My Favorite Bit of Information From The Week:
I am so honored this week to introduce a post written by my friend and hero Teagan Walsh-Davis. I have decided to continue the trend of adding a guest post every other week or so. This way, you get to hear voices outside mine own (and so do I) – we all learn more when learning from one another. Without further ado…
LOL What That Anxiety Do
I’ve struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember, though certainly when I was very young I wasn’t able to recognize it as such. I was well into my twenties and seeing a good therapist before I came to realize that no, not everyone is this afraid. Not everyone exists in a state of hypervigilance, certain that something terrible is on the verge of happening at any moment. Learning this was both strangely isolating (to realize that this deeply ingrained feeling, which I had always been certain I shared with the rest of humanity, was not the universal connector I once imagined it to be) and, to a greater extent, comforting (seeing that the bar by which I measured my reality had been skewed by years of low-humming dread, and that by looking that truth in its face I could move forward with greater clarity).
My individual anxiety tends to percolate psychologically before working on me physically or emotionally. For example, I’ll get stuck in a loop of intrusive thoughts (I failed, why did I say that, that person thinks I’m a monster, maybe I am a monster) which, if left to its own devices, can subsequently lead to a physical/emotional event (shortness of breath, crying, occasionally panic attacks). Because so much of my anxiety grows out of an inability to “turn my brain off”, I struggle to engage in activities like traditional meditation, which I know might help me cut the panic off at the pass, but often seem impossibly difficult to be fully present for.
Then, almost two years ago, I started taking ceramics classes on a whim. And the longer I’ve spent working with clay, the more I’ve discovered that my brain just requires a different type of meditative state.
The practice of “mindfulness” has long been noted as helpful for anxiety and depression (for a thorough overview on some of the effects of mindfulness on stress and overall emotional wellbeing, check out this 2008 study published in the Journal of Research in Personality). As defined by Berkeley’s Center for Greater Good, “mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.” For me, mindfulness has never been so easy as when I’m attempting to make art in motion. At a pottery wheel, I am required to be fully present in the moment, and don’t have the time or space to engage in my usual intellectual panic cycles; take your focus off the clay for a moment and you’re likely to put a thumb through the cup you were making. The act requires practice, patience, and precision. It allows me to measurably watch my own growth. And, perhaps most importantly, it requires a growing acceptance of failure and transience (the more attached to a piece you are, the greater the statistical chance it will crack in the kiln or get shattered on the floor. I don’t have a citation for that but I do have plenty of anecdotal evidence, so just roll with me on this one).
The area of study around Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy (MBAT) has grown in recent years, and more research has gone into their overall effectiveness. These types of practices are being used to help reduce anxiety and depression, and have even been shown to help mitigate certain emotional traumas associated with disease and long-term illness care. A 2012 study by The Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine combined a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction curriculum with integrated art therapy techniques to help participants exercise greater self-expression, and found that those who were treated not only reported lower levels of stress and anxiety at the end of the program, but also demonstrated increased cerebral blood flow to some of the brain’s foremost emotional processing centers.
As with anything, mindfulness and art therapy are not cure-alls. But for those, like me, who struggle to shut off the constant chorus of cerebral nerves, a combination of these practices can help at least turn down the volume.
Additional resources on art therapy, mindfulness, and their uses to help ease anxiety:
Update On My Show:
Weekly Updates: Totally updated script complete, and now for edits with my mental health professionals and fellow creatives!
Fundraising: The project is free for audiences and therefore is completely independently funded – any support is appreciated! If you have already donated, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, you have made it possible to get this far. And if you are not in a place to give a dollar right now, thank you for being here and being a part of breaking the stigma on mental health. Much love!If you would like to donate to my show, share this project with a friend, or find out more about it please check out my gofundme here.
Please check out the One Woman Hamlet Website: www.onewomanhamlet.com
AND! my update Video.
Many, Many thanks: Margo Siwak and Joe Siwak for the design of the logo, and to Jillian Best and Bill Best for the Website creation and Design! I feel very blessed to have such beautiful humans in my life.
Ways to Support: If you would like to donate to my show, share this project with a friend, or find out more about it please check out my gofundme here: https://www.gofundme.com/one-woman-hamlet
Thank You: Thank you VERY much to all who have donated thus far, making this project possible.