By Lynn Cukaj, ATR-BC, MCH-LP www.CreativeExpressionsConsulting.com
Art Therapy for Children, Teenagers and Adults
As the holiday season fills the air with joy and happiness, it can also bring forth its share of challenges and stress. Without healthy coping mechanisms, we may find ourselves acting out of place when overwhelmed, inadvertently causing tension and hurting the feelings of our loved ones.
Yet, within these challenges lies an opportunity for growth, learning, and teaching. By cultivating healthy ways to cope with stress, we foster self-care, self-kindness, and self-compassion.
So, what is self-compassion? It's the art of being kind to ourselves, embracing our imperfections, acknowledging reality, and then nurturing our inner selves with care. Self-compassion enables us to extend greater kindness, reduce self-judgment, and exercise patience not only with ourselves but also with those around us. This newfound strength empowers us to be more psychologically flexible and resilient, equipping us to gracefully navigate the ebb and flow of life's challenges.
Incorporating mindfulness practices further enhances our self-compassion. By quieting the mind, we gain valuable perspectives and cultivate a healthier, more positive outlook. Clarity of thought and an open mind lay the foundation for a more peaceful and balanced life.
Our behaviors are guided by our motives and values. When we are mindful, we are able to observe our thoughts, and therefore can behave in a way that is in line with our values. Mindfulness techniques as well as creative expression can guide us in identifying our core values so that they become clear and defined.
Ask yourself the following question: Does the way I live my life reflect what I value and find most meaningful?
Finding meaning in our lives is one of the existential factors that all humans confront at some point in time. When we practice mindfulness, we learn to accept ourselves and others, while enhancing our self-compassion and awareness. We will then come to realize that the meaning of life is simply that - unconditional love for ourself and for others.
By incorporating creative expression into our lives, we allow ourselves the space to clarify our emotions and understand our behaviors. Creativity gives us the opportunity to align our actions with our values and priorities. If we are not working towards wholeness, we will find it difficult to give ourselves the chance to live fully and peacefully. Since we cannot avoid or escape pain, by learning to live a wholesome life with self-compassion, we can learn to accept our pain and discover ways to cope with it.
The following list of coping skills is divided into categories. These categories emphasize the importance of having a variety of tools to help us through difficult situations or feelings while teaching us how to deal with stress. While looking through the lists, keep in mind the following:
Experiment with different techniques so you can find a few that work best for you.
Try the techniques when you are feeling calm and relaxed so you can easily tap into them during times of anxiety.
It is best to incorporate these techniques into your daily routine.
Notice that none of these techniques involve social media.
Coping Skills to Practice for Life:
Practice on your own or with your child(ren)
Walk, hike, or run
Practice yoga or stretch
Run in place
Put music on and dance
Bounce or kick a ball
Jump rope or hula hoop
Squeeze a stress ball
Go for a bike ride
Play a family game of tag or basketball
Listen to calming music
Take deep breaths: breathe in on the count of 7 and out on the count of 7
Think of a calm happy place
Tense and relax your muscles
Have a drink of cold water or some warm tea
Close your eyes and count to 10 or backward from 100
Read a book or magazine
Light a candle
Take a bath or shower
Hug a stuffed animal
Go outside. Sit and look at the clouds, close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. Take a walk around your outdoor space and see what you can find: notice the changes that happen in nature.
Color, draw, paint
Write a poem: Mary Oliver is a poet to explore
Make up a song
Play an instrument
Write about your thoughts or feelings. Art Activity: My Feelings Cube
Play with play-doh
Build with legos or blocks
Play with different textures such as dry rice or shaving cream
Create a vision board
Cut pictures out of magazine and create a story or make a collage
Go outside and do a plein air painting which is the act of painting outside: Monet is an artist to explore.
Play a game with the family
Call/Facetime a friend or relative
Cuddle or play with your pet
Read a book
Having a connection with the community builds relationships: cub scouts, girl scouts, sports, music, arts, theater
Strategies to shift your mindset:
Think of something positive
Close your eyes and think about something you are looking forward to
Look at pictures or think about a happy memory
Think about something that makes you laugh
Create a time capsule with your favorite artwork, homework, report cards, and pictures from the past year
Practice reframes: Instead of “I am stuck at home” try “I am lucky that I am healthy and safe at home.” Reframing Art Therapy Activity
Focus on what you can control. Create a list of ways to stay healthy: washing hands, eating healthy, getting exercise, etc. sometimes just having a plan can help us feel calmer and more in control.
Our ability to strengthen our coping skills and self-compassion allows us to create multiple ways to protect ourselves from adverse experiences that can erode at our self-efficacy and lead to self-judgment, isolation, rumination, and depression.
Suffering is a choice that we can choose to relinquish. We can take steps to reduce our pain which begins with acceptance and continues with self-development. Stress and pain are a part of life but we can overcome it through coping mechanisms and mindfulness. We can learn from it, grow, and live a resilient life with self-compassion.
Abundance and Gratitude Art Activity: How Plentiful is Your Life?
This art activity is designed to help children develop coping mechanisms for handling stress and challenging emotions. Teaching them these skills early on will equip them to manage their feelings and behaviors independently as they grow. Let's take this opportunity to model effective coping strategies for our children during this season.
The following art activity encourages you to gain perspective and identify the coping mechanisms that work best for you. Through visualization and illustration, you'll create a tangible support system that you can turn to in times of adversity, helping to protect and strengthen your mental well-being.
To celebrate the spirit of Thanksgiving, we'll be using the theme of the cornucopia, also known as the Horn of Plenty. This symbolizes prosperity and is derived from a Greek myth. As the story goes, Zeus, as a child, was cared for by a goat named Amalthea. During one of their playful moments, Zeus accidentally broke off one of Amalthea's horns. Using his powers, Zeus transformed the horn into a symbol of eternal nourishment. The Horn of Plenty serves as a reminder of blessings, abundance, and gratitude.
Download and print the PDFs of the cornucopia and vegetable and fruit outlines.
Gather your favorite art materials, such as crayons, colored pencils, or paints, to decorate the cornucopia.
Once you've finished decorating, carefully cut out the cornucopia along its edges.
Find a separate sheet of paper to use as the base for your artwork. Paste the cut-out cornucopia onto this paper, securing it in place.
Now, it's time to bring in the colors! Color in the fruits and vegetables from the template, making them vibrant and lively.
As you color each item, think about the things, places, activities, or people that fill your heart with happiness and support. These are the meaningful aspects that enrich your life and make it abundant.
Express your gratitude by adding words or short phrases to the fruits and vegetables, describing what they represent in your life. Let these heartfelt words be a reminder of the blessings you have.
Once you've added all the meaningful elements, cut out each fruit and vegetable, creating individual pieces.
Arrange and place these cut-outs around the opening of the cornucopia, symbolizing the overflow of positivity and abundance in your life.
Take a moment to appreciate your creation and the reflection of self-compassion and gratitude it represents. Let this artwork serve as a beautiful reminder of the goodness that surrounds you.
This activity provides a wonderful opportunity to discover and discuss our go-to coping mechanisms while engaging in a meaningful conversation about self-compassion and gratitude with ourselves or our children. It's a chance to explore our strengths, nurture resilience, and cultivate a sense of thankfulness.
Please share your comments below and let us know the types of healthy activities you or your family do to cope with stress.
For more therapeutic activities and resources on how to incorporate Art Therapy into your life, read more from Lynn's Creative Expressions Blog.
Learn more about Art Therapy and Lynn Cukaj, Board Certified Art Therapist here: www.CreativeExpressionsConsulting.com