invest in your mental health and get creative

Are you content with how you spend your evenings? Are you stressed and overwhelmed? Struggling with your mental health?

I have a suggestion for you. It’s called, CREATE NIGHT.

I listened to a podcast about happiness a while back (BBC radio 4 I think) and one guest on the show talked about happiness being a less salient state. We tend not to notice it as much as we notice the unhappiness and stress. I believe this is true. Throw our digital world into the mix and before you’ve even blinked, your happiness at the beautiful sunrise you’ve just experience is thrown aside by the discontentment you now feel after seeing the breathtaking photo of the Northern Lights that someone has just posted on Instagram.

The show participants went on to discuss when they felt the most happy. This was when they were doing something that required their full attention. It was an activity that forced them to be fully engaged in the moment. This is one of the reasons gardening is good for you. It is one such task that fully absorbs you, mind and body. It presents little problems that aren’t world-crushing, but require your thoughtful attention to solve. You learn and achieve, which is uplifting. It can have it’s failures and frustrations but at the end of the day – it’s just a garden.

In our garden, I set aside this patch to plant vegetables and then planted some flower seeds in the adjacent bed. A purple, butterfly-attracting blend of flora and fauna. My husband observed to me the other day, once the plants were well and truly growing, “it’s interesting how you’ve planted butterfly-attracting flowers next to the vegetables seeing as how their offspring will destroy anything edible that grows there.”

Well, a little too late with the nature lesson, pal.

It was actually kind of funny. Whereas, when things go wrong at work, it’s not so funny. Palpitation-inducing, rather.

what is CREATE NIGHT?

It is an evening when you set out to create something. Anything. It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t have to be for a purpose. In fact, it’s ideal if it’s not purposeful. If you end up giving it away or using it for something because it’s ended up being rather delightful, then bonus.

If you don’t believe you are creative, you’re wrong. Every human being is. We all just create different things. To create means to bring something into existence that wasn’t there before. It is a skill that can be practised and the more you create the more “creative” you become, which can benefit you in all areas of life including work.

what could you create?

Your CREATE NIGHT could involve the following skills/activities:

  • Drawing
  • Model building
  • Letter writing
  • Poetry
  • Scrap-booking
  • Photography
  • Sewing
  • Baking
  • Videography
  • Orienteering
  • Writing fiction
  • Writing non-fiction
  • Event planning
  • Recipe writing
  • Connection (not just any socialising but intentional, like phoning the Gran you don’t keep in touch with well)
  • Gardening
  • Interior design
  • Sculpting
  • Painting
  • Reviewing
  • Dancing
  • Playing an instrument
  • Beauty therapy
  • Design
  • Scheduling
  • Language-learning
  • Video game design
  • Computer programming

The idea is that you’re not doing one of these things to tick off an admin task or do something you needed to do anyway. It is simply to create.

why, though?

It is good for your mental health. This is because it absorbs you in the task and serves as a distraction, as already mentioned. It also serves as it’s own kind of therapy.

“Often creativity helps you to express parts of yourself that are being hidden,” says Dr Sheridan Linnell, who runs the Master of Art Therapy course at the University of Western Sydney. “Expression through art can be healing in itself, and it can also be a stepping stone for being able to make sense of yourself and express your story to others.”

From a Guardian article about Art Therapy

CREATE NIGHT is an antidote to perfectionism. No one ever makes the perfect result first time around. That can often be the agonising thing about being a professional artist – not knowing when to call a piece ‘finished’.

My perfectionism trait is a trigger for anxiety. The fear of getting it wrong when it really counts can be paralysing. To open myself up to mistakes and failure when it doesn’t count helps me build resilience.

The focus is on creating something and that is the achievement, not the standard of the created thing. Feeling a sense of achievement is so important when you’re battling a mental health problem.

So, why don’t you join me? Any night of the week, whatever you fancy creating. Tweet me with a pic or just tell me what you created #createnight

some rules

No criticising what you create to others. It’s not the point. And if it’s amazing, no one likes false humility. 😉

No pressure. You don’t have to commit to doing it on the same night and every week. It’s not supposed to be something else you could fail at and feel guilt over.

Go wild! Imagine this, you could actually try the thing you’ve been wanting to try doing forever. Ssh! No one even has to know, it’s just for you. Why can’t you write a book? Why can’t you paint a picture having never picked up a paintbrush since you were nine, except to paint your lounge?

Share your create night with others but don’t let it limit you nor bring out your inner-critic. It’s vulnerable but that could be a good thing if you’re both/all willing to share in it.

print .jpg
A creation from my first #createnight. I was making monoprints by laying paper down onto ink and drawing on the back. I used a scrap bit of paper to lift excess ink from the glass and decided there was something nice about it and wrote on top with a sharpie.
Advertisements

PTSD and anxiety: how they’re connected

PTSD is when you experience episodes of panic, flashbacks and distress after you go through a traumatic event. War, car crashes, assault, rape, and any other traumatic event can lead you to develop PTSD. Although no longer under the anxiety disorder umbrella, PTSD has a few connections with anxiety.

Like anxiety, PTSD can be episodic, and have certain triggers. With an episode of PTSD, you may have a flashback to what happened and go through a period of great distress.

Triggers

A trigger is something that is usually harmless that sets off your anxiety or PTSD. Triggers can be visual, or involve other senses such as smell. If you have PTSD due to war, the sound of a gunshot can trigger you. For anxiety disorder, the triggers can be random. Moving out and starting a new life can be a trigger. Too much alcohol can be a trigger.

Write down any trigger you experience and figure out how you can avoid them. Sometimes, they’re unavoidable, and in cases like these, therapy may be an option.

Anxiety, PTSD, and Depression

One of the symptoms you may have with both disorders is depression. With PTSD, you may have episodes where you have low self-esteem or feel worthless. Especially if your PTSD is connected to an event that brought your self-esteem down. Anxious people may develop depression over their episodes, and it’s common for people to have both anxiety and depression as disorders.

Suicidal thoughts can be possible as well if you have PTSD or anxiety. If you feel suicidal, seek help immediately.

As an Anxiety Disorder

The classification of PTSD as an anxiety disorder is an interesting one. In the DSM-IV (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association), PTSD was considered an anxiety disorder. However, in the DSM-5 (the most current version of the DSM), it became known as a trauma and stressor related disorder.

With that said, PTSD does have some genetic influences. Studies have shown that PTSD and other anxiety disorders can be inherited from family genetics, but research is still ongoing to determine specific causal genes.

Statistics

General anxiety disorders are quite common. In the US, 40 million adults, or about 1/5th of the population, may have some form of anxiety disorder each year. Despite them being treatable, only about 1/3 of anxiety sufferers seek medical treatment (adaa.org).

anxiety pic
Photo credit: activebeat.com

The Invisible Disorders

Another thing anxiety and PTSD have in common is that it’s hard for someone who doesn’t have it to understand what’s going on. Some people may feel like the person with PTSD or anxiety is overthinking things or just needs to get over it. When talking to someone with these disorders, be empathetic and try to help them whenever you can.

Seeking Help 

If you have PTSD, or an anxiety disorder, you should seek counselling as soon as you can. While PTSD is not so easy to overcome, a professional can help you to overcome it. Left untreated, PTSD can take over your life. It can put you out of a job, strain relationships, and have a negative impact on your mental health.

A doctor can help prescribe medications that can treat symptoms of PTSD. A therapist can teach you ways to cope and how to avoid situations that may trigger your PTSD. You will also learn how to recover from an episode faster and avoid certain triggers.

Both diseases are traumatic to go through, but by seeking help and treating it, the person may be able to live a healthy, productive life.

Marie-Miguel.jpg

 

This guest post was written by Marie Miguel, who has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.

 

grief: anniversaries are like time machines

I’ve been dipping in and out of Outlander, a Starz TV series in which the heroine is suddenly transported back in time from the 1950s to 1743 whilst on holiday with her husband in Scotland. 18th century Scotland is vastly different to the time she used to inhabit including how people live, what they eat, what they wear, and their values. The landscape and architecture is unrecognisable and all reality is distorted.

About a week before the third anniversary of my dad’s death I started to feel like I had time-travelled. Not literally, of course, because that really isn’t possible. I’ve checked. Rather, I felt transported emotionally back to that time when everything was grey. It was as if the canvas of my current reality suddenly had a grey wash. Everything continued as normal around me but it was monochrome and I was feeling empty, low, and at times, tormented. I couldn’t concentrate so well. I felt lost and my head ached. Worst of all, I felt NEEDY. Uh oh. It is so hard to think and behave rationally when we are in pain.

This was a lingering state for the following three weeks. During this anniversary period I had moments of worrying I was getting depressed. I wanted to stay in bed. Forever. Unsurprisingly, being in a state of grief makes one more susceptible to mental health problems. One reason being that when I’m sad I have less of a handle on my thoughts and negative ones tend to rule the roost. My anxiety isn’t getting better like I thought it was. Now I’m getting depressed. I just hate my life and I can’t change it so I will feel like this forever. Before I know it, I am feeling inescapable symptoms of anxiety and depression.

I recently watched the music video for alt-pop duo Oh Wonder’s song All We Do and it was set up around the following question;

oh wonder

One person in it said:

‘Accept where you are, then it’s easier to move forward.’

As I’ve written previously. I think recognising what you feel at certain times in life, perhaps in response to certain triggers, and then accepting those feelings is so important for when you feel like you’re circling the drain and could drop into that black hole any minute.

It’s the anniversary of my cancer diagnosis

It’s the anniversary of my wife leaving me

It’s the month my baby would have been due

It’s no wonder you feel anxious/low/tormented/lost/irritable. I have certainly found that accepting being in that place makes it easier to bear, especially since I know it will pass.

Yet the problem with accepting where I am is, I sometimes can’t figure out where I am. Right? I am feeling the feelings and have no idea why. They are all-consuming and my rational brain has been squeezed out of the party like some unwelcome misfit. ‘You don’t belong here with your logic and your calm explanations.’

So, the questions remains, how to help yourself find where you are?

Talk to someone.

I literally told my husband he had to listen to me. We went out to walk the dog and I announced;

‘I’m aware that I’m not feeling good and I need to talk about it so that is what I will do.’

This was followed by…. Silence. Then,

‘I just don’t know what to say.’

It’s not easy being vulnerable. I managed to find some things to say and so on and so forth. After two hours I stumbled upon the idea that I may still be feeling rubbish because of the anniversary even though it had passed. I realised I was still in this three-week window. You see, the funeral was three weeks after his death and the time between felt like a bit of a black hole of suspended animation. I was just floating in murky depths, awaiting the frequent waves of sorrow to wash over. Once I realised this, my rational brain was then summoned and I thought lots of helpful things like,

You’ll feel better very soon, then.

It’s not surprising and therefore not something completely random.

You need to do lots of comforting things and not push yourself.

I’d regained some control and, most importantly, some hope. I’m still feeling that weight of sadness. I guess it’s here for a while yet and to some degree, for the rest of my days. Strangely, accepting that does help me find a way forward.