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Mental Health Day - 10th October 2023

A colourful, abstract drawing, coloured in with watercolours
An introduction to watercolour pencils

I’ve talked about this before and it’s no secret, but getting creative was literally my saviour during lockdown in 2020. In addition to the general health anxiety I was feeling, I was furloughed. For the first time in my life I was out of work, so I had way more time than I wanted and little else to do with it except worry about the whole sorry situation.

I was clearing out the cupboards when I found all the sea glass I’d collected and remembered how I had always meant to ‘one day do something with it’. Suddenly a creative spark was born!

It's a story I’ve told anyone who’ll listen, over and over, but I do it because it’s important. It was at this point that I discovered the connection between creativity and feeling well in your mind.

Art for Mental Health

I recently signed up to a 10 week ‘Art for Mental Health’ at the Hive in Worcester and I’ve attended the first 2 sessions. I’m receiving fascinating insight from an extremely knowledgeable teacher about the links between the two. Way more knowledge than I can possibly impart in a simple blog, but in a nutshell, focussing your mind on an enjoyable and relaxing task takes you away from your everyday worries, fact.

A picture of a hand drawn mandala
Mandala Drawing

In a sense, it also doesn’t really matter what physical thing you produce at the end of it, it’s the process of doing it that counts. This post contains pictures of work I've done in my first 2 sessions, they're never going to win a Turner Prize are they? But to me, they represent how I was feeling that day, an enjoyable couple of hours spent away from other ‘stuff’ and a chance to enter a flow state where everything just clicks and feels ‘right’. If you’ve ever experienced that then you’ll know what I mean.

My Mental Health Journey

When I look back on my personal mental health journey, I see my 20s and my 30s as being a bit of a struggle if I’m totally honest. Battling against the bad days and doing everything in my power to avoid those which often included seeking out behaviours which weren’t always good for me. I realise now that I took good mental health for granted, I assumed that it was a given I would wake up each morning in a happy state of mind and if that didn’t happen then there was obviously something wrong, I was ill and therefore needed either some (self) medication or I needed to sleep it off until it went away, rather like the flu.

What I’ve since learned is that, for me, mental wellbeing and a happy/contented state of mind requires maintenance and is not a given. How do you maintain a happy state? Well look at something you rely on daily, for most of us that could be a car. If you don’t maintain it regularly, fuel it properly, treat it occasionally and run it sensibly then it will eventually break. Same with our bodies, same with our minds, we can’t just take for granted that we can fail to take care of it and it’s going to show up for us, day in day out. This is the case for most things in life so why should we treat our minds any differently?

Mind Maintenance

For these reasons, signing up to a course, or taking time out for yourself in any capacity, isn’t something to be ashamed of, nor is it indicative of a problem, it’s just part of your maintenance routine, whatever works best for you, and by the way that could include medication, I'm not saying this is the only solution.

These days, waking up and feeling below par isn’t necessarily a problem for me or something I need to excessively worry about and I try to lean into those feelings nowadays when it happens, rather than actively avoiding them. It could be a gentle reminder to calm things down a bit (which is totally normal), it could be a nudge that I need to get some fresh air and exercise, it could be a reaction to a tragic event (which again, is a completely normal human response) or it could be any other factor outside of our control, those pesky hormonal or chemical imbalances or even a change in the moon. The key thing is, a bad day doesn’t mean a bad decade or a bad life. It doesn’t have to define us and there are little bits we can do to help address the balance, even if it's just by a very small amount.

What mind maintenance are you going to gift yourself today?

Just a little reminder that there are 1 or 2 places remaining on my Christmas craft workshops, click here if you would like to book.

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