What do you think of when you hear the word creativity? Perhaps joy, laughter, art, and play are a few words that come to mind? While creativity is great for these things, it can also be a very effective coping mechanism during troubling times. At Scribblers Festival HQ, we are feeling the affects of what a tumultuous year it has been for Australia and the world in 2020, first with the bushfires and now with the global pandemic of COVID-19. It’s hard to know what to do, and difficult to explain the situation to our young people without alarming them. We find that creativity can not only stimulate resourcefulness with ideas to help, but it can also be the best way to cope with big feelings that otherwise become overwhelming. Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. from PsychCentral notes, “That’s the thing about creating and making: It helps us to better understand who we are. It helps us to unravel our many layers, and brings us closer to our core. And, ultimately, it helps us to cope with our struggles,” in her article The Power of Creativity in Helping Us to (Kind of) Cope.
Here are our 5 ideas to help people of all ages cope with the big stuff life throws our way using creativity:
Writing in many forms can help our minds process a situation, and sometimes even come up with solutions to take action. It might help to write a poem about a family directly affected by illness, a utopian fiction about a world that doesn’t experience man made or natural disaster, or a letter proposing ideas for change to send to government leaders. If you're not sure where to start, sometimes the best way to begin any piece of writing is to start with a “stream of consciousness” exercise. Grab a notebook and start writing without having a goal or direction, dumping all your unfiltered thoughts on to paper. From there you can see what keeps arising and decide where to focus your creative writing piece. Don’t forget to enter your story to our writing competition, The Golden Pen, where our theme for 2020 is aptly ‘Planet Earth.’
After watching countless hours of news footage or discussing a topic in school at length, it can be hard to turn off your brain to process how you’re feeling. Using your hands to get creative can help quiet the analytical mind and start tapping into your emotions. Grab a pen, paintbrush, or simply use your hands to experiment with colours, shapes, and medium to express your feelings. Try playing with different coloured paints or texters to see which combinations express which emotions. Doodle repetitive shapes and notice the effect it has in helping calm your mind. Ditch the tool altogether, and use your hands to finger paint or draw in the sand or dirt. Getting your hands dirty on its own can help you feel connected to the creative part of your brain and nature if you choose it as your medium.
Perhaps you feel a strong urge to help more directly, but aren’t sure what to do. Consider creating something that you can send to a kid, family, school, medically vulnerable neighbour, healthcare workers, or fire station that have been affected by recent events. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what would bring a smile to your face if you were going through a hard time. Maybe it’s a journal with a cover decorated by you, a simple letter saying you are thinking about them, or an uplifting drawing to help brighten their day. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, just a little something that reminds them someone cares.
In times where we are instructed to practice social distancing and quarantine, it's important to find other ways to connect, and get creativity about how to do so because we know that connecting with others can be the best way to get through intense emotions. Take advantage of our online connectivity to create as a community. Decide on a topic or theme, and share your creations with each other. Sharing your thoughts and feelings about what’s going on in the world with people you care about and spending quality time "together" are both great ways to cope. Maybe you’ll be inspired to work together to create something that you could have never done alone! Don't forget to follow @scribblersfest on Instagram and Facebook for ideas on how to create together.
Channeling emotions using creative outlets can help you explore a topic in a different way. Jot down your thoughts after each creative exercise above – does it spark questions you have for a parent or teacher? Maybe it gives you ideas to suggest to a government leader to prevent future environmental or public health disasters. Perhaps it will influence an area of work you will pursue in order to help save the planet or help others cope with hardship. Asking questions can be the best way to create a cycle of change, and creativity can get your curiosity flowing.
We’d love to know how you’re using creativity to help cope with the pandemic, bushfires, or anything else troubling you – tag @scribblersfest on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you think you or anyone you know needs more indepth help coping with any situation, Beyond Blue offers numerous free, confidential resources.