Creative outlets I used to stay grounded during difficult moments

I believe therapy can come in many different forms

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Person pictured arms down wearing a rainbow-striped apron rolling out dough on a floured kitchen counter.
PHOTO: Kari Shea / Unsplash

By: Nercya Kalino, Staff Writer

Over the years, I’ve come to learn that my anxiety led to inattentiveness and other complications for my mental health. While therapy helps many people; personally, I’ve never invested in therapy due to personal religious beliefs. Maybe in the future with the right information and idea of where to start, I will end up pursuing this route. But for the time being, I found creative outlets to help myself feel better mentally and alleviate feelings of burnout. A tip that helps is to find times within your schedule where you can take a break and make space for yourself to do something you enjoy.

To ground myself, I looked for activities that were within reason. I had to consider the time the activity would require, the frequency of the activity, and it also had to be helpful enough to replace unhealthy habits I had adopted to deal with my mental health. I wanted the activities to involve consistent practice so that I could see gradual improvement over time, instead of something that required me to exert a lot of energy all at once. I wasn’t looking to challenge myself with something that requires a lot of attention to detail; I just wanted to feel better over time with an easy, mindful activity. 

Marble Painting and Acrylic Pouring

I started off with marble painting, as it was cost effective. Marble painting, which I used with acrylic pouring techniques, is the easiest way to experience creating beautiful art. You pour a mixture of acrylic paints onto a canvas, and can use marbles as a painting tool to make various effects and textures. I fairly enjoyed myself and I looked forward to carving out time to be alone and away from my troubles. By focusing on moving the marbles and mixing colors, I was able to hear my thoughts clearly and sometimes my head was clear enough to feel grounded. But marble painting soon became the gateway to a new artistic approach. 

Working with Beads

At some point in my search for creative and mindful activities, I became intrigued with beading. That led to some impulsive purchases, but in the end, I actually learned how to incorporate beads onto the canvas. The inspiration came from a 2020 exhibition post called Ubuhle Women: Beads and the Art of Independence. I used malleable wire to pierce the canvas from the back and added beads to the wire for a desired effect. I used sketch references to draw out the image I wanted, and then I shaped the wire and placed the beads to mimic the artistic vision I had sketched. I found this process had a more effective impact on my mental health than marble painting because of the attention to detail and intention. Since it took longer to create, it felt worthwhile. Although it took longer for me to see results, it was also intriguing to see myself approach art from different perspectives and using different materials. My bead canvases didn’t illustrate much, but I had put enough energy into them and grew proud and happy about my new hobby.

Baking 

I think that when we are searching for things to embrace our mental health for the better, we tend to discover that we are interesting people. Another thing I started doing to help my anxiety was baking. At first, baking to me felt more about the challenge of making a recipe than enjoyment. Baking was not something I grew up doing; in fact, there are only a handful of moments in my life that I can count where I witnessed my mom bake. But as soon as I started making banana bread on a biweekly basis, I grew confident in myself because I learned to do something new. I have since learned how to make muffins and quiche, which in the beginning would have been intimidating recipes for me. 

I also became a plant grower and caretaker, which built discipline. When the heat wave happened this summer, I moved to a new home and the majority of my plants died. The ones that survived though, are thriving and growing in my new space alongside new plant friends. This taught me about not only adapting to changes but growing into the environments that I would find myself in. Mental health is still something I have to constantly care for at all points in my life, but exploring new and varied creative outlets are helping me start to feel like I can thrive. 

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