October is Emotional Wellness Month, and with so many overwhelming circumstances this year, mental and emotional health is more important than ever.
It's vital to take note of your mental and emotional well-being, and tend to it if it needs uplifting. I've always had a healthy level of self-awareness regarding my feelings, actions, and subconscious - but what I was missing was what to do about all of those feelings and how to care for them. Being in my Masters program for Art Therapy and Counseling has helped this and has changed my life - personal, business, and artistic - for the better.
I thought I would share some tools I've been learning and some art-based activities to help address your emotional well-being. Artistic skill has no relevance here! These directives do not need ANY artistic talent; the focus is on your expressing of emotions. Please note, I am not a licensed art therapist, but in-training; these are not meant to provide any personal therapy, but to help you be more aware of your emotions and be, hopefully, calming.
Probably the most important thing I've learned in this program so far is that you can't take care of others until you take care of yourself. If you have ever flown anywhere, you know the safety instructions: Do not attempt to help others with their oxygen until you have secured yours. It is the same thing with your mental and emotional well-being: if you are not taking care of yourself, you may not be able to fully or properly care for your loved ones.
The next thing I am learning - right now actually, through my Trauma course - is that you might not even realize that you've been affected by something until it totally takes over you. The psyche and subconscious do some tricky things in order to protect you, so you might think you're a-okay until suddenly you are overwhelmed out of nowhere. This is why it is so important to be aware of your feelings, address even the tiniest things that make you feel off, and regularly check in with yourself. Below I share some ways to do that!
The first, and most tried and true way to check in with yourself, is journaling. People of all places have been journaling for centuries. It's not necessarily a diary (although you can keep it as a diary if you'd like!), but a space to write your thoughts. This helps you 1, get your thoughts out - you're literally getting rid of them just by writing them down on paper; and 2, in the future you can read back, reflect, and see how you've grown.
Here are some journaling prompts to get you started:
If you don't know where to start, just write about your day. One thing that made you happy, or one thing that frustrated you, or maybe both. Just start writing and I promise, you'll be surprised at how easily it will just flow out of you.
If you're dealing with a problem, imagine your friend is going through that same issue: What would you say to them? What advice would you give them?
Think about how you're feeling, and write about the last time that you felt that way. What was similar about that point in time? What was different?
Too many thoughts? Do a brain dump. Just write any and all thoughts that come to mind; scribble them all over the page, if need be. Eventually you may feel as though they're finally slowing down. At this point, you can look over the page and begin to organize them or decide what needs to be addressed (if anything!).
Here are some art activities that can help you check in with yourself:
Mandalas are a centuries-old design that have been traditionally used as guidance tools, meditation aids, and additions to sacred spaces. They are also incredibly healing and calming due to their repetitive, circular nature. Get out some paper, and either markers, colored pencils, crayons - anything you'd like. Start with a tiny circle in the middle of the page, and then keep expanding outward, creating tiny arcs along the outside of the circle. Continue this, expanding the layers until the entire page is filled.
- You can expand your mandala with any design you'd like; maybe they're flower petals growing outward. Maybe you need some sun so you create rays of sunshine radiating outward. Maybe you're not so sure and they're just random shapes - anything that allows you to continue repeating until the page is filled.
Create what you're feeling: Think about how you're feeling in this moment, and choose which color best represents these feelings. Grab variations of this color in markers, colored pencils, paints, whatever you decide, and just start scribbling. Maybe you're angry and need to make strong, bold, jagged lines. Or maybe you feel soft today and want to create small, light, round shapes. Just start creating marks in these colors and see how you feel. Maybe the colors switch in your piece, or the marks may transform. All of this is okay. Just create.
Create what you need: Sit with your eyes closed, and think about what you need in this moment. Is it a blanket and cup of tea? A road trip? A night out? Whatever it may be, create it. Just start drawing, painting, or collaging what that might look like for you (maybe journal about it too!), and show yourself that you have the capacity to give yourself everything you need.
You do not have to feel okay 100% of the time. In fact, without lows, we cannot fully experience or appreciate the highs. Please know that anything and everything you feel is valid. Regularly being aware of whatever those feelings are should help you feel fuller, better prepared, and more connected with yourself. ❤️
Here are some resources for mental health and emotional well-being: