Wellness

Seeing the Light Through Darkness

Most of us are having a really tough time right now. At the same time, beautiful things are happening all around us.

At the beginning of the pandemic, when my business came to a complete halt, I had my own version of a three-year-old temper tantrum. It wasn’t pretty, but emotions are natural. It’s ok to be angry, sad, frustrated and scared. Staying stuck in our negative emotions can cause problems.

After doing the work of getting it all out of my system, I was able to look up and ask “Where’s the gift, the beauty?” “What’s the next right thing in front of me?”

The good is out there; it always has been and it always will be, we just need to search for it. Turn off the noise and purposely notice the calm. Breathe slowly and deeply. Be still so you can see the light around you.

Let me encourage you to make a paradigm shift. Intentionally notice the little things: the giggle of a child, a cute puppy held by someone in your Zoom call, the taste of your favorite food, the smell of your morning coffee, or the feel of the cool air on your face. These little things are surrounding us every day and they can be magical if you look with new lenses.

Sometimes we are so engulfed in the negativity and darkness, that we can easily miss the beauty. It requires effort on our part to see past the negative, to go in search of good, positive things. When we do make the effort, it’s worth it. Regularly discovering or noticing moments of beauty and light can bring thankfulness, lead to a healthier mindset, increase our resilience, and improve our ability to cope.

My personal experience with social-distancing during this time of COVID has forced me to slow down and take a look at my priorities. It has forced me to pivot and change how I look at my life and my business. It forced me to look at my relationships, to see a deeper value in those who I find precious.

It goes against my nature to slow down, but because of it, I’ve been able to shift my concept of success and how I practice art therapy. I began to offer art therapy virtually, something I never thought I would do because I thought it would be too impersonal. But by doing art therapy with clients through telehealth, I’ve come to realize that one of my gifts is to connect well with clients even online. This works.

I’ve also created online groups that I would have never thought of before. It has fostered new ways of developing community with others who are looking to find light in this darkness. How have you developed community? Everyone is going to carve a different path, to whack their way through the weeds of darkness to find their own light.

Making art in community with others is what’s helping me. It could help you, too. I invite you to join one of our Creative Break groups or start one of your own. Gather friends together on your favorite online platform and make art together. It’s not about the final art product, it’s about community. Your community of friends and family can become your light in the darkness. You can make a difference for each other.

“I love the Creative Art Break group! I have participated for 10 months and in this time, I have uncovered a new layer of my soul. I have tapped an inner wisdom that provides creative healing and release during challenging times of transition, grief, and complexity. I learned about various mediums, techniques and expressions and have made lasting friends. Our community of creators provide wise insight about each other’s artwork, and we provide encouragement, support and the promise that through art and community there is always hope. The antidote to isolation is this community of creation.”

– Mary G., Creative Break Participant

– Lisa Lounsbury, MA, LMFT, ATR-BC, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx, LLC

Embracing Discomfort

In this whole process of change, we’re spending more time in our homes than ever and we’ve needed to use our space differently. Many people are using this time to remodel their homes and yards. I wonder if, like me, they are seeing the spaces in their homes from a different perspective; realizing what works and what doesn’t.

I’ve had to take a fresh look at my art-making space. How I normally used the space wasn’t working anymore as my needs changed. I wanted to shift into providing telehealth for my clients which meant I needed to reconfigure my space. Basically, I had to change my entire studio around to create a conducive background for teletherapy. It soon became a disaster zone with boxes, art supplies, books and furniture spilling into the rest of the house as I began to rearrange my space from this new perspective. 

It was both exciting and uncomfortable. The chaos felt overwhelming at times, but in order for me to move forward, I realized I must embrace the discomfort and make the changes. Thankfully all of my efforts paid off. I love my reconfigured studio space. Now it only takes a few moments for me to make a shift if I want to have my daughter make art with me, to conduct an interview over Zoom, or to provide a telehealth art therapy session. 

Encouraged by the experience, I’m allowing that same change to occur in my own art-making process. I’m embracing the discomfort by trying new materials, tools and methods; trying things I’ve never done before. It can be messy and uncomfortable, especially for those of us who want perfection. When we expect everything we do to be a masterpiece, we tend to not challenge ourselves to step out of our own box and we miss out on new discoveries.

For example, here is my practice dot painting piece that looks pretty awful.

I didn’t understand how to use the tools yet. I didn’t know to space the dots or when to layer the paint. I gave myself permission to make a mess and fail on this first one. It was freeing to just play with the new tools and not have unrealistic expectations of myself.

Here’s another attempt; it’s not perfect, but it’s interesting and fun. I’m learning. They are both works in progress, and that’s okay, as I too am a work in progress. We all are.

I’m embracing the discomfort of not being good at something in order to learn something new and continue to grow creatively. I always want to remain teachable.  

By doing this, I’ve discovered a new, unexpected source of relaxation using a process which is very different from my other work. I’ve found a painting method that is very soothing and comforting to me. 

You never know what you are going to find when you try something new. You never know what you are going to discover. This process also has a ripple effect. When you expand your mind to learn new things, new languages, or new skills, you become a better problem solver. You are expanding into areas of your brain that have been resting. Experimenting gives your brain a much appreciated workout.

Transform the need for perfection into a mind of curiosity. Allow yourself to move in small steps. If you are unable to embrace discomfort in one area of your life, try it in another area. The practice can transfer to other areas of your life when you are ready. Be gentle with yourself and just try something different. Embrace discomfort.

– Lisa Lounsbury, MA, LMFT, ATR-BC, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx, LLC

Rebalancing

Have you taken the temperature of your mental health? With the recent increase in using thermometers to check for symptoms of COVID-19, I started thinking about the general imbalance of attention to our mind with respect to our overall well-being.

We may seek advice from a nutrition expert when we want to eat healthier, or look to exercise experts to find out better ways to move our bodies when we want to strengthen our muscles or increase flexibility. Also, we go to church services, read blogs from spiritual mentors or seek other types of spiritual counsel when it comes to improving our spiritual lives. If we freely tend to these aspects of our lives, then why do we hesitate to seek out a therapist for our mental health?

Our mental health is an equal component of our overall well-being. One could say it even has top priority since the phrase is, Mind-Body-Spirit. That said, our collective mental health is grieved right now.

As a society we are experiencing loss, great loss. Not only loss of life, which is devastating, but also loss of work, loss of schedule and routine, a loss of sensory inputs through our tactile awareness that bring about a loss of equilibrium, known as homeostasis. Homeostasis is our natural, physiological balance or rhythm.

You might not realize how important your sensory inputs are to the rhythm of your life. Consider the sound of the alarm at a certain time, how often you snooze, the smell of the morning coffee or tea, showering, different clothing for work, taste of food at certain hours from certain vendors, the clank of the keys, sounds of cars speeding by, sounds and smells of the city bus or train, keys in the door, the sensation of driving, holding the steering wheel and having traffic around you, the sound of work shoes on concrete sidewalks, and so much more. These sights, sounds, tastes, smells and the things we feel, all contribute to the sensory inputs of our regular routine.

Think of your personal homeostasis as a mobile. Each of those tactile elements are different….not everything is equal but it’s all in balance to make up our regular routine. Once one thing is knocked out of whack, everything else in the mobile moves and continues to seek balance, seeking it’s natural rhythm, homeostasis. That’s part of why we feel out of whack, maybe a little depressed.

So what do we do about it?

Move. Start by taking a look at what actually is still part of your normal routine. If you are not going back to work for a while, pay attention to which of the five senses needs to be activated. Maybe you need to get flowers that smell good and look pretty, maybe specific foods that remind you of your previous routine. Or search out foods that are comforting to you. Find textures that appeal to you, be aware of the ones that are soothing, or satisfying for sound and feel. Go and do things that activate your senses.

We all have different circumstances and varying levels of resiliency. Take your mental health temperature, and if you recognize you need more help to return to homeostasis, it’s ok. We can help.

– Lisa Lounsbury, MA, LMFT, ATR-BC, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx, LLC

Image credit: Wooden Mobile “Expressions” by DJECO

Art Lab Rx, LLC
10225 Yellow Circle Drive
Minnetonka, MN 55343

Phone: 612-226-5472
info@artlabrx.com

Art Lab Rx, LLC was created in 2015 by Lisa M. Lounsbury. Art Lab Rx is a registered trademark. © 2018 Art Lab Rx. All rights reserved.