I moved to a new house recently. I noticed that one of the first things I did was walk through the house several times a day (and at different times of day) checking the views from each window. Which faced North? South? Which windows had the best view of the trees in the yard? Where was the sun and where was the shade? Was there privacy or did I feel as though the neighbors had a view into the house?
I chose a bedroom that was at the front of the house, on the second floor with a lot of morning light and a lovely shade tree close-by. I can hear birds because they frequent the tree. There is hyacinth and an old grape arbor that border the grassy knoll between my front yard and the neighbor's above us on the next block. If I have my window open, I can smell the flowers and the grass when it is freshly cut.
As the weather has allowed, I have puttered in my yard, getting acquainted with it. I have moved some existing plants and flowers around, and added some new plantings to the front yard, in hopes of attracting more birds and butterflies. Not only does poking around in the dirt relax me, but creating small inviting spaces that are a joy to the senses is one of the ways I express my creativity.
All my life, wherever I have lived, I have always found spots outside where I can retreat and feel safe, where I can watch the world around me; I remember making a fort (a "hiding place" of sorts) under a large white azalea bush when I was 7, and laying on my back looking through the mass of leaves and flowers at the bright filtered sun. I loved the pure sound of the birds high in the surrounding trees, and the hum of the bees pollinating the flowers all around me. Creating comforting outside spaces was a way in which I learned to soothe myself.
This has turned out to be a lifesaver for me...
Growing up in an alcoholic family left me feeling fearful, hyper-vigilant, and unable to relax most of the time ( I wished I was literally invisible at times) -my nerve endings felt raw and as though they were close to the surface of my skin.
This pervasive feeling followed me into adulthood. Before I learned to make the "family of origin" connections, I began soothing myself with alcohol. I was following a familiar family pattern that had far-reaching destructive consequences. Eventually, (before things spun completely out of control), I was ready to make a life change and thankfully, was able to implement several of my strengths (humor, creativity and playfulness) to find healthier alternatives to self-soothing. I look forward to continuing creativity in small ways that bring great calm and simple joy.
If I can do it, I am sure you can too!
In every phase of my life, I have always enjoyed writing. Sometimes just being able to have a place for my random, (and often odd) observations in life, to EXIST - served to free my brain for more 'thinking'.
I had a BLOG about 7 years ago and recently, I ran into this post. I wrote my blog under the pen name "Laundreah Line" (if you get the silly reference, then good for you!)...
and was responding to a creative writer who complained of "Writer's Block" - please...Enjoy!
Recently, a blocked writer sent this request for help…
“I’m a self-employed writer with serious writer’s block. I have tried chocolate, long talks with my dog analyzing the situation, multiple games of web sudoku, and staring dreamily out the window. I’m seriously afraid I may even resort to housework. HELP ME PLEASE!”
Dear Not Getting it…
Oh – how I feel your pain. Rest assured you are not alone! I would like to offer a spin on an often heard phrase – “Less is More”…My spin is that “More (and More) is Better”…More Chocolate, More visits with your dog, More visits with your neighbor’s dog, More daydreaming! Housework is a great way to free your inner creativity, as well. So do not think of it as a last resort. The more tedious the housework – the better your creative flow.
There have been times in the past when I began to feel the onset of Writer’s Block – or, as some call it – The Creative Clog. I found a really great clog-mover in a little writing exercise I call “Verbal Vomit”. Not a delicate way to describe it – but if you sit down and pound away at the keyboard, putting to cyber paper (or real paper-your choice) any and ALL ideas, words, sentences, phrases that come to mind – no matter how disconnected, lackluster, or pathetic they seem, before you know it – the clog begins to loosen, the block cleared and your flow is restored! In essence – the Verbal Vomit removes the stupid, inane, trite and otherwise vacuous Lexicon-toxins that are Blocking the Flow!
Don’t fight Verbal Vomit…it can be a writer’s best tool!
When someone experiences a "medical/physical trauma"; a stroke, a heart attack, a diagnosis that necessitates a radical change from 'life as usual' (Parkinson's, MS, ALS, Cancer, just for example) in addition to learning medical options available, patients would do well to receive mental health counseling. The toll adjusting to a new "normal" can be daunting and emotionally exhausting. And left unaddressed, can at minimum, leave one with unresolved feelings of confusion, frustration, anger, depression and anxiety. At most, some patients find themselves contemplating suicide.
An example that comes to mind is that of a man I know - who, after years of maintaining a fast-paced life - (which included frequent international travel, wining and dining clients, constant public interaction and performing in the spotlight,) suffered a debilitating stroke that left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak.
Initially, all his energy went to just surviving. More than two weeks in an ICU left him drained and stunned. After teetering on the brink of life and death, he recovered enough to be released to a stroke rehabilitation facility, where he spent 30 days learning to walk with the aid of a walker, to eat when swallowing was severely compromised and to gain some control of his now spastic hands.
Although his cognitive functioning seemed completely in tact post stroke, it was pure torture trying to form words now. Speech therapy was laborious and demoralizing. His once strong, publically-recognized voice, was gone. He could barely swallow. His breath was weak and he was completely devastated. He had to swallow three and four times to get a mouthful of thickened juice down.
This man went from traveling the United States and other countries for business to sitting in front of his laptop in a wheelchair, his only outings those to his medical appointments. His sense of self was rattled, to say the least.
What this man did not understand, nor accept when the subject was raised, was that he had suffered a sizable LOSS. I'd even call it a "Trauma" with a capital "T". There,in essence, had been a "death" in his world.
He was asked if he wanted to meet with a social worker and he declined. Over the next two years, I watched him become depressed and hyper-focused on
what he perceived as a steady loss of functioning (despite the doctor's report of a plateauing in gain). He suffered from fatigue and began neglecting his once pristine grooming. He lost his 'mental edge' (humor, nuance appreciation) from lack of use. This was a downward spiraling cycle.
With any life-altering event, grief is a natural response. When a person loses some of their physical/mental abilities - either temporarily of permanently, it is critical to get the same emotional and psychological help as they have received (medically) for their medical/physical symptoms.
In my opinion, Trauma process and counseling for medical/physical events should be "prescribed" along with other rehabilitation therapies without exception. I would like medical professionals to consistently stress the importance of follow up counseling for their patients. It is my hope that practitioners in our field can work to educate individuals, and families involved, on the benefits that can be gained with mental health counseling post any serious medical/physical event.
Let us teach our clients that for the sake of their mental health, it is important to process and grieve their losses in order to be able to heal from the emotional trauma.
If this headline sounds familiar - you may remember Mel Brooks' outrageous (for the times) movie, "Blazing Saddles"...a comedic romp that took theaters by storm in 1974.
As this is my first blog on our CenterPointe, PC Therapists Site, it seemed an appropriate way to introduce the topic of humor, play and creativity and the critical role they play in good mental health...
Although Play Therapy is familiar with regard to working with children, it isn't as prevalent when working with adults. Hopefully that is changing. Common is the idea among the general adult population (anecdotal reference, I know) that "play is for kids"..."I'm too old for that"..."I don't have time for that - I have WORK to do."
Oh contrare! There have been myriad studies and on-going research that demonstrate that playing "...shapes the brain and opens the imagination (Stuart Brown, MD)" and often, especially when introduced in therapy, provides a vehicle that helps "...unlock the deeply rooted and seemingly unspeakable feelings" (Dottie Ward-Wimmer, RN, MA, RPT-S).
When we play, when we laugh, when we are engaging our 'creative juices', our blood pressure tends to be lower, and the level of 'feel-good' body chemicals (Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphins) is higher. Studies have shown an increase in work productivity when people are encouraged to make time for fun in their work day.
Whenever I need to draw myself out of a gloomy/stressful patch , I might take 15 or 20 minutes and google YouTube to find clips from the old Carol Burnett Show (the Harvey Korman and Tim Conway Dentist office skit is a fav), maybe watch comedienne Kathleen Madigan's "Yoga lesson", or perhaps google some of the thousands of hilarious dog, kitten and baby videos) - it's free, fast and hopefully habit-forming.
Because there never seems to be a shortage of serious, sobering, intense emotional work to be addressed in therapy - because I rarely see adults who describe their lives as relaxing, balanced and evenly-paced - it is an honor for me to be able to introduce them to the benefits of playing, for the sheer pleasure and fun of it, as an integral part of the therapeutic healing process.
So try this:
Next time you are feeling the effects of too much stress - take your shoes off and walk on the ground barefoot, let yourself color, paint, journal, buy some helium balloons and release them, close your eyes and randomly flip a thesaurus to a page, put your finger on the page and see what word you land on. Now use it 5 times today! Talk with a foreign accent for an hour and see if anyone notices...go on! I dare you!
Please feel free to share some ways in which you build time for fun in your day!
Casey Roake Peddicord, MA is a Counselor and co-partner of CenterPointe Therapists, PC.