Tag: art therapy

More cards – trying out some new materials

Feeling fairly useless as I do this week, I’ve tried very hard to do a little bit each day towards creating something good. I’ve been trying out some new materials for my greetings cards – different card backs and adhesive, for example. I focused on making photo cards as a friend had particularly requested some. She likes simple, un-frilly, photographic designs. It’s only recently I’ve started using my photos in my cards (usually I use decoupage, collage and similar) so I need to perfect my technique – a lot!

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It took me ages because of the pain but I’m so happy I persevered. There’s still a lot I need to streamline but I was pleased with some of the results; even more so when I showed them to my friend today and she was delighted. She’d even like some more. It really encouraged me and made me thankful to be able to do something nice for a friend.

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It’s helpful for me as well to make them for friends and get honest feedback so that I can improve and see what kind of designs are popular.

It’s a long range goal at present but one day I’d like to take part in a craft fair selling some of my creations. I think it would be hard for it to be truly profitable financially once my time is taken into account – doing it with the precision and finish I want to is labour-intensive – but I’d get a lot of enjoyment from it. Letter-writing is another favorite of mine though I don’t do as much as I used to as writing can be painful at present. Knowing that sending and receiving cards and letters can bring people lots of pleasure, I’d enjoy selling affordable cards. Many of those available in shops locally are incredibly expensive, maybe over £3 or even over £4 each, and that’s just too much for most people, especially once postage is factored in, and puts people off writing to friends and family.

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This year I hope to have time to make Christmas cards too.

Ginny xxx

The penguins look a bit funny round here this week (On calming colouring)

The penguins look a bit funny round here this week (On calming colouring)

I’ve posted before about enjoying colouring as therapy. I’ve now built up quite a collection of “colouring books for grown-ups”. Here are some crazy penguins I did today. This book has smaller pictures than I usually do but it is great to take with you if you’re on the move or for a quick distraction. I find it works better than reading to combat anxiety whilst, for example, waiting for hospital appointments. My good friend R. gave me that idea.

If I’m waiting for someone or something, my anxiety increases ridiculously. I’m never quite sure why. I’ve only just started to become aware of it. I feel the physical symptoms of the emotion before the mental ones – becoming hot and sweaty, or alternatively cold; shaking; finding my breathing tight and constrained; being restless. I’ve identified before that uncertainty over times and meetings with people is very stressful for me. Perhaps part of the reason why is that since childhood, if someone is running late I’ve always imagined something awful has happened to them, like a road accident. I think that stemmed from some of my mother’s threats when I was a young child, usually made when my father was at work and she was at home with me, that if my father ever found out what I was doing to her he would be so upset that he would have a car accident or a heart attack – then she’d phone him and tell him what I’d been doing to her (though it later turned out a lot of the time she was only pretending to phone him)  – so if he was ever late I’d become frightened the threatened accident had occurred. But I think a good part of it is just my inability to cope with uncertainty.

Anyhow, colouring calms the anxiety more effectively than reading, or counting backwards, or counting objects or colours and so on. Perhaps because you are physically engaged in doing something and have to make a certain amount of decisions about the colours to use and so on. And it has the added bonus that you can turn your picture into something pretty in the end – frame larger designs, or make cards out of them.

I often pass the evenings this way too, when I’m too tired to do much else.

Ginny xx

On panic, lemons and stitching patterns

On panic, lemons and stitching patterns

I’ve posted before about how I find that colouring intricate patterns can be very calming.

When I was an inpatient I drew and painted a few times, which I had not done for many years. I go through phases of doing a lot of cross-stitch embroidery or making greetings cards. It seems to be something that I do a lot of and then leave for a while then return to it. Sometimes I find it helpful and calming but other times, I really want to be able to do it but am not able to. If I try to push myself to, it just doesn’t work – I go wrong all the time when I try to follow a pattern, or I just can’t put together anything pretty. Then far from helping I feel dragged down lower. It’s as if when I am completely drained and lacking in emotional / mental energy, there is nothing with which to be creative. In those states I often need to sleep, or paradoxically, to do something physical like getting outside and walking.

I’ve been on two different wards as an inpatient. One of them had a variety of craft activities available and support to use them and discover and learn new ideas for projects. For example we learnt to make plaited bracelets, worked together to put together a collage display, coloured stained-glass window images, and so on. The peer support worker spent a lot of time facilitating these activities. The other ward did not really have such resources and there was nobody to support these kinds of activities. The first ward seemed much more an environment in which it was possible to focus on having hope of getting better and learning skills to cope. Of course the access to creative materials was not the only reason (I think the work of the peer support worker was very important and I will post about that separately). However I think it made considerable difference to how the days passed.

I think in working with simple materials to create something beautiful, you can empty your mind, practise mindfulness techniques, slow some of the frantic anxiety as you become absorbed in the task. The concentration it requires and the different sensations you encounter – textures of fabric and materials, sounds, colours, deciding how to combine them, perhaps repetitive and rhythmic motions, the sense of putting together something lovely from all the separate parts – all of this helps occupy your mind. In  a similar way to distraction techniques, by filling your mind with all these sensations, they can become the focus, rather than obsessional thoughts, sadness, anger and so on. It does not solve anything but can replace some of the intensity of an emotion for a time. I can find it helpful in trying to delay self-harming as well as in times of generalised anxiety or after panic attacks. My friend who suffers with an eating disorder said that in particular having something to do with her hands can calm her after eating and help her resist the urge to binge-eat and/or purge.

My clinicians explained that there is a limited number of sensations the body and mind can experience at any one time. In personality disorder, our emotions may reach a higher level more quickly and in this heightened state, we cannot think rationally or mentalise or make good decisions. We cannot see outside of the emotion. It also takes longer than it does in most people for the level of emotion to fall. One thing that can help the emotion to fall, to get to a level where we can start to mentalise, use distraction techniques or choose to do other things that help us, is to “shock” the body with another strong sensation. For example, putting your hands under very cold water, holding ice, or (this one works well for me) eating something with a sharp taste. I use pieces of lemon, or lemon juice, with a sharp and bitter taste. This can help to lead you out of extreme distress or a panic attack, to the point that you can then address how you are feeling with other techniques. Then continuing to do something that gives positive sensations can continue to calm you – for example, something self-soothing like hugging a soft pillow or wrapping up in a soft blanket, or perhaps one of the creative activities which provides a range of tactile sensations.

There is also something encouraging to me in being able to create a picture, object, etc, which is useful or attractive or perhaps can be given as a gift to someone else, even when we are really not feeling great. It’s another way to make it true that the overwhelming emotions are not all that there is and to start to hope that there could be some good somewhere in me.

Ginny

xXx

My new way to relax

swirls

Currently, one of my preferred ways to relax whilst I’m alone at home watching TV or the like, is colouring in complex swirly patterns like this one. It can switch off some of the thoughts for a while, passes time and gives a creative focus outside of oneself, even a way to practice mindfulness. The results can even be used for something pretty, for instance, made into pictures or coasters. Seeing something lovely that you have managed to create, despite perhaps feeling depressed or low, can be encouraging. It is a relatively cheap hobby, especially as at the moment we seem to be fortunate that there is a range of “colouring books for grown-ups” around, often to be found in discount book stores / stationers’ / supermarkets. No doubt you could find template patterns on line as well, which could work if you have access to a printer. Then all that is required is a packet of crayons or coloured pens (note to self, curb tendency to multi-buy pretty pens!).

Happy colouring! 🙂

Ginny xx