Creative Insights: Karen Wallace

Using Art Therapy to Stay Sane

We are living in a time when life can become overly complex, confusing, complicated and overwhelming. We can easily get over stimulated by the environment and media, and exhausted with our own and others’ expectations. If you are like me, it is a constant struggle to simplify. Often, all we need to do is to slow down, breathe and focus, but we forget that it can be this simple to stop the madness. How can Art Therapy help? Easily.

Creating more can mean consuming less; creating means less busyness and more slowness; creating means less focus on the past or future and more being in the present; creating means less mindless work and more mindful play; creating means less stress and more peace.

Often we are inundated with text messages, e-mails, phone calls and ‘to do’ lists. These little distractions drain away energy, focus and passion for what we really want to do. We become stressed, depressed and overwhelmed.

Here is an Art Therapy Exercise to help you regain sanity in the middle of a busy day. You will need some markers or colored pencils and an index card or small piece of paper. Everyday, just as you make time to answer each text message, take a minute out of your busy day to close your eyes, and sit still. Breathe in, and breathe out. Just sit still for about a minute. Then ask yourself, “How am I doing right now?” Wait and see what emerges from your inner experience. See if anything inside you wants your attention. Once you have made contact with your inner self, acknowledge or say hello to this part of you that may feel upset, angry, clam or confused. Just sit, be there for your inner experience and listen to what it has to tell you. This stillness may seem like inaction and yet this simple inward listening can change our state of mind and help refocus and wake us up. Stillness calms us and gives us a clear vision of what we need now in our lives to regain sanity. Next, ask yourself what image would be helpful to help you slow down, focus and feel centered. This can be done on a small index card or on a sheet of paper. Make it small so you can have it on your desk, computer or worktable.

A Focus Card has an image on it that helps you right now focus and be present. It is as simple as that; finding an image that emerges from being still and being inwardly focused that gives you visually what you need to feel centered, calm and present in your life. It takes strength to build resilience, inner peace and stillness in a world that is full of chaos and madness. This small card is a glimpse of stillness, a small oasis that can remind you that sanity is not far away. This calmness can carry you through the rest of the day and you can refer back to the image when you need to re-focus. It helps us to remember that not all of our life has to be calm, or in order. But small pockets of it can be, just like this small focus image. Starting small—and not expecting or trying to make all of your life manageable all of the time—is a sane way to live your life. There can be little spaces of calmness and sanity in the middle of the busyness of a day. Look for these spaces in your workday and home life. Over time you will have a collection of Focus Cards that you may want to make into an art journal, use as material for a painting or collage and/or use the images for a short story or poem. Enjoy your sanity practice!

Yours Artfully, Karen
Read Karen’s Contributing Editor Profile here.

Listen to a podcast with Karen and Ricë Freeman-Zachery here.


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