out the window? Do that. Preserve as much fuel, and as much energy as you can, during times where you’re working through discomfort. It takes energy and focus – and often, that means freeing yourself up as much as you possible can, in order to be present and intentional about it. Defer the other projects. Clear the calendar. Take stuff out of your diary. Make apologies. And give yourself permission to attend to the task at hand.
Make sense of the territory: As I write, I’m also taking note of all of the experiences, and when they occur in the writing process. This feeling of discomfort at the end of the second edit is definitive territory, and is very specific to this part of the journey for this piece of creative work.
But it gives me comfort to have really defined it, as an experience, in my own head. I know the lay of the land, now. I’ll remember it for next time – and I might choose to do things differently when I write my next book. I might take even more stuff out of the diary in order to get through this territory in a shorter period of time.
Create small moments of winning: I’m quite serious when I say ‘create the moments’. You might otherwise think that I’m saying something like ‘enjoy the small moments, or practice gratitude along the way… Those things are excellent – and you should absolutely do them. But I’m talking about something different.
What I’m saying that is that you need to do something next-level when you’re idling in discomfort. You need to make a plan for bringing in the big guns. Don’t just wait for moments of fun to find their way to you – ensure that you create them with intention. Invite a friend to for a celebratory coffee and share your milestones. Gather the family around for a special meal – just because it helps you relax. Put aside time each day to nourish yourself and celebrate your work and your efforts, even if it’s too early to see the final results.
I hope these tips help you stay strong, flexible and courageous in moments of discomfort – and remember, if you fall over, don’t worry about it! Enjoy a few moments of rest and get back into it!