Get Creative to Deal with Anxity
Because we are used to life feeling relatively safe and secure, we can become very uncomfortable when faced with uncertainty. And no question, right now we are experiencing very uncertain times.
The Covid-19 pandemic has introduced challenges to our lives that can feel overwhelming. Public health requirements like social distancing and staying home have disrupted our routines and can make us feel lonely and isolated; and uncertainty about the future increases anxiety and stress. While it is normal to feel sadness, anxiety and fear during trying times, it is easy to become stuck in a distressing and counterproductive thought-and-feeling loop.
Anxiety can make us feel powerless. Feeling powerless can breed fear that we will not be able to cope, and this fear, in turn, can make us exaggerate the severity of what feels like a threat and breed more, and deeper anxiety. It is a vicious circle.
Fortunately, there are things we can do in our day-to-day lives to interrupt the anxiety, and relieve some of our pain. Exercise, deep sleep, social interaction (including virtually), and mindfulness all work together as self-care to help us feel better. Most of the things in this list are self-explanatory, but what, exactly, is mindfulness?
The American Psychological Association defines mindfulness as “a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment”. So it’s a mental state where we calmly acknowledge and accept our feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. If we can be still and declutter our minds, we can interrupt anxiety and change unhelpful thought patterns. But how to pull off this sense of inner calm and self-acceptance?
A great first step is to pick a task and totally immerse yourself in it. It could be something that needs doing around the house, but a creative hobby or project is an even better option. A creative endeavor offers a means of self-expression, distraction from negative thoughts, and a sense of achievement, freedom, and control.
As children, we are encouraged to try out new ideas, and new ways of thinking and problem-solving. Creative activities allowed us to express ourselves openly and celebrated our diversity. As we grow older, however, there is a tendency to censor our creativity and conform to the greater group as a means of fitting in. As well, our responsibilities and the demands of daily life can make us feel like creative activities are not a priority, or worse, a waste of time. In actuality, as we create, we make time for ourselves and begin to access our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. When you take time to tap into what you are feeling, you will be better prepared to make yourself understood. When your authentic self is seen and heard you make deeper connections with other people leading to a greater sense of well-being in your life.
Try some of the following to boost your creativity:
- Buy some art supplies and play. Can’t get to the store? Try upcycling. Use and repurpose items around the house to revitalize something old, or create something new.
- Free associate. Open the dictionary and choose a random word. Now write down everything it makes you think of. Or free write; set a timer for 10 minutes and write down anything and everything that comes to mind, you can doodle, too. Then go back over your notes and see what inspires you.
- Renew an old hobby. Dig out your scrapbooking supplies, or needlework projects, maybe a musical instrument you haven’t picked up for a while.
- Start a new hobby. Try journaling, or adult coloring books, maybe even calligraphy. Take random photos, or pick one subject and try to capture it on a daily basis.
- Scribble/doodle drawing is for all, only requires a pen and paper, and does not have a result. Start with one long scribble line on your page, that must intersect. Then draw images, faces, creatures, and patterns in the shapes and draw them in.
Distraction from Negative Thoughts can be found if you Get Creative to deal with anxiety
The focus required by creative projects keeps our minds engaged on the immediate task. By remaining engaged, the mind is less inclined to spiral into anxious thoughts. We also get a break from the input of the digital world because we are busy doing something unrelated. This distraction and distance from the anxiety is important because it can be the pause we need to put our thoughts and feelings into perspective and to consider how our physical body is feeling as well.
Suggested Activities on how to get creative to deal with anxiety
- Puzzles are a good way to remind yourself of how to focus. You are using problem-solving skills and your visual senses. Word search or crossword puzzles appeal to some, and jigsaw puzzles have become very popular during the pandemic.
- Needlework, in all its forms, is an excellent option. The repetitive movements of stitching are soothing and it’s something accessible to all skill levels. Consider knitting, crochet, sewing, quilting, embroidery, or macramé.
- Painting. Paint by number, paint a copy of a photo or another painting, paint abstract designs, or just paint a wall. Painting taps into your creativity and sharpens your mind and memory.
- Simply Get Creative to deal with anxiety
A Sense of Achievement, Freedom, and Control
When you work on something creative you not only slow down and relax, you actually have something to show for your time as well. Progress is synonymous with growth, and by making something there’s a sense of development. The project may not be complete, but there is visual progress each time you work on it. This sense of accomplishment and productivity can give meaning to our efforts and reassurance that we are capable individuals.
The Covid-19 pandemic has set limits on the lives of individuals worldwide. They may well be for our own protection, but it is a challenge to adjust to the loss of freedom. We miss the privilege of being able to more or less do what we want when we want to. Doing something creative can help us cope. Regardless of what we choose to do — painting, crocheting, writing, whatever — the simple fact that we have complete power over something helps fend off feelings of frustration and helplessness.
There is no right or wrong way to be creative, and the process gives us permission to try new things, experiment and take risks. We are free to choose what to do and how to do it, and this gives us a sense of freedom and control in our lives when so much feels out of control.
Back To Mindfulness
Creativity and creating are just one way to find mindfulness in our lives, but during this pandemic time, most of us have more, often too much more, time on our hands and the need to occupy ourselves with something. Instead of trying to squeeze in a mindful shower, or a quick 15-minute reflective walk, we have the time to rediscover things we thought we didn’t have time for, or take up something we’ve been interested in but never got around to, or even try something that was never on our radar. The benefits of creative endeavors and their link to mindfulness will improve our mental health at any time, but now more than ever, they are worth pursuing.
We all struggle at some point in our lives with mental health, be it difficulty coping with things that seem like they should be easy, but somehow are not, a major life transition like moving to a new country, divorce, or a death in the family. Self-care strategies can often help, but if you feel overwhelmed, reach out for support.
One option is to call the counselors at the Community Services Center at (02) 2836-8134 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
In case of an after-hours crisis, please call the Community Services Center After Hours Line (5:00 pm – 9:00 am) 0932-594-578
Read more COVID-19 articles from the Center on how to deal with uncertainty during coronavirus