Creativity and mental health

The last two years have been tough on everyone. Our lives were disrupted, and we were forced to scale down our lives. Many people lost friends and family. Others are still suffering from stress, anxiety and depression.

I don’t want to harp on the negativity, but I, too, have been struggling. I have had problems sleeping, I have been feeling anxious, and I even had my first ever panic attack, and it was terrifying.

My mother has always suffered from panic attacks, so I’ve seen them happen, seen her suffering and know how to help her. But when it happens to you, it is as if your brain convinces you that all your worst-case scenarios are all happening to you simultaneously.

It’s as if your whole world is crashing down upon you. The only thing you can do is concentrate on your breathing, slow down your breathe, gradually slow your heart rate and allow yourself to relax. I kept telling myself that my thoughts and fears weren’t real, things come one at a time, and none of the ideas was true, and even if they were, I was not alone.

Slowly it passed. I’d used my breath and sense of logic to calm the irrational fear-driven part of my brain which had overcome me. It was an empowering moment. It made me realise how an individual can heal themselves.

I recently wrote a post about how Sicily and Italy have opened up and have begun to host large saint day celebrations. I described how the crowd of my local festival had triggered some anxiety. Rather than understanding some of the psychological consequences of the pandemic, one reader of mine suggested Xanax or Valium.

While many people are crippled by depression and anxiety, and medication helps them, it isn’t a permanent solution. I was a little shocked at the thought that someone would suggest it as a solution for me.

I’ve never suffered from depression before, so I’d try to avoid it if I could. My approach is very different and can be summed up by this cute graphic I found recently on Instagram.

Now I’m not a psychologist or doctor. My anxiety is mild, but I find things like being creative, writing a journal, listening to music, getting exercise, practising gratitude and a healthy diet to deal with negative self-thoughts.

Also, giving myself a break, taking it slower, being kinder to myself, acknowledging what I have done in my life and looking at my strengths also help a lot.

We put ourselves under so much pressure. If anything, this collective re-set we have been through has made me realise I am enough, just as I am. It’s enough only to breathe, be present, creative, kind and cheerful. Everything else is superlative.

Doing what makes me happy helps. I’ve gotten back into sketching and collage making, two things I loved doing in high school. I used to cover my school books with images from my own esoteric and eclectic interests, and it used to bring me so much joy.

So I bought myself an iPad and taught myself how to use the design app Procreate, which is like having every possible art supply in one place.

I now draw the images to illustrate my blogs and will be sharing my artwork more regularly.

Creativity has been a great way of expressing my interests and has been fantastic for my mental health.

One thought on “Creativity and mental health

  1. Love the drawings! Creativity is definitely therapeutic. I think in today’s society people just want to take a pill and be done with it, rather than deal with the actual problem. It is very sad. As a health professional I see it a lot. Keep drawing! Ciao, Cristina

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