Thinking about the past, present and future and to successfully plan and attain our goals, is a normal process. However, when anxiety starts to creep in, we suffer from the consequences of high stress hormones. This causes symptoms like insomnia, changes in eating patterns, repetitive thoughts, and even digestive upset.
Covid-19 pandemic and media sources have created more insecurity than ever. We have a constant barrage of bad news causing us to fear for our financial future and our family and friends becoming ill. We may also worry how our family and friends are doing in isolation. It is a tough time for all. It can also be tough for people who are perceptive and vulnerable to stress and worry to begin with.
A lot of people value Jon Kabat Zin’s mindfulness-based stress relief. It’s an awesome technique that eases anxious thoughts by helping the person be in the moment. The moment is focusing on here and now, the present, not the past or the future. It can be a fantastic grounding tool. Being ungrounded is linked to having anxiety, not being present and in the here in now, and having our thoughts in mental limbo. One meditation guru suggests that when we have thoughts and we should allow them to come and go. We should not think we are our thoughts because they always come and go. Any thoughts that come while meditating, welcome them in with your in-breath and release them with your out-breath. Slowly breathe in deeply, noticing your ribs expanding while filling up with air and out feeling your ribs contracting as the air flows out or your ribs. Breath work helps with being more present in one’s body and calming. However, some folks find that meditation does not work well for them. It is not for everyone.
Another simpler way to ground yourself is using the 3 2 1 method. Name three things you can see, 2 things you can touch and 1 thing you can smell. By tapping into one’s senses it helps us to become more grounded in our physical body rather than in our head and racing thoughts.
Art therapy can help process your anxious thoughts. It can be simple yet profound. The exercise I will describe herein, uses different areas of our brain that we would not be able to access by simply speaking to someone. It taps into our senses, sight, touch and smell. It accesses the verbal centers of our brain via writing and our unconscious center where artmaking and creativity come from. An art therapy exercise would be to outline your hands, and then on each finger write and/or create things that bring you pleasure that you can see, touch, taste and smell. Use any colours or materials that you feel suit your feelings around your choices. It can be made with collage, paint, pencils, markers, pastels or even sculpted hands with fingers. This is a nice grounding activity that engages our minds in a variety of ways through creative artmaking. Once finished place this piece where you can see it to give you suggestions when you feel your mind is racing and your thoughts are not grounded.
This is my own personal art therapy. It shows touch of my cat and dog's fur. The smell of lavender and an essential oil diffuser. Hearing relaxing music, positive and uplifting tv. Tasting a soothing herbal tea, healthy foods and focusing on good things.
Heather Caruso is an art therapist of Art Therapy Guelph. If you would like more information on how we can help you, call 519 827 9237 or go to arttherapyguelph.com to book a free get acquainted chat.