We’ve all seen articles telling us how to ‘indulge’ in self-care in a curated, Instagrammable, Pinterest-worthy way. You know, bubble baths and pedicures, mojitos with your friends and charcuterie boards. And that’s… nice for those who can manage it. But if you read those articles, and the very thought of all that is exhausting and makes you want to cry, read on… we’ve got you covered.
What is Self-Care?
Here’s the thing: Self-care means anything that you do for your own good. And, just like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we can classify self-care in a pyramid.The bottom of the pyramid? Things like: taking your meds, brushing your teeth, getting out of bed (with or without getting dressed), making yourself eat. And if those are too much, try and think of the smallest thing that you could manage to do in your day, and prioritize. It’s probably more important that you eat something and take your meds than get dressed or brush your teeth. Of course, those things are important, too, but when you’re in crisis, you need to choose the absolute essentials.
Once you have the basics covered, the next most important thing is to add in some joyful things which will fill your cup. Are you rewatching all of Star Trek in order? (That’s mine!) Do you like to knit, crochet, paint or draw? Do you have ‘$20 in your pocket’ and enough energy to make it to the thrift store? Can you make it out for a Starbucks with a friend?
Self-Care is Necessary
If you find yourself struggling with self-care, try gently asking yourself why. Are you exhausted and in chronic pain and it’s just physically difficult to do tasks? Are you in the bottom of a depression and shame spiral and you don’t feel like you’re worthy of love and care? Do you feel like any time, effort or money spent on yourself is ‘bad’? Maybe some of these things are issues to take up with your doctor and/or counsellor. If you are struggling with everything, including eating and taking meds consistently, it may be time to make a decision to ask for help.
Make Self-Care a Judgement Free Zone
Things that tend not to be helpful: Beating yourself up about what you ‘should’ be able to do, or listening to helpful relatives suggest that ‘if you just got to bed at a decent time’ you’d be able to do everything with ease. In order to work on making changes in our lives, we first need to accept where we are – without judgement, shame, blame or self-hatred.
It can help to find someone whom you admire who has also struggled with similar issues. For example, one of my favourite authors, John Green, struggles with intrusive thought spirals due to OCD, like I do – and it makes me feel just a little bit better.
If you struggle with certain self-care tasks, look for alternatives. Please know that many, many people have specific struggles with tasks like showering, brushing their teeth, visiting the dentist or doctor, taking their medications, etc. Instead of looking at those Instagram-perfect lives, use social media to your advantage, and find YouTubers and TikTokkers who understand what you’re going through and can give you some ideas:
If you struggle to take your meds, think about whether it’s a problem remembering (and put them somewhere you will be sure to see them every day), or a mental struggle (you may have to bribe yourself with a treat, or get a loved one to check in with you to help you to be consistent).
Dentists and doctors: if you have fears or specific issues, it can seem overwhelming to tackle medical appointments. Here’s the time to take your loved ones up on their offer to advocate for you, and let them take care of scheduling, transport, being with you and checking in on you during the appointment if they recognize that you are overwhelmed.
It can be hard to work on decorating your space when you don’t have a lot of energy or motivation, but if you spend a lot of time in your room, it’s important. There are resources which can help you. Try this YouTube video for some good ideas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABof7aqVSoQ
The Best and Bravest Decision
Deciding to work on self-care is a very brave decision. And one of the best ways to do that is to ask for help. This is often really hard! But you probably know some people who would be happy to help if they just knew what you needed. This might involve swallowing your pride a little bit. It takes courage to let even a trusted person into your space when it’s messy or dirty. I 100% promise you that they are not judging you like you are judging yourself. I also promise you that if they were living your life right now, they’d be struggling, too. This isn’t about your sickness, disability or lack of motivation. It’s about figuring out what you need to in order to create a life worth living.
So, self-care can be hard. And yes, that sucks. But it’s the foundation which will allow you to build towards all the good things that are waiting for you. Remember that every tiny act of self-care you can manage will build up into a forward momentum towards feeling better.
The pandemic has been tough on everyone, and according to both UNICEF and Statistics Canada, it’s been exceptionally tough on our children and teenagers. It’s impacted their social lives, their schooling, and their personal development. The challenges of social distancing, feelings of isolation from being away from friends and family, and the abrupt switch to remote learning have all contributed to the toll on their mental health. Now, more than ever, our young ones need new skills to adjust and flourish in this new normal.
Art and Healing
But here’s the silver lining – we’ve all seen the healing power of the arts during these difficult times. Remember the boom in virtual art sessions? The touching signs made for healthcare workers? The painted rocks scattered about? The spontaneous musical performances on streets and in hospitals? All these were clear signs of how art was used as a powerful tool to create meaningful connections, express our sense of community, and build resilience. And guess what? Our teens can harness the same power of art as they navigate their path towards adulthood.
Arts proved their worth in our toughest times, and they’re just as crucial for our kids today!
Our ‘Name it to Tame it’ art class is the ideal space for your teen to start reconnecting with the world. With its small group setting and nurturing, safe environment, it’s designed to help them develop healthy ways to cope through fun, creativity, and self-expression. So, your teen won’t just learn to create art in this class, they’ll also learn to create resilience and thrive in life.
Our Name It To Tame It group for anxious teens isn’t run by an art therapist, it is run by a teaching artist, Meg Neufeld. What’s the difference you might be wondering?
Art therapists are professionally trained clinical counsellors with specific training in art therapy, who use creative expression and art-making as way to help clients explore their emotions and experiences in specific ways and with clinical support; teaching artists are practicing professional artists that place an importance on teaching people how to engage in art in a meaningful, helpful way that can have a positive impact on mental health and resilience.
Teaching Art for Teen Anxiety
Art therapy and teaching art can be game-changers in your teen’s wellbeing. Imagine them enjoying fun art activities that not only keeps them engaged but also makes a real difference in their lives. These creative sessions can help them let go of stress, motivate them to take care of themselves, and promote their personal growth. It’s about more than just painting or drawing, it’s about growing their confidence, boosting their self-esteem, and helping them build resilience. Art provides your teens with a fresh, creative outlet to explore and express their thoughts and emotions, and along the way, they’ll be acquiring crucial life skills. It’s a win-win situation, and what more could we as parents ask for?
As a professional and teaching artist, Meg Neufeld is in a unique position to draw from her own experience as a practicing artist and as an educator in the community. Meg has over two decades of experience as a professional artist, along with training in education and in mindfulness-based art techniques that can be passed on to teens struggling with anxiety. She also has personal lived experience about what it is like to make art for one’s physical, social, mental, emotional wellbeing as a result of her own journey with chronic pain.
Anxiety: Name it to Tame it!
If your teen is struggling with anxiety, we’d love to bring them into the world of art, and help them find a safe place to land, and explore how art can help them in their journey with their anxiety, and have some fun!
If your teen’s anxiety would prevent them from coming to a group, we’re also able to provide this service 1:1 and in pairs with parents – let us know if your teen would benefit from individual sessions!
They both are excellent tools to manage anxiety! In recent years, mindfulness has emerged as an effective strategy for children and adolescents dealing with conditions like ADHD, anxiety, autism spectrum disorders, depression, and stress. Coupled with the health benefits of art-making, mindfulness skills can be instrumental in managing anxious or negative thoughts for children and youth.
Mindful Art Making
A recent study from the University of Waterloo shows that just 10 minutes of mindfulness-based activity a day can reduce anxiety and prevent your mind from wandering. Mindful art making activities, especially those that require repetitive tasks (like knitting), with sensory elements (like clay), and reflective components (like journaling) work to calm the nervous system, and soothe symptoms of stress and irritability.
Focusing on the process rather than the product, and approaching the art-making experience with compassion and a non-judgmental attitude can be instrumental in managing anxious or negative thoughts. Supporting child and youth mental health using mindfulness-based art activities is a no brainer (pun fully intended).
Did you know that an estimated 1.2 million children and youth are affected by mental illness. 70% of mental health issues begin in childhood and adolescence, yet 75% of children with mental health issues do not access specialized services. Teen suicide rates in Canada is one of the highest in the world, with rates in Indigenous communities being 11x higher than the national average (Youth Mental Health in Canada statistic)
According to the Canadian Pediatric Society, over 30% of teens have anxiety disorders, with girls (38.6%) having a higher rate than boys (26.1%). This is why it’s so important for us to prioritize, support, and advocate for mental health programs and treatment for children and teenagers.
How can Art help Anxiety?
Back in 2019, the World Health Organization shared some eye-opening research. They found that letting young people explore their creativity through the arts can greatly improve their social skills, physical health, emotional wellbeing, and cognitive abilities. This holistic improvement in mental and physical health is making arts a vital part of healthcare, particularly for our children and teenagers. The more they’re able to express themselves through arts, the healthier they become, and this trend is gaining more recognition in the healthcare world.
Anxiety: Name it to Tame it
Our Name it to Tame it group is designed to use the arts described in this research to help teens with anxiety use art-making and mindfulness to improve their social skills, physical health, and mental and emotional wellbeing using a fun and creative art experience.
Do you find yourself constantly worrying about every possible scenario that could go wrong? You’re not alone. Constant worrying, overthinking, and feeling out of control can take a big toll on your mental health and well-being. This makes it incredibly difficult to focus on daily tasks or enjoy life to its fullest. But there is a solution: Coping Ahead is an effective technique from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) that helps you prepare for stress and manage emotions ahead of time.
When I was 19 years old I learned to pilot gliders (airplanes without engines, also called sailplanes). Before each flight, we would always go through our pre-flight checks, even if the aircraft had just landed from a previous flight. We would make sure all of the controls worked as expected, the instruments were reading correctly, and of other important things worth double-checking when you’re propelling yourself two thousand feet into the sky!
The very last step of every pre-flight check was to review “eventualities.”
Though it’s been many years now since I last flew, I still remember vividly what I would say out loud to myself at this step, time and time again:
“If a wing drops on the launch and I cannot recover, I will release the launch cable and land ahead. At a safe height and speed I will start to climb. In the event of a launch failure, I will release the cable and lower the nose to a recovery attitude, and gain sufficient speed before maneuvering. I will land ahead if possible. Otherwise, I will turn downwind, which today is [left or right] and complete an abbreviated circuit or find a safe landing solution. The wind today is ___ knots which means my minimum approach speed is ___ knots.”
Coping Ahead saves time and effort.
The reason for talking through these eventualities in so much detail on the ground is that you’ve already made all of your decisions in the event of an emergency. In an unlikely situation where the pressure is on and seconds count, you don’t need to waste precious time or mental effort deciding what to do. You’ve already thought it through, and simply must follow your plan.
And this skill isn’t just for pilots! In DBT, coping ahead is an emotion regulation skill that can help you rehearse strategies ahead of time to better handle stressful situations or uncomfortable emotions. By visualizing and planning out how you will cope with challenging situations in advance, you start to feel more confident in your ability to face them, boosting your self-esteem and reducing stress.
What’s the difference between Coping Ahead and overthinking?
Overthinking is a common response to stress that can be counterproductive. It is also a common feature of anxiety that involves dwelling on worst-case scenarios, often leading to a cycle of negative thoughts and emotions. It can be triggered by a wide range of every-day stressors or perceived threats.
On the other hand, rather than going in circles about problems, Coping Ahead involves thinking about solutions. It is a deliberate and proactive skill, rather than a reactive response that actually impairs your problem-solving abilities.
How do I learn to Cope Ahead?
If you want to learn how to Cope Ahead, there are some practical tips you can try.
Identify potential stressors in your life, such as upcoming deadlines or social events.
Plan coping strategies that work for you, such as deep breathing, positive self-talk, or seeking support from friends.
Rehearse your coping strategies in your mind, visualizing yourself using them and picturing how they will help.
Lastly, remember to take some time to relax and ground yourself. Well done!
If you are struggling with…
A sense of low control in your life
Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
Other conditions that cause intense emotional reactions to common life stressors
…then consider seeking support from a mental health professional. Coping Ahead is a skill that can be learned and practiced, and therapy can provide a safe and supportive environment for developing this skill. Contact our clinic to learn more about how we can help.