According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, self-care involves:
- knowing what kinds of thoughts and behaviours make you feel better or worse;
- coming up with a self-care plan that helps you to prevent or overcome the negative feelings.
For people who work in the helping professions, self-care is essential to preventing burnout, and for those in other professions, self-care can help provide more physical and emotional energy to deal with the daily stress and challenges we face (CAMH, 2012). Each individual will find their own way to soothe and care for themselves.
A self-care plan should involve things that “comfort you and give you a sense of well-being and stability” (CAMH, 2012). It should include things like taking care of your physical, emotional, social, financial, and spiritual needs. Creativity can be a great way to engage with your spiritual needs – whether it’s knitting, baking, writing, sculpting, or painting, it’s important to find out what nourishes you.
Participating in sessions with a trained art therapist can help you identify and develop your creativity, but art is also a portable tool that you can use at home. Here are three simple art prompts that you can do at home to practice creative self-care (for any level of artistic background – including none!):
- Make art with your non-dominant hand.
The idea here is to pick up a pencil or a brush with the “wrong” hand and simply move it around on the paper. This is a good one to try if you have limited access to art supplies – all you need is a pencil and paper. Embrace the wonkiness of drawing with your opposite hand! This is a great way to silence your inner critic by seeing where your intuition leads you. Try doing many in quick succession, or try finding something that stands out to you in the scribbly drawing you’ve created and build on it.
- Make art outside.
Pick up a small notebook or sketchbook and a few coloured pencils and head to your favourite spot outside. Maybe it’s under a tree in your own quiet backyard, or a busy park bench – wherever you are, focus on drawing or painting what you see around you. Allow yourself to be present in the moment, to mindfully observe your surroundings, and to connect with your immediate environment.
- Create a messy painting.
This is a great art challenge if you want to let loose and relax. The materials required are: watercolour paper, watercolour paint, rubber cement, and painter’s tape to hold down the edges of your paper while you paint. The idea is to drip rubber cement all over the paper – no planning, just random dribbles. Once the rubber cement is dry, you can paint over top of it with watercolour – again, no planning is needed, just big strokes of colour over the page. The rubber cement will resist the paint, and when you are done you can peel off the rubber cement to reveal the negative space. Detailed instructions for this directive can be found here. I recently tried this directive and found it very relaxing – you might want to put on some music and see where the painting takes you!
Sources for this post:
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. 2012. “5.5: Building a self-care plan.” http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/health_information/a_z_mental_health_and_addiction_information/concurrent_disorders/a_family_guide_to_concurrent_disorders/selfcare/Pages/building_selfcare_plan.aspx