Creativity and mental health

This week’s blog theme is Creativity and Mental Health, and with us all being in lockdown, there is opportunity to try out some new activities and potentially start some new hobbies. I took to Twitter, and asked people for the creative things they use to nurture their mental health, and here is a list of their responses. If any of them catch your eye, give them a go!

  • Reading (escaping into a new world, interpreting characters and scenes in your imagination)
  • Video Games (The Sims, Animal Crossing, Minecraft, LittleBigPlanet, Scribblenauts, Terraria)
  • Sewing, knitting, embroidery
  • Colouring (adult colouring books, colouring in mandalas or calming pictures, or colouring in angry words could function as a stress outlet. There are also colouring apps, which you can use if you don’t have access to pens or paper)
  • Scrapbooking (arranging photos and memories in a pretty layout, also is a great way to focus on happier times. The final product can also be something that you treasure for a long time.)
  • Puzzles
  • Bullet Journalling
  • Planning out your day (getting creative with coloured pens, making it look aesthetically pleasing)
  • Cooking (experimenting with different foods, writing out recipes colourfully)
  • Baking (getting creative with decorations and icing, experimenting with flavours and ingredients)
  • Making bracelets or necklaces
  • Gardening
  • Painting (this could be a ‘paint by numbers’, or freehand painting!)
  • Rearranging/redecorating your house or bedroom
  • Playing a musical instrument (composing own pieces, learning new pieces, experimenting with dynamics and interpreting the music in your own way)
  • Writing short stories or poetry
  • Dancing (not only is exercise great for your mental health, but getting creative with dance can be great for expressing emotions and feelings)
  • Going for a walk, taking photographs and editing them (see my previous blog post!)
  • Writing or drawing our your thoughts (writing doesn’t have to be in a structured way, it can be great to just let the words flow. Someone also suggested drawing what you think your thoughts resemble, to ‘bring them to life’, acknowledge them, or make sense of them)
  • Meditation
  • Making bird feeders with peanut butter and pinecones, and learning about the new birds that use it!
  • Writing a quiz and hosting it online with your friends or family
  • Creating playlists on Spotify

I hope that there’s something in there which interests you! Remember not to pressure yourself whilst doing any of these – you don’t have to be particularly good at something to enjoy it! Enjoy having some down time with yourself, getting creative, and nurturing your mental health.

Hope you’re all staying safe, remember that we are here if you need any support.

Laura

A ditty – Helen’s attempt at creativity

Life goes by in the wink of an eye

“I don’t have time for this”

“I simply don’t have time for that”

“If only I could find the time”

“We are just so busy”

“I have so much on”

“ I would love to write, but I don’t have time”

“ I used to read but  now I don’t have time”

“ I wish I could see you but I don’t have time”

“ It would be great to stay longer, but I don’t have time”

“Drawing is my passion, now I don’t find the time”

“ I love to sew, but there is no time”

“ I used to paint but now I don’t have time”

I’m going to start……but  now, I’ve run out of time!!!!

 

Helen

Suicide Bereavement Support Officer

Do we really know what it means to be kind?

For this weeks theme creativity for good mental health I’m adding a bit of a twist. I’m being creative by giving you a bit of imagery to open up your mind.

Imagine there’s a person stood in the centre of a room, but you can’t see their face because that person is surrounded by a lot of people, people who don’t know them, people who are full of judgement,who are hurling abuse at them and there’s no escape from the masses, the person is blocked in and that room is getting smaller and smaller and more crowded for them. Now you push your way to the front of the crowd and you look down to realise that person is your person, your favourite person. Maybe that’s your mum, or your sibling or your best friend but it’s someone you love so deeply. Everyone is someone’s person and everyone makes mistakes, but they don’t deserve to be treated in a manner that pushes them to breaking point.

In a World where you can be anything, be kind.

I saw this post being shared a lot. But do we really know what it means to be kind? Being kind is being aware of how your actions and words can affect someone, it’s a warm smile and a helping hand, it’s accepting that we all make mistakes and that no one is perfect, it’s keeping your opinion to yourself if it’s going to hurt someone. I really believe being kind is good for your heart, soul and mind. So don’t add more pain and hate into the World. Truly be kind.

 

Sofia,

Suicide Bereavement Support Officer

Where creativity takes Harmless

Creativity is such a critical part of who I am. I draw. I write. I think creatively.

In part it is my abstract and creative thinking style that often lends itself well to my work with people and certainly in driving our service forwards.

I have just written three children’s books to enable my own children understand emotions; I have driven our photographic work, I’ve published poetry widely and one of my most proud products is our book In Our Own Words.

I try to use my creativity to convey things that are difficult to understand and find that the use of metaphor and imagery is really important to me in all aspects of my life. They help me express things in a different way.

I’ve published a paper on how poetry and metaphor can be used to develop a shared understanding of someone’s experiences. If you’d like to read it you can access it HERE

Permission to Play

In this blog post here is permission for everyone to PLAY.

I imagine it will mostly be adults reading these posts, and I want to tell you that even as adults we can, we do, and we should play! It’s totally okay. In fact, research has shown the positive impact that play can have on our mental health and well-being. Taking the example of Drama therapy, where play is actively and positively promoted. This treatment approach provides a theatrical platform to express feelings, solve problems, and achieve therapeutic goals.

We’ve already read other blog posts about being creative and spending time in nature/gardening, which embody the idea of play. But there are so many other aspects of life where we are playing, and if we can see them as play, be mindful in our daily life of this, we can enjoy the feelings and positivity these activities give us.

Cooking as play – I’m not an amazing or dedicated cook but I love to play in the kitchen, I’ve tried making yogurt, various fermented things, jam, chutney, wine… When cooking I often just make it up and I was noticing this the other day. I was reminded of how play cooking and make mud-pies as a kid. Cooking my soup for yesterday’s lunch was just the same, a creative experiment. It’s just I was able to eat the soup. I encourage you to be mindful in the kitchen, have a play and enjoy the process, how it makes you feel and the results.

Lego, board games, fancy dress and hide and seek are all play that I enjoy as an adult. Singing, playing musical instruments and making up songs, the list of how to play is endless. The joy is expression, freedom and of wanting or choosing to do these things, being mindful of how they make you feel and doing those things that feel positive more often, allowing yourself that luxury and treat.

I particularly enjoying play acting and making up voices and words and languages. I don’t think I’m alone in this… And perhaps I’m exposing a well held secret of many households across the UK. As a kid my family would have silly made-up words and voices that we enjoyed using to make each other laugh and to cheer each other up, many random words also becoming normal parts of our vocabulary. This is something that I still do to this day, but recently realised how good and energised it made me feel. Also, a way to realise energy and relax. So, do voices. And play!

Here’s some great inspiration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7c2JCfqMNk

Thank you for reading. Stay home, stay safe and take care.

~ Kirby

Mindful Moving

Moving is something we all do and (if you’re anything like me) something we all do quite badly! Learning to move in a mindful way can be a source of great benefit for your body an also your mind. And it really is something we can all try.

Mindful movements are gentle stretches and strengthening exercises done very, very slowly with awareness of your breathing and the sensations in your body. It’s done with a “non-striving” attitude – meaning, it’s not a competition and you’re not trying to achieve a contortionist dream!

The idea of mindful movements is to bring awareness to your body as you move. It’s not exercise or a sport, but an exercise in noticing. Noticing enables you to have more awareness of your body in everyday life – bringing awareness to walking, bending, reaching and lifting.

When I first tried mindful movements, after a few practices I realised that I was almost completely subconsciously blocking awareness of my legs. It was a strange sensation but made sense having sustained leg injuries in my early 20s. This realisation was really helpful in bringing my mind to focus on reconnecting with them and kind of re-joining my whole body.

Mindful movements, is not strict it can be done in different ways – so for example, if you are in pain or feel pain in a movement you can alter the movements (so instead of standing, maybe sitting or lying down), or just skip that movement. For me I am just unable to the “Bodysway” – my ankles just don’t like it! Another option is to imagine carrying out the movement, without physically moving – which can be a really powerful feeling. Also, if like me you tend to push yourself too far at times notice this and adjust. Or if you are someone who may benefit from doing a little more, notice this and adjust.

The main ‘rule’ is to move with your breath, rather than tensing or holding your breath (like me, from giving this a go you may notice how much of your day you spend holding your breath!). Your breath should be smooth and rhythmical. As you undertake the movements, remain present with your body and how it feels, if your mind drifts (and it will!) just kindly and gently bring yourself back to your breathing and your body, and let any thoughts drift away like litter in a breeze (that part really does take practice, so go easy on yourself it takes time.)

Mindful movements can be done as a practiced routine each morning but bringing just a couple of these movements into your day is a good place to start. And you may well, already be doing versions of this. For example, the “arm-reach” is probably what you do when you get your bowl out of a cupboard at breakfast, just do this at a slower pace than usual and focus on your breath (in and out) and the movement. I like to do the “roll-down” when I’m putting the washing on the line, again slowing down my usual pace and focusing on my breath, how my body feels and how it’s moving. Goodness knows what the neighbours think! But who cares!

You can definitely find Mindful Movement videos on Youtube, so do give it a go – but please be gentle and mindful of what your body can do, and what it needs:

Thank you for reading. Stay home, stay safe and take care.

~ Kirby

Creativity: Making Things

Being creative is something that we can all do.

Many people feel they aren’t creative, can’t draw perhaps, can’t even sew on a button or might even be a little fearful of expressing any kind of creativity. I would class myself as one of those people, I’m dreadful at drawing and really have to think about being creative and creating. But I’ve come to realise that that is totally fine and just a different way of being creative. We can’t all be Khalos and Picassos!

Creating is something that I have used over the years as an informal therapy, to be mindful and access a place of calm when feeling stuck, stressed, anxious or down. I have fond memories of making stuff as a kid with my mum, meticulously following the instructions from ITV’s Art Attack or watching my mum cross-stitch, mesmerised. As an adult I rediscovered crafts when my sister bought me a sewing magazine to keep me occupied during a long stint stuck in a hospital bed in my early 20s.

So, I want to encourage you to give creating a go and find what works for you and how you are creative. It might be colouring-in, doodling, knitting, painting, felting, decorating/DIY, sewing, origami, it could even be arranging things on a shelf, so it looks amazing. That really is a skill!

For me the process of sewing and making/constructing something from nothing is my go-to craft. Patchwork and rag-rugging are something that I really relish, both are long process so keep me focused, I get to recycle (another passion) and I also find the repetitive nature of sewing quite soothing and mindful. When it’s done, I also get a massive sense of achievement. The sense of achievement can be the most powerful aspect of creativity at a time when you may feel you aren’t getting a lot done or feel you have no control over anything else going on (in times like these I imagine we’re all feeling this way at times), which is why making and creating can be a really valuable pass time.

Here are some things that I’ve created in the past and recently

  • Patchwork wedding dress (this was a friend and family effort and incorporated fabrics from friends and family, it took me 5 years on and off = long process)
  • Rag rainbow wreath (my contribution to the street rainbows to celebrate key workers)
  • Empowering stitch (a stitch for a friend, the joy of creating for someone is also a big positive)

Thank you for reading. Stay home, stay safe and take care.

~ Kirby

Welcome to Creativity Week: Interview with Illustrator Kim Thompson

Meet Nottingham-based Illustrator Kim.

Our Trainer Aja interviewed her for this week’s theme: Creativity and Mental Health. Watch her video below to find out more about Kim’s work, and what illustration and art mean to her mental health.

Where you can find Kim:
Instagram: kim_a_tron
Facebook: kimthompsonillustration

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qf9gtcunR1Q]

Mothers and babies in mind

When I first became a mother over twenty years ago I had never heard of perinatal mental health. Though my pregnancy was very much wanted and I had longed to become a mother for many years, I was unprepared for the maelstrom of feelings that would engulf me both during the pregnancy and following the birth of my first child. I had heard of the ‘baby blues’, but did not fully grasp that the physiological and emotional changes of pregnancy, labour and caring for a newborn baby can make this a particularly vulnerable time for new mothers.

Having already experienced depression and anxiety, I realise now that pregnancy was a catalyst for a surge in emotions that further affected my mental health. I was consumed by fears about not only having my baby, but by how others would perceive me and how I would be judged as an inadequate mother. And after the safe delivery of my first child my anxieties became magnified. Despite no evidence to suggest this was or would become the case, I became overly concerned that people would see me as an ‘unfit mother’ and they would take my baby away.

These fears were ‘irrational’, but they felt very real and they affected my ability to enjoy my time as a first time mother. Above everything else, I felt alone and isolated. I had few friends or family nearby that I could share my anxieties with. Although I felt depressed and anxious I didn’t see it as related to becoming a mother and wasn’t sure that I could get support for these feelings. I also felt guilty and ashamed for not being able to cope as well as I thought I should. I did however find support through a local breastfeeding group. Here I found a community of mothers who met weekly to give mutual support to each other. This really helped me and my self esteem around my baby and my abilities to parent her.

Thankfully I was fortunate, and my anxieties did not completely overwhelm me, becoming a more serious mental health crisis. Over time I felt less anxious about motherhood and began to enjoy my time with my baby a lot more. Sadly, this isn’t the case for some new or expectant mothers, whose experiences can lead to serious conditions such as ‘postpartum psychosis’, that often affects women soon after birth.

By the time I had my second baby two years later I realised that I needed more professional support so saw my GP who referred me for counselling. This greatly helped address underlying issues I had with my mental health and ultimately helped me navigate motherhood more successfully.

If you (or somebody you know) have any concerns about your mental health during the perinatal period, help and support are available to ensure you find a healthier and more rewarding journey through parenthood.

For more information or support you can visit the NHS website on https://www.england.nhs.uk/mental-health/perinatal/ or visit the mental health charity MIND at https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/postnatal-depression-and-perinatal-mental-health/about-maternal-mental-health-problems/

To gain peer support from other mothers who have experience of perinatal mental health problems visit The National Childbirth Trust at https://www.nct.org.uk/about-us/commissioned-services/parents-mind-perinatal-mental-health-peer-support

And remember that here at Harmless we aim to support anyone experiencing difficulties with self harm or suicidal thoughts, whether these occur during the perinatal period or not.

My perinatal mental health – a blog by Lisa Williamson

In line with this week’s theme of perinatal mental health, I thought I would share a few words. I am a mum to five children (now fully grown adults) and I experienced a ‘wobble’ with my mental health, following the birth of my fourth child.

I must admit, I had become quite complacent about the whole ‘parenting’ thing and having already had three children with no problems, I thought I was invincible…………I wasn’t!

I wasn’t prepared for the huge wave of sadness that hit me. I couldn’t understand how I had just given birth to a beautiful healthy child, who I absolutely fell in love with, yet I felt so incredibly sad and all I wanted to do was sit alone and cry. I was angry with myself and tried to ‘pull myself together’ but this underlying feeling would not go away. Eventually I dragged myself to the doctors feeling a complete failure at admitting defeat. He diagnosed post natal depression and after a series of medication and a bit of self-care (not an easy task to fit in when you’re a busy mum), I slowly got  back to being the energetic, happy mum of four little girls.

It was at this point that I learned anyone can suffer with their mental health. I had looked for excuses everywhere……..I must just be tired, it was due to family issues, it was because my husband worked shifts. I had looked everywhere for the answer, without looking at me.

Here is a picture of my children when they were younger and a more recent one of them now.

 

Lisa Williamson

Suicide Bereavement Support Officer