It seems a difficult thing for adults in our culture to reconcile time for themselves amongst the many roles they play, especially when those roles include work or parenthood. Creative workshops and expressive arts therapy groups might seem frivolous to the busy adult, something that they cannot justify for their “free time” because so many other things need doing. One thing we know about burning the candle at both ends and never considering your own needs, is that the risk of burnout is inevitable.
Filling Your Cup
Many of the people who have attended my Altered Books group have confessed that although they are processing difficult emotions in their creative work, they cherished the time to not have to be a wife, mother, professional, etc. They looked forward to time that they set aside each week to connect with themselves and their experiences. They admitted that if they didn’t commit themselves to the group, they probably wouldn’t be setting aside that time for themselves. It is easy to see how exhausting it is to always have to be “on” in these roles and I realize just how important it is that we find time to dedicate to our own wellbeing.
I am a huge believer in the airline safety brief. Airline attendants will tell passengers to please make sure to put on your own oxygen mask before helping the passengers or children next to you. The reason that they tell us this is because if we are panicking or worrying we may not be able to help anyone else and we may just spread the panic and worry. If we take the time to check in with ourselves and make sure we are okay, we are much more capable in playing our roles with ease. Now, we aren’t talking about an emergency landing here, but the practice of making sure we have an awareness of our limits and how to renew ourselves is critical. It’s critical in maintaining our best selves and in being present in all of our roles. We can’t pour from an empty cup, and creativity and art can give us a way to fill our cups back up.
“I’m not artistic”, “I can’t draw”, “I’m not good at that” are all things that I’ve heard people say in response to connecting with their inner creativity even when they are told that there is no artistic skill necessary. Right off the bat, the thought of creativity can map out for us where our self-doubts might be. It can help us to bring awareness to the relationship with ourselves and help us encounter perfectionist, resistant or self-sabotaging parts of ourselves. But from creativity, itself, we can explore our past in greater detail, call into view the landscape our lives, bring into focus the patterns of our relationships, and paint a picture of healing and growth.
Art and creativity can help give us a language to express our deepest worries, our greatest fears, and our most profound experiences. It can help us to verbalize things that feel unsafe to speak about, things that we’re unsure how to explain to someone else, and help us see things that we never knew were there. Creating art in a therapeutic way can be a safe way to process all of these things; it’s like handing your subconscious a paint brush or a crayon and saying “show me what you know, show me how you feel.” We get to then be a witness to our past in a way that we never have before, even through traditional talk therapy.
While the use of paint and crayons may seem like child’s play, connecting with our subconscious can be very grown-up work. It can awaken our inner children, for sure, but it is as the adult that we often have the biggest insights and have the most enlightened healing experiences. Creativity can help us to recover a sense of autonomy, a sense of strength, and a sense of self-compassion. It can also help us calm anxiety, bring hope to depression and can be a way to bring mindfulness and relief to our physical and emotion symptoms.
How Do I Get Creative?
Mindful Soul offers various workshops and therapeutic groups as well as individual counseling sessions that foster creativity and use expressive arts therapy treatment modalities. Our Creative Renewal Workshops focus on taking that much needed break from our everyday roles to be present with ourselves. These workshops also help to teach new skills that can lead to relief from the stress of our busy lives.
Our Altered Book groups are more focused on processing a person’s past through the creative uses of books and mixed media. There is no artistic ability required to attend or participate in these creative resources, but they do call for a shift in perception about how art and creativity might be able to help you. They compel us to reconsider the value and time we place in ourselves and our own growth and peace of mind. It’s time to rethink how we wouldn’t give a second thought to helping our children get involved in art and creativity, but deny ourselves what could be a deeply therapeutic experience as adults. It’s time to look for other ways to fill our cups so that we may feel replenished and ready to take on our world, one role at a time.
“All the arts we practice are apprenticeship. The big art is our life.”