Creativity At All Costs: The Art of Working With Illness

It is nearly impossible in the traditional work environment we’ve created to let go and nurture ourselves during sickness. We’ve been conditioned to see illness as a block: something to work around, climb over, and run past, in order to return to our highest performing self.

In the process, however, we often pay our bodies, and our minds, a deep disrespect, and consequently, a real disservice. Feeling sick is not a hurdle to jump, nor is it a reason to panic and cease to move. As an immunodeficient person, I’ve had to be creative in my approach to getting sick. Even more so now that my work schedule and allotted “sick days” are my own to manage.

I know not all are blessed with the ability to call in sick when you should (and yes, you should), but we can all promise to take a little better care of ourselves.

With that in mind, here are a few ways I’ve learned not only to cope with illness, but to actually maximize its appearance in my work life.

  • Sleep: Give in to fatigue and let the body rest. This is the hardest step and the necessary first one. When you feel you should be doing other things, letting yourself sleep during the day can be an immense source of guilt. Instead, take comfort in the dreams you may stumble upon in the process; unconscious research for the work you will take on when this has passed.
    We should all be such Nap-Pro's as Daisy Dog. from Creativity at All Costs: Coping with Illness at Work by Alex Landers at
    Take a cue from the dogs, and take a nap. Daisy, here, is a pro.

    Sleep is restorative, and the dream state is gestation for every creative idea within your brain, so this is the perfect opportunity to get even more of it than usual. And remember: getting well is a project requiring ALL of your available attention.

  • Research: Can’t create? Get inspired. In your waking hours, absorb what’s around you. This doesn’t require a single move from the couch. Flip through magazines, play on Pinterest, read books, watch movies (watch SO many movies).
    Pin Away From Creativity at All Costs: Coping with Illness in Your Work by Alex Landers at
    I have so many boards on my Pinterest account -endless projects waiting to happen.

    Use your mandated rest time to quietly immerse yourself in all the wonderful, inspiring, pre-existing art already around you. Most of all, do not take for granted this time your body has set aside for you to expand and collect your thoughts. Appreciate your limitations, and use them to your advantage.

  • Meditate: Meditation can sound like a pressure cooker situation wherein you must sit perfectly still, clear your brain of any and all thoughts, and somehow stifle the sneeze that’s been building up in your sinuses for the last two hours. It doesn’t have to be this way. When I meditate, I focus on my breath, my work, my ideas, and my dreams. So long as it isn’t a source of stress, it’s dynamite to meditate on. Choosing an appropriate mantra can help you stay calm and – BONUS – encourage your immune system to get working again. Whatever it is – “I am an artist,” “I need rest,” “I allow myself to let go and get better,” – repeat it out loud, in your head, over and over and, as my YouTube Yoga buddy Adriene likes to say, consider it already done. 

It might seem like I’ve got this “letting myself be sick” thing down, but it’s taken me many years, and much assistance to get here. Therefore, I have a bevy of helpful links and apps (yes! there are SO many apps for that) to get you on your way to feeling good about feeling sick. Explore and use at your leisure 🙂

Mr. Mood – The most basic, wonderful, blissful little digital buddy in the world. Let Mr. Mood check in on you once a day, and let yourself keep track of how you’re feeling. A seriously awesome thing to do for yourself.

Stop, Breathe & Think – Mr. Mood’s more interactive brother. An amazing app for those just starting (or thinking about starting) a meditation practice.

The Wild Unknown Tarot – I turn to my old-fashioned Tarot cards whenever I need to turn a little bit inward. But for those of you on Android phones, my favorite illustrated pack now has a digital counterpart. Check it out for a healing mini-practice when you’re down.

Yoga with Adriene – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this chick is the best there is in online Yoga classes – maybe even trumping going to a class in person. She’ll teach you in a few quick minutes a day how to create and stick to your own home practice. And BONUS – she has specific routines for when you’re sick, stressed, and even suffering a headache.

Coming soon on OuttaThePlayhouse – a long-awaited How-To on creating beautiful (and effective!) art/craft/vendor fair displays.

Creating a Beautiful (and Effective!) Art/Craft/Vendor Display by Alex Landers at
The Playhouse Traveling Display – a Sneak Peek…

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