Coffee with Esther (October 2022)

Mind, Body and Relief! 

Hi Everyone, 

It’s been an emotional month for everyone. With the nights drawing in and the weather getting colder, it’s time for a lot of us to come inside away from the cold weather. During the Virtual Coffee Breaks, we’ve been discussing how we all cope with the colder days and what we do to help with the pain. If you’ve been following these blogs, you will know that since my operation, my artistic skills have been my lifeline to help me relax and keep my mental health strong. Some people think you are born with these skills. I was certainly not! I have watched videos and attended courses to help me express how I’m feeling. I use art as an aid to help me cope with being in constant pain. So the one thing that I’ve always continued with is Art Therapy.

Art Therapy is a brilliant way to pause from the world and allows you to express your thoughts and feelings. It can be done in a group or in a one-on-one session, but once you understand the concept, you can continue using it at home on your own. 

Have you ever had that overwhelming feeling and not been sure how to release it? 

Painting, sculpture, collage, pastels, pencils, movement, music or written words. All of these allow your mind to get some rest while the attention is taken away from the issues and bring your mind into the present moment. It can help with self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-awareness. It can improve cognitive and sensory function, sleep, anxiety, stress and pain.

If you’re thinking of trying some creative activity and want to use it as part of pain control, please remember there are some guide rules you should follow. These are:

  • Turn off all electronic devices and remove any distractions. 
  • Whichever activity you decide to do or have a go at, keep the following statements by your side. It will help your body and mind not stray away from the present moment.  
    • “At this moment, I am colouring.”
    • “It does not need to be perfect. It is my self-expression.”
    • “I am choosing [colour] to use on all the [shapes] in the picture.”
  • But please remember the Golden Rule: pace yourself. Set a timer and only do 30 mins at a time. Rest and repeat if you still feel you want to. 

Art Journals are a perfect way to express your feelings and mood. Draw, paint, and collage on a page and write a feeling or statement you are feeling ONCE you’ve finished your art piece. Always remember to write at least a few positive words too. (But honestly by the time you’ve finished, I’m sure you won’t have that many negative feelings.) 

Try not to be critical about your art piece. “Any mistake is an element of design”. (Thank you Lesley who said this during one of the coffee break sessions. It’s a perfect saying.)

This autumn, I’m going to try some finger painting in a journal to feel and release some of my anxiety. I’m excited to get started on it. My own book, expressing myself, releasing my stress and also something I can look back through and help me understand what I was feeling and how I coped with it. 

The other thing I’m going to try is Body Mapping. Body Mapping is where you get an outline of a human body and put a dot on each area you feel pain, burning or tingling. Once you have put all the dots on, you then take each dot and turn it into something else or a pattern. So for example, the dot could become a flower or maybe it could become a nose for a dog? It could become a pattern flowing through the body. It can be absolutely anything. Then, look back at it and see what you have created. I have done this exercise before and it was amazing how it made me feel afterwards. If you want to give this a go but you feel unsure, always talk to an art therapy advisor. 

Why does Art help towards healing? 

Art forces you to forge a connection between your mind and body, unlike exercise which just works your body, or meditation which clears the mind. Art needs both body and mind and helps promote healing jointly. 

What happens if you feel you just don’t have one little art bone in your body?

Well, colouring also has the ability to relax the fear centre of your brain, so this reduces the thoughts of a restless mind and reduces anxiety and stress. Try colour by numbers painting, pre-printed pictures or mindfulness colouring books. It doesn’t matter if you go over the lines – remember “Any mistake is an element of design”. But if you don’t want paints, glue or paper everywhere around the house, why not try the apps that are available for iPads, Android tablets or phones. I have a few on my iPad and I use a pen which has a special grip on it to help me colour in the pictures. For some of the apps, you only have to tap the number and the whole section is coloured in for you. You just have to find all the sections! So even the perfectionist could do these pictures and get the mind and body workout we all need. 

Here are a few of the free Apps I use: 

  • Adult colouring books
  • Colour by numbers
  • Colour by numbers oil painting

Maybe one day we will do a session during a coffee break session! Or even a ‘show and tell’.

I hope you will give this a go and enjoy it as much as I do.

Here are the upcoming dates for the Virtual Coffee Breaks sessions:

  • 13th October at 2pm BST
  • 20th October at 6pm BST
  • 3rd November at 11am GMT
  • 10th November at 2pm GMT
  • 17th November at 6pm GMT
  • 1st December at 11am GMT
  • 8th December at 2pm GMT
  • 15th December at  6pm GMT = Christmas Jumper Party! 

I hope to see you there!

Esther