These current times are trying and unprecedented. On a collective level, sometimes it may feel that we are one condolences message away from falling into a depressive pit. The current pandemic has brought about fear and anxiety on a global scale; the world’s mental health is on crisis.
I am writing this from Jakarta, Indonesia, where we are currently hit with the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic. The virus mutation has brought about 6x faster transmissions and even higher death tolls. Our numbers are rising by tens of thousands per day. We are forced to extend our Perberlakukan Pembatasan Kegiatan Masyarakat Darurat (PPKM Darurat) until the end of the month. Watching the news channel these days are not exactly what I call a walk in the park. While being locked in for a little over two weeks now, I beg the question, what do we do to still keep our sanity in check?
In a psychological perspective, there are numerous breathing, relaxation, and visualization techniques to help bring calm and peace to your state. Additional to all those approaches, there is also one more thing that could help alleviate the feeling of stress and anxiety. It is by having a safe space or vessel for self-expression in an authentic manner, and in this way, achieves what I call as ‘creative well-being’.
We often go by our day with a sense of obligation to hold in our feelings and/or emotions in various social situations and interactions, be it at work, or family occasions, or other social events. Without us realizing, it is inevitable that we compromise bits of our authentic selves to operate in society. However, if left unexpressed, those bits will become suppressed and will manifest themselves in other expressions, including mounted anxiety or even changes in behaviors.
These feelings and/or emotions will require an outlet to be released. And this is where having a safe space to release these feelings and/or emotions come in useful, particularly for the mental health. Recently, I have gotten back to songwriting and playing the piano. Music has always been my safe space and something that helps me unwind, centralize, and re-center. For me, it is a medium that does not offer right-or-wrong, it is merely a medium to let myself be. And during a stressful period full of tension, it is only natural that we seek a sense of comfort and security.
This so-called ‘safe space’ can come in different forms or activities for everybody, as long as its essence of providing a vessel to express our selves authentically is met. Furthermore, it does not have to be a literal ‘creative’ pursuit. For instance, there are individuals who enjoy cooking, or cycling, or perhaps gardening. There are two quick tips to maintain a creative well-being:
1. Go deep. Get more acquainted with your own self in the most authentic way possible, including your interests, your purpose, and all the things that spark joy for you. It also helps to keep a list or journal for this, as this process might even end up being a holistic self-discovery process.
2. Be consistent. Once you have pointed down your ‘safe space’ for self-expression, then the next bit is to maintain a routine. Find little pockets of time in your day to do this activity. A little goes a long way. Even a brief 10 – 15 minutes per day devoted for ourselves and for doing the activity that allows us to express ourselves is a form of self-care that our minds and bodies will benefit from.
Whatever the form or activity, find what it is that ultimately makes you feel like you. At the end of the day, being free to be our most authentic self is one of the highest form of self-love and stress-relievers we can provide for ourselves, even in the most trying of all circumstances.