According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is “a mental health profession in which clients, facilitated by the art therapist, use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem. A goal in art therapy is to improve or restore a client’s functioning and his or her sense of personal well-being.”
Human services professionals provide and/or support the mental health treatments of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in multiple ways, including through the use of art therapy.
While art therapy is a healing modality used to help children and adult consumers in program settings, you may find the need to use art to direct your own healing as a way to cope with the stress of caregiving.
Here are 5 ways that you can incorporate concepts of art therapy into your own self-care practice.
Create a Word Collage – You may find it difficult to come up with the words on your own that adequately express your feelings. Take the pressure off of yourself and instead use words that are already found in magazines, newspapers, old books, etc. Cut them out and paste them on to a piece of paper, cardboard or in a journal just as you would a collage. You can work within a particular subject or choose words at random to see what bubbles up. (Source)
Draw the Beauty Around You – Get a piece of paper or sketchbook and go outside. Draw what you see, tall trees, blue skies, mountains, beaches, children playing, friends holding hands, your loved ones, etc. This provides you with healing from the flow and distraction of drawing, as well as the reminders of what is well in your world, plus the immersion in nature, the fresh air, the warm sun, the greenery, the birds singing, the wind blowing.
Color in Adult Coloring Books – Purchase an adult coloring book in a category that interests you, or print free pages. Use coloring pencils or markers to color and receive the stress-minimizing benefits.
Make Zentangles – A zentangle is a type of drawing that includes repetitive shapes and designs. The practice of creating builds a beautiful work of art that helps you feel a sense of gratification and relaxation.
Create Daily Mandalas – The concentrated attention it takes to create a mandala can bring you into a state of meditation and mindfulness. The focus helps to block out distractions and what ails you and calms your nervous system.
You can apply these art therapy practices to your regular self-care work as a way to help recover from the stressors that come with your work as a caregiver. Practicing regular self-care keeps you from burning out and helps to revive your energy and resolve to continue showing up as your best self.