4 Tips to Getting Started with Using Art for Anxiety
Anxious symptoms and worry thoughts, as many of you know can be debilitating to children, teens or adults. Anxious physical symptoms can range from heart racing, tight chest, difficulty breathing, sweaty palms, headaches, nausea, stomach cramps, dizziness and feeling like you will faint. Worry thoughts can begin with one thought of “what if’s” which spiral out of control or the looking into the future and seeing the worst-case scenario of any situation you’re going through or, too many self-critical thoughts that can keep you from taking step toward your goals.
One approach that has helped calm and shift the mind for many of my clients of all ages to more healing thoughts, creativity, ideas, and even solving problems is creating Art. Art is an effective form of communication, it helps us to understand who we are, express our feelings and ideas that words cannot. Personally, I don’t remember myself as a child painting or drawing but only because I didn’t see my ability to draw like others around me could draw. However, in my 40’s I took it up after a challenging transition in my life and found the therapeutic experience that so many of my young clients at the time were experiencing. I decided to create mandalas everyday as part of my meditation practice and then it just expanded.
As a registered play therapist the research that informs my work regards art as a form of “play”. Art provides so much support and a way to cope when we are experiencing life challenges, transitions, emotional or mental instability that many people go through at one point or period in our lives. Art is not only a coping tool but also therapeutic as it allows for the unconscious to rise up to the conscious in a safe way allowing healing to happen without the need for words. Sometimes much more effective and powerful than words can be. It is also a somatic approach meaning Art works through the body through the process of art making before your mind can even be conscious of the healing underlying the process. So, I would like to encourage anyone experiencing anxiety and stress related life challenges to step into utilizing art to heal and transform these emotional and mental states to improve mental clarity, problem solving, and calming the body and mind, shift the thoughts that have been plaguing you and bring you to happier states of well-being.
Here are 4 Tips to getting started on using art:
- Give yourself permission to create art. This is the first and most important one as anyone even thinking about art begins to think every reason not to do it and why it won’t work. But start with “why not?” “Why not just try something new, why not give it a chance, why not see if can work for you?” Then say, “let’s try this and see how I feel” and “lets see what happens when I paint or draw”! You won’t know unless you try.
- Let go of self-criticism because using art as a therapeutic process or coping tool is about the process not about the product itself. Go into this process with the idea that you have the freedom to make mistakes, the freedom to do something that may not look like what you visually thought in your mind and, that you can give permission to show up in the art in a very child like way and not have to be an adult in your art work!
- Get in the flow and trust your intuition. Sometimes we can connect with certain colors that want to show up on a canvas or paper just begin by doing free drawing and allow for the colors to show up in shapes, squiggly lines, objects or symbols. Sometimes we just have to trust ourselves that what we draw or paint is what is needed at the time. Sometimes we paint or draw the same things over and over again, give yourself permission to do that too! Sometimes we need to feel safe with what we draw or paint until we expand and explore more.
- Relax and set the intention to get into a creative mode by setting a routine and a prepared space. Meditation can help you relax and get into the process of art. You can also try lighting a candle and incense to create the mood. Have a corner or space prepared and set up with paint, paint brushes, mixed media sketch book, canvas, or markers and a journal available. Setting a time for your art making is learning to make self-care a priority and reminding you or your self-worth and value.
I hope these tips will support and encourage art making to be a part of your healing and transformation! You will find that art can help you to feel joy and pleasure that gets you out of every day thoughts and anxieties. Art can help you tap into your intuition and creative powers. Art is life enhancing! If you are interested in a 3 month or 6 month coaching program that integrates art and meditation reach out to me by phone, messenger on Facebook, or contact me through email.