Alive! 2016

It’s the last day of 2015 and I’m in the process of reflecting back on what I’ve learned this year and making plans for what I want to learn and accomplish in 2016. Sometimes, I choose a word for the year that guides my intentions. In 2015 my word was Authentic. I wanted to focus on being more authentic (true to myself) and doing more of what I felt was truly in line with my passions, skills, and goals. I’ve realized that being authentic is a constant process.

I opened my private practice, Mindful Art Center, at the end of 2014 and didn’t have a solid plan as to how I wanted the business to progress. I had been working with adults with traumatic brain injuries, and as much as I love that work, it is not the only population that I wanted to work with. I became an art therapist to work with kids. I want to help kids learn to cope with anxiety and depression and live more fully – to build confidence in themselves and grow to be productive and happy adults. Working with kids also means working with their parents and supporting them in their journey to raise a confidant child. Parenting is not an easy job and having support along the way is crucial.

This year I also became aware of Stand with Trans, an organization that supports transgender youth – their mission is “..to provide the tools needed by transgender youth so they will be empowered, supported and validated as they transition to their authentic life.” The work and support of this organization, founded by Roz Keith, is invaluable to families of transgender kids.

I created some new fiber artwork this year and participated in a few shows. I feel my work is evolving and I’m excited about where it’s going – new work is planned for the new year.

2016 Alive!

that is my word for the new year – Alive – I want to bring the energy of that word into all the work I do in 2016 and beyond. I want to do work that I love – I want to help others feel alive and live more confidently. I want to create artwork that makes me feel alive and inspired. So, here’s to 2016 and fully living our lives – sharing our work with each other – and inspiring others.

I’m fine… what’s a support system anyway?

What do you do when you’re faced with a difficult situation in which you don’t have any 03_30_2010WEBexperience? Suddenly, you need information, you need help, you need guidance of some kind – but you’re not sure what guidance because you’ve never faced this situation. Most of us search the internet – we type in the word or phrase that describes our situation and get a million results. Where do we start? Too much information can just add to the feeling of overwhelm. At this point, we could really use a support system.

I didn’t fully understand the term “support system” until I needed one myself. When my confusion and worry became so overwhelming I didn’t know what to do next. My situation became all encompassing and felt like I was the only one dealing with this, but when I reached out to a friend during a conversation her objective perspective was invaluable. She offered insight and suggestions that helped me move forward and actively deal with the circumstances. Sometimes when we are overwhelmed our thinking becomes clouded with worry and solutions are difficult to find. I think a lot of us feel so vulnerable asking for help that we suffer alone, and we should never do that. Whether we’re depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, or whatever, it can feel scary to tell someone how you feel but this is when it’s most important to open up to someone you trust. Or at least talk to someone impartial who can help evaluate your situation from an objective position and help guide you to a solution, or at least help you find some resources that will help. There are are many anonymous help lines and resources available, I have included a few below.

Right now is a good time to think about your support system and according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services on the website Mental Health .gov to Build a Support System this is what you need:

Build Your Support System
Find someone—such as a parent, family member, teacher, faith leader, health care provider or other trusted individual, who:
• Gives good advice when you want and ask for it; assists you in taking action that will help
• Likes, respects, and trusts you and who you like, respect, and trust, too
• Allows you the space to change, grow, make decisions, and even make mistakes
• Listens to you and shares with you, both the good and bad times
• Respects your need for confidentiality so you can tell him or her anything
• Lets you freely express your feelings and emotions without judging, teasing, or criticizing
• Works with you to figure out what to do the next time a difficult situation comes up
• Has your best interest in mind
(http://www.mentalhealth.gov/talk/people-with-mental-health-problems/)

Take the time right now to think about who is or can be a part of your support system. And the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed and need some guidance, call someone in your support system – even it it’s one person, call them. Talk to them and get the support you need. Remember, you are not alone and you deserve peace and happiness.

Resources:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255

the Trevor Project
Our trained counselors are here to support you 24/7. If you are a young person in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, call the Trevor Lifeline now at 866-488-7386.

National Alliance on Mental Illness
the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

GoodTherapy.org
An association of mental health professionals from more than 30 countries worldwide who support efforts to reduce harm in therapy. Led by founder and CEO Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, the GoodTherapy.org team is committed to furthering awareness of the benefits of psychotherapy, to reducing harm and stigma, and to supporting mental health professionals in providing quality treatment.

8 Ways Creating Art Benefits Your Health

8 Ways Creating Art Benefits Your Health

Do you remember when you were a kid and making art was fun and free of judgement? You could draw and color anything and it felt good. It didn’t matter if the colors weren’t “realistic” or objects weren’t easily recognizable – explaining every aspect of the drawing to anyone who would listen was part of the fun. Why not continue making art in this way as we grow older? At a time when we have more responsibilities isn’t even more important to take care of ourselves? To create opportunities for those moments of personal joy we get from creating something from nothing?

As an artist and an art therapist I have personally experienced and observed in others the benefits or creating art.IMG_0257Small

Here is a list of 8 ways creating art benefits your health.

1. Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Creating art can be a relaxing and often meditative experience. When we engage in creating art without fear of judgement – by just focusing on the process – we are able to lower our heart rate and blood pressure which calms the body. When we are in this state of relaxed creativity, we are distracted from outside pressures or problems causing our stress. Also, when we are less stressed we are better able to objectively look at outside circumstances causes our stress and anxiety and develop coping strategies and solutions.

2. Communication without words

I’ve worked with individuals who, for various reasons, would not or could not speak. Using art as a way of communication opens up the opportunities visual conversations. Not all language is spoken and lot can be said with a drawing or photograph.

3. Improve memory

The repetitive nature knitting and weaving are a great way to help improve memory. The brain creates the pathways for the pattern and the repetition makes the memory stronger. This is one reason it can be difficult to break a habit, because our brain has practiced it so much. This is also a reason we can complete things as if on “auto pilot” – like typing or driving. We have practiced so much that we don’t need to consciously think about every step along the way. However, when someone for instance experiences a brain injury some of those automatic behaviors become difficult. Using art can help retrain the brain to be able to create those good habits again.
After a while of becoming more forgetful, I personally started knitting more complex patterns to see if I could improve my own memory. After a few months I noticed that I was no longer forgetting simple things like why I walked into the kitchen, or an appointment coming up during the week. The process helps strengthen our thinking.

4. Process grief

For a long time people have gathered to make quilts with the fabric from clothing of deceased loved ones as a way to remember them. By gathering in groups to create the quilt and talk about the person and the emotions involved, is itself a healing process.

5. Express emotions

Sometimes words are not enough to express how we are feeling. Sometimes we do not have the right words for what we are feeling. Sometimes we need a cathartic release for our emotions and art is a safe way to let it all out. Put it on paper or canvas – draw it out – rip it up… The art will not judge you or correct you or tell you you’re wrong – there is no right or wrong way to create.

6. Improve fine motor skills

Manipulating string when weaving, or using scissors to cut around a complex magazine image are great ways to improve fine motor skills. And because the process is enjoyable it doesn’t feel like work or therapy.

7. Improve self-esteem and confidence

I’ve worked with many kids and adults who say “I’m not an artist” or “I can’t draw” before they even start! There are plenty of techniques and design elements that you can learn to help improve your artwork, and that is a part of art education, which anyone can learn. However, when it comes to creating art for self expression and self-care it is all about your personal expression and there is no right or wrong way.

8. Joy

Creating art can bring you joy if you let it. Just think about kids scribbling with sidewalk chalk in the summer. It’s fun! Express yourself.

 

How does art help you? I would love to hear from you – tell me in the comments how you have experienced the health benefits of art.

Self-care

Self-care consists of intentionally doing something that improves your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. This is different for everyone. Personally, I like running and making art. Running is a way to get myself moving and to get myself outside – since I work in my studio or from home so often, getting outside needs to be planned. Making art helps reduce my anxiety and connects me to myself in a way I can’t completely explain. But IChangeSmall do know that when I neglect making art my depression gets worse, which then makes it difficult to make art and I get stuck in a bad cycle. I also have a difficult time sticking to a fitness routine. I start off running or walking every day then a month goes by and I have forgotten all about it. So, in order to get healthier – both physically and mentally – I’ve decided to begin a radical self-care challenge.

I plan to research and implement as many self-care ideas that I can reasonably incorporate into my daily life.

Something I have already started is to send out positive message postcards to family and friends. I benefit from making the art and hopefully others benefit by receiving a positive message in the mail.

What do you do for self-care?

 

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trying to be authentic

Sometime in 2014 I decided my word of the year would be Authentic. I wanted to be honest about who I am and share my opinion without apologies and CourageSmalljust be happy with myself. I figured, in order to do that I needed to be truly authentic. Any yet, I struggle with telling the truth. The truth about what I think and how I feel. I don’t lie, but I’m not always my most authentic self. I’m afraid to put myself out there and be judged. I want approval and acceptance – like most of us – and I often feel that I’m not living up to my potential (especially after seeing so many people doing amazing things and building huge businesses both online and off). And because I’m not as successful as everyone else I see online, I feel as if I’m not working hard enough or just not expert enough at what I do.

Then I get real feedback from those that matter most – my family, friends, and clients – the people that I actually serve each day and interact with regularly. They remind me that what I do is important – that it matters. When I pay attention to the present moment it is easier for me to see what I’m contributing and easier for me to see its worth. And it is worthy. What I do in my small little bubble of existence is important – it’s valid.

With endless information so easily accessible online and celebrity selfies everywhere – it’s hard not to compare ourselves to everyone else – whose picture has more ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ – who has more ‘friends’… When what really matters is how we see ourselves. If we value ourselves and our own unique contribution to the world, then we will know that we are always enough. Sometimes we just need a reminder.