Mental health is a cause that has always been near and dear to my heart and it has been quite pleasing to see how mental health awareness has gained relevance and importance in the past few years. With May being Mental Health Awareness month, it should not be lost on us that as we continue our second year of tackling the coronavirus, we are also in the throes of a mental health pandemic. The escalating rise of mental health problems should not come as a surprise if we take a quick look around to see the sensory and emotional overload, we are subjected to with our fast-paced lives governed by our smartphones and social media profiles. Moreover, the mental burden of the pandemic has further aggravated our mental health crisis, as we find ourselves confined indoors with healthy social interactions being replaced with screens.
Now the question is, where do we go from here? How do we look after our mental health and emotional wellbeing during a global pandemic?
The key to looking after your mental health starts from a promise. A promise that you make with yourself that your health, both mental and physical, should be the highest priority in your life. In order to honour this promise, you will have to diligently implement and practice self-care.
“What does it mean to practice self-care?”, you might wonder.
Firstly, let us get one thing straight: self-care absolutely does not mean to blindly overindulge yourself or to be abjectly selfish. It simply refers to the act of taking care of yourself be physically, mentally or emotionally. Therefore, self-care will be different for everyone as we all have different ways and methods that help us manage the stressors in our lives. Some examples of self-care could be journaling, meditating, spending time in nature or even working out.
However, there is one practice of self-care that I believe is not talked about enough and that is self-expression through art. It is our ability to express ourselves that makes us human and just like a vessel that can overflow, we tend to bottle our traumas, emotions and thoughts up until we are overflowing and overwhelmed. Healing through self-expression can come in many forms depending on what artistic medium you are comfortable with. This could be just sitting down with a sketch pad and colouring pencils to doodle or having an elaborate setup with a canvas and a box of acrylic paints and brushes.
The process of healing through art is referred to as art therapy which is an excellent way to tap into your repressed self and all the stress that you hold inside by letting it all flow out on paper and canvas. I encourage people to enrol themselves into art therapy courses if they are presented with the opportunity and if that is not possible, there are plenty of free resources online that provide you with prompts and ideas that help you take charge of your creativity and recovery.
To start you off on your art healing journey, here are some art therapy exercises that can help at times of stress or in a moment of introspection:
- Let the music play
Grab a piece of paper and a stack of colour pencils. Now, play your favourite piece of music and let the emotions that come up guide you as you let your creativity flow on paper. This will help you unwind and destress after a particularly challenging day.
- Handmade Selfie
You might be a veteran at taking selfies but taking some time out to sit down and try your hand at drawing a self-portrait can be quite the introspective exercise. Speaking from personal experience, making your own self-portrait helps you take an objective look at yourself and realize how beautiful you truly are.
- Give me freedom
For this exercise, I encourage you to use a medium and tool that you have never tried before. This could be either using oil paints, coffee or even an unconventionally shaped canvas. You should be unrestricted by any concerns of what art materials you have and do not have. Once you have decided with what you want to use for your artwork, now create something that represents freedom to you. This could be an idea, situation or even a person that makes you feel free. You can go as abstract and surreal with this as you want. By doing this exercise, I assure you that you will come out feeling rejuvenated and with a new zest for life.
Give these exercises a try and I guarantee you that you will quickly realize the positive effect that art has on your mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Mental health is equally important as your physical health and it is with active self-care and with the help of medical professionals, we can make sure that our mental health is being taken care of and a high priority for us. As someone who professionally creates art, I cannot begin to tell you how liberating and reaffirming it is when I stand in front of a canvas, ready to have my emotions and thoughts run free. My artistic process has become my coping mechanism for stress and anxiety. God knows, where I would have been had I not discovered the power of art.
On that note, let us honour and celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month by taking out our sturdy drawing pads and trusty art supplies and letting our imaginations run free…
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Check my digital artwork collection here.