We drink a lot. We, meaning people in the 21st century, people during pandemics (this is being written during the COVID-19 pandemic), people in distress, people hanging out with their pals, people everywhere. As a therapist who has worked in the mental health world for decades, I have had a front seat to observing this tremendous growth in addiction issues, especially women. Oh my.
I don’t usually write blog posts around a book, but the book pictured above, called, Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker is by far the VERY BEST BOOK I HAVE EVER READ ON SUBSTANCE ABUSE RECOVERY. I have read TONS of books, led hundreds upon hundreds of art therapy groups in rehab places over the years, and met with people in all different stages of recovery. There are a ton of great ideas out there, but this book is different. It includes loads of disturbing facts about the alcohol industry, loads of information about how alcohol negatively impacts a woman’s body, why AA isn’t always the best choice for women, and loads of information that can help you be an informed individual as you navigate our super complicated world.
Please consider buying this book for yourself, a friend, or a family member. Please consider having that uncomfy conversation with a loved one if you think they have a problem. Please consider having the uncomfy conversation with yourself if you think you have a problem. Sobriety is a beautiful thing, and trending.
Zines are cool. If you are unfamiliar with this excellent avenue for making art and communicating ideas, please follow the quick instructional video. Zines have been a popular art form since the 1930s, and offer a simple medium for art making. Your mini booklets can be can be replicated with a copier (just unfold your book after you design it, copy it, and fold it back up).
Be creative, tell your story, and communicate your ideas. Our world so complicated these days, externalizing our inner dialogue can be very therapeutic. Using a small space to express your thoughts and emotions is less overwhelming than a giant blank journal or empty canvas. Unleash your inner creativity, express your thoughts, and share your emotions with your loved ones. Chances are high they might be experiencing the same emotions in these strange times.
If you want to learn more about making zines, check out these books:
Mother’s Day 2020 in this Sunday, May 10th (in the US) might look and feel a lot different than in previous years. Let’s get creative and tap into our DIY resourceful side to create something awesome for your loved one. Don’t let an empty bank account, semi closed cities, or social distancing regulations ruin your mom’s special day. Here are five easy projects to make with things around your home:
Painted Rocks for a Garden
This project requires rocks and permanent markers such as a Sharpie pen. If you do not have rocks outside of your home, this migth require a scavenger hunt to a local park or trail. Please search for smooth rocks, and embellish it with positive words, repeated patterns or inspirational quotes. If your mom is stuck at home, and missing you and her grandchildren, she might be thrilled to find a pile of hand decorated rocks in her garden. If you are feeling super crafty, acrylic paints can work great as well.
3D Hand Image
Your mom loves your hands. Your mom loves her grandchildren’s hands too. Don’t forget, she MADE your hands when she was busy making you, and then held them a lot when you were tiny, and perhaps when you were not so tiny. Hugs and hand holding are somthing humans are really missing since social distancing became the norm. This very easy and very cool project can be done by a small child or an adult hoping to make their moms and grandmothers feel the love.
Make Mom a Reusable Cloth Mask
Masks are becoming an essential part of our lives this season. Can you follow these instructions to make you mom a super cool and very easy to make mask?
Cool COVID-19 Mother’s Day Card and Poem
Sometimes words, a card, or a poem can make your mom or special person in your life feel amazing. Sometimes expressing gratitude towards our loved ones can be far more impactful than just another gift. Be brave, write something from your heart and then be creative by folding in a cool way!
Seeds for a Garden and a Tiny Planter
If your only outings these days are to the grocery store, there are TONS of great gifts to be found such as seeds. If you have time and energy to create a tiny planter and throw in a bag of dirt, you are giving a gift and offering a fun little activity for your momma. Tiny is in. Note- the seed will probably have to be transferred to something larger after it sprouts, but starting with a tiny container is pretty fab.
Remember the recent coloring book craze for adults? Although the trend faded, now might be a great time to return to the simple activity of coloring. This repetitive, bilateral act can serve as a very powerful medium and a self soothing activity. Starting and completing something simple can also be helpful to people who are living through something chaotic without an end in sight.
This image of small mandalas was created to be appealing to all ages, and across cultures. Each circle looks like a microscopic Coronavirus. Humor, even during the darkest of times is essential. For seasoned therapists, we can attest to the importance of keeping low levels of humor accessible during traumatic moments and through processing trauma.
The act of anthropomorphizing or managing something that feels unmanageable can also help a person truly get a hold of or own the thing that feels overwhelming. At this writing, one third of the human race is experiencing some form of a quarantine to stop the spread of the COVID-19/Coronavirus. It might be impossible to make sense of such a staggering number. Pulling back a bit to get some perspective is really important. Coloring, and other forms of self care is a great way to “pull back” a bit. Trying to fall back on activities we normally find stimulating might be too overwhelming if you are in a state of shock. I have found that turning off the news for small increments of time can also be helpful.
This coloring sheet can also be a great tool to share with children. Children need to understand what is happening around them. If they are not informed in any way, they might create their own narrative, and wonder if they caused all of the changes they are seeing at home. If they have too much information, they can be overwhelmed. Coloring, and using a playful Coronavirus image might be helpful for gently explaining this experience, and offering an opportunity for them to express their emotions.
Please print the image above. As you color the picture, please spend time figuring out your small piece of this experience. Print a few copies to share with your housemates or whomever you are with in your home. This will end. We cannot stay home forever. When we return to our active worlds, we will be wiser, kinder, and more appreciative of the everyday things we might have taken for granted a few weeks ago.
Let’s switch up the negative names of our new Coronavirus reality to something slightly more life affirming. We have been told to hunker down and quarantine (the word hunker is defined as to squat or crouch down low). Before we switch up the names though, we might need to re-imagine what we are doing. Can you use the metaphor of a caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly to mark your current experience of being stuck at home? Please try this project to muster some resilience.
- Please find some paper in your home, or just use your imagination to conceptualize this creative angle on our strange situation.
- Please divide your paper up into three sections.
- In the first section, please create a caterpillar. If you are not feeling the creativity urge, maybe just jot down a list of things you were doing a few weeks ago that might represent a less robust version of yourself (for all of us who were stretched thin, this might not be too hard to imagine). My list would probably include drinking too much coffee, not completing projects, not returning phone calls, etc
- In the second section, please draw a cocoon or chrysalis (chrysalis is the technical term any third grader might remind you of, should you refer to the metamorphosis of a butterfly using the word cocoon). Again if this is too base or juvenile for your liking, please use this space to jot down a list of enjoyable and life affirming things you might explore during this home time.
- In the third section, please draw a butterfly to represent a new and improved version of you who might walk out of your home when this is all over (yes- it will end). Imagine yourself reconnecting with the outside world in a new way with wings or something cool like that. A fresh perspective which is just about the same as new wings. We will all be different. Social isolation is not in our genetic makeup, so reconnecting with our species will probably be pretty spectacular. Again, if the butterfly metaphor is a bit pedestrian for you, perhaps just jot down a list of how you might envision reconnecting with the world.
More than two billion people are currently on lockdown in their homes on the planet as of this writing. That number might actually go up, as experts have warned that this week is going to look pretty grim. This unprecedented experience is perhaps the first time in human history that such a massive number of people are all essentially doing the same thing. The quest to stop the transmission of Coronavirus is being called a variety of ominous things such as shelter in place, lockdown , quarantine, social distancing, self isolation, and other negative things. In some cities, this experience is being enforced with harsh punishments for violations, with soldiers in the streets. What would happen if we changed the languaging to conceptualize this as something more palatable to the human experience? Could we call it cocooning? hibernating? pausing? resetting our compass? Slowing down? Respecting our elders and fragile fellow humans? Being a great Homo sapien?
How we conceptualize this whole thing will really determine our mental health throughout this experience. If we shift our experience to call this cocooning, we will be emerging from this quarantine as a completely different person, community, world, and species. Things could go wonderfully or terribly in this process, but there are some theories being kicked around that this might be a jump in consciousness caused by a radical shift in re-evaluating our values, and a radical appreciation for life we might have ignored just a few weeks ago. Stay safe and be well.
The Artist’s Way has been a best-selling book for the past 25 years. This book offers readers an opportunity to walk through a twelve week process (one chapter per week) of breaking through creative blocks. Julia Cameron’s recipe is simple, stick with two non-negotiable tasks: writing “morning pages” (daily journal entry of three full hand written pages), and take oneself on a weekly “artist’s date,” while reading this book. Each chapter forces readers to explore the uncomfortable “stuff” that holds us back from being our best selves.
Having led many Artist’s Way groups as an art therapist, I can attest to the remarkable power of transformation this book offers to participants. Cameron’s ideas are so gentle, yet powerful, it is impossible to not change if you really do the full twelve week process. I have personally had massive, personal transformations while engaging in the exercises in this book, and watched participants experience intense and profound change while walking through it.
As an art therapist, I have read many, many books on creativity, change and transformation, but few are as thorough as The Artist’s Way. Although Cameron is not a therapist herself, her book reads as a therapeutic journey of exploration, and really offers an opportunity for people to become their own therapist.
Please click on image of book above to purchase this book on Amazon.
This art therapy blog will begin to review some art products. Today’s feature are the amazing Kwik Stix. Don’t be fooled by the small child featured on the packaging, these amazing paint sticks are the perfect medium for all age groups. The colors are vibrant, and the process is neat, dry and simply perfect.
As an art therapist, finding a medium that is age appropriate, respectful, and perfect for a person’s motor skills is essential to the work we do. The perfect medium can serve as a conduit for helping a person truly express themselves. I have been using this for people with dementia, and found they are powerful because of the vibrant color, ease of use, and smooth application onto paper. I have also used them with teens, adults, small children and large art therapy groups with equally impressive results. For more details or to order, please clic on the link above.
Steven Colbert sat in with an art therapist on a recent episode. Please follow this link to view the hilarious clip: Steven Colbert episode 03/14/18.