By Bethanie Hestermann
‘Tis the season, makers, to talk about burnout. What have you done this holiday season to make sure that your creative business is enriching your life, not draining the life out of you? (Oof! Real talk.) Missy Graff Ballone, founder of Wellness for Makers, says there is a fine line between hustle and burnout. As an artist, yoga instructor, and licensed massage therapist, Missy is out to motivate + empower creatives to avoid those all-too-common repetitive strain injuries that creatives like you tend to power through in the name of the almighty Hustle.
Missy is a treasure trove of good advice. She has a blog, a podcast, a free wellness course, and an upcoming book. She says you don’t have to carve out hours in a day to make adjustments to your routine that could just change your life.
Check out Missy’s top 3 tips for strengthening/supporting bodies engaged in creative work + her favorite tools of the trade in today’s Q&A!
Tell us about Wellness for Makers!
The mission of Wellness for Makers is to motivate and empower creatives through education, mindful living, and movement! I use my backgrounds as an artist, Alignment-based Yoga Instructor RYT500, and licensed massage therapist to make information about the body accessible to artists everywhere.
As an artist, I understand the toll that an active studio practice can have on the body. The repetitive tasks that artists and crafters take on every day often lead to strain and pain. I have worked hard to transform all of the information I’ve learned throughout the years about movement, posture, massage, and the artist’s studio practice into digestible ideas for artists to consider in their studios.
During the pandemic, I wrote a book with the art and craft community in mind! Wellness for Makers: A Movement Guide for Artists is now available for pre-orders on the Schiffer Publishing website, Barnes and Noble, Target, Thrift Books, Amazon, and more! By following the 40+ exercises outlined in this book with detailed photos, creatives will learn the best ways to sit, stand, walk, and move to reduce their risk of injury in the studio. My goal is to help makers improve their posture and reduce their risk of developing a repetitive strain injury over time. They can use this as a resource to learn the actions, techniques, and best practices that will allow them to move in a way that strengthens their studio practice and body.
If any of your readers are auditory learners and interested in learning more about the body in relationship to their studio practice, I encourage them to check out the Wellness for Makers Podcast. I am honored to be able to share so many inspiring conversations and perspectives of makers, wellness professionals, non-profits, activists, and more. It is a great free resource with over 50 episodes to check out.
What inspired you to serve creatives?
After graduating with my MFA, I began to notice a common thread from artist to artist. There was often an underlying acceptance that one day they’d end up with a repetitive strain injury. And they were kind of ok with it! One night, I went back to my room to search for a wellness resource for artists and couldn’t find one. I felt a strong responsibility to my field to use my unique background and skillset to do something to empower other artists and help transform the mindset.
I decided it was time to combine all of my passions, and I created Wellness for Makers in 2015. My mission has been to motivate and empower creatives everywhere through postural exercises and accessible movements! I believe that by deepening our understanding of the body, we can create more sustainable careers and studio routines.
Where do you see the most strain on creative bodies?
Besides the hands, wrists, and forearms, most people are complaining about their neck and shoulders. If you just take a moment to look at the people around you, you’ll notice everyone is rounding over. Rounding over their work, phones, computers, books, etc.
If we spend a lot of time working on a piece in a slouched position, then take a break to scroll on our phones, and then hunch over our books or computers when we get home, we’re creating a repetitive movement pattern in the body.
As a result, more and more of us are in pain. I designed a free wellness course with creatives in mind to help them move more effectively, build strength, and find the relief in the neck and shoulders that they deserve. This wellness course includes three videos and will be delivered to their inbox.
What are your top 3 tips for strengthening + supporting your body through creative work?
Movement means to change position. This means that you don’t have to carve out hours in a day to make adjustments and build strength. Movement is much more accessible and bigger than that. You can start moving now. Readjust your posture, stretch your arms up, walk around the room, dance, wiggle! Whatever movement you choose, have fun with it.
Listen to the pain signals your body sends you. Your body is always communicating with you. It will let you know when you are beginning to get uncomfortable and if you should readjust. It is then up to you to actually do it. The more you ignore the signals your body sends you, the louder they will get. So set reminders to check in with your movement patterns every 25 mins. Which movements or positions have you been engaging with the most? Readjust, switch up your tasks, and take a break.
What are some of your favorite tools?
As a massage therapist, I’ve looked for the best tools to help make massage more accessible since getting a professional massage isn’t always possible. I’ve created a tool kit of my favorite tools to help benefit the hands, wrists, and forearms:
Foam ball: This tool helps work out knots in your hands.
Acupressure ring: This massage tool helps stimulate the acupressure points in your fingers.
Hand strengthening tool: Strengthen your hands with this amazing tool to counterbalance the strain of pinching and gripping.
Rist Roller: Massage your wrists and forearms with a mini foam roller that you can take anywhere.
How has this business changed your life?
I believe that the best teachers in life are forever students first. Teaching the Wellness for Makers community has inspired me to deconstruct and transform my own movement patterns over time. By learning more through personal research and continuing education studies, I have been able to improve my posture and walking patterns, which has ultimately helped me to live in less pain over time. I am stronger, healthier, and have gained more kinesthetic awareness in my body. Living in less pain is a life-changing experience.