Blocked creative Flow is one of those things that you don’t realize is happening until it’s happened. Common emotional symptoms include increased frustration, irritability, compassion fatigue, hopelessness, and worry. Professionally, you might realize you’ve lost your Why.

If you find yourself here, you’re not alone. Studies show that Americans are, in general, a Low Flow society. In fact, 77% of us report some sort of physical or emotional symptom of chronic stress. It’s easy to blame chronic stress (and therefore Low Flow) on life: our hectic schedules, social pressures, work, family, news.

These things do reduce or block Flow. However, when I closely examine the periods of serious Flow depletion in my life, I realize that I was not a helpless victim to whatever was happening at the time. The problem, instead, was what I chose to do with the stressors. The problem, here, was ME.

Happily, this means that the solution resided in me, as well. I share the following observations to demonstrate that, ultimately, being in-Flow often comes down to self-awareness and the power of choice.

The Warning Signs of Blocked Creative Flow

Every time I’ve felt stuck, burnt out or creatively blocked, (at least) one of these five things were occurring:

1.  Not doing enough creative work for ME. My periods of blocked Flow occurred at times when I put my creativity and artwork aside for what seemed like higher priorities. In the end, I didn’t feel like myself. No matter what, make time to do your own creative work (or whatever it is that makes your heart sing).

2. Too heavy of a general workload. I love to juggle projects, and I’m a pretty excellent multi-tasker. Unfortunately, too much of a good thing usually leaves me feeling depleted. Prioritize time to recharge.

3. Being spread too thin. I am passionate about my work, and I enjoy being active in the community. Yet, too many obligations quickly spreads my energy too thin. Consider scaling back.

4. Letting my head say YES. My mind thinks that I can do it all! It says YES to every opportunity that comes my way, typically underestimating the time and energy involved in doing a task. Before you say yes, give yourself time to pause, rest, and reflect.

5. Mismanaging fear or worry. There are two ways I mismanage fear or worry: 1. I ignore, numb or distract myself from it; and 2. I let it drive my actions and decisions. Expressive art making and gentle yoga work well to dissolve chronic fear and worry.

What to Do When You Recognize You’re Blocking Your Flow

·         take a moment to pause and reflect. Remember, these are all behaviors. You have the opportunity—and the power of choice—to act differently.

If you find yourself relating to the signs of blocked creative Flow, above,

·         Accordingly, make a list of 1-3 healthy (flow-boosting) actions that you can take in each category. Be specific!

·         Next, take a moment to write down any additional flow-blockers in your life. Ask yourself: what actions can I take to address these?  

·         Finally, make a commitment to do at least one thing from your list.

It may not be realistic to take every action on your list, but by giving yourself permission to do just one thing you empower yourself to turn the tide away from Flow depletion. You’ll find that the action of just one thing feels really good, and it makes a difference!

Increased Flow and the Power of Choice

Remember, while you can’t change what’s happening in your life, you can choose the way in which you deal with it. It doesn’t take long to pause, it just takes a commitment. You’ll find that when you do pause, and you take at least one action on what you observe, it is refreshingly simple to increase your creative Flow.

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