Updated: Oct 6, 2020
We are living in a time where, thankfully, there is more and more talk about the importance of self care. We are becoming far more aware that in order for us to be able to share ourselves with others; to tend to our children, to be there for a friend, to keep the fire lit with our partner, we must first tend to our own needs. There are so many ways that we can do that and they really are unique to each individual.
Some people nurture themselves by going to the gym or working out every day. Some like to go for a hot bath after a long day at work, bathing in the juices of some much needed alone time. Others need to meet up with a friend or to socialize to re-energize - something that has been unpredictable and inconsistent in nature during this time. And some people need a combination of all of the above. In general, it is understood that we are social beings and so for the vast majority of us, balance is key.
For me, every day is different and so I try to check in regularly to see what I need now, in this moment. Coming from a creative arts background, art making has always been an important part of how I do this. Some days I find it difficult to really know what it is I need to re-energize and it is in these moments that I turn to the art making process.
I have had a journal and / a sketchbook almost consistently since I was a little girl. And like all imperfect human-beings, I have moved in and out of it inconsistently turning to it in times of need and abandoning it when I'm feeling good. Right now, I find myself turning to it at least once if not twice a week. Sometimes I will just write. Other times I will doodle but other times I will turn to my art materials.
I have a thing for chalk pastels in times of stress and find great release in the gritty sensation in its' dance with paper. When my arm gets tired and begins to ache, I sometimes switch hands and listen. This is often where I find what I need. There is something about the fluidity and lack of control combined with the desire for control in the use of our non dominant hand that shifts us to a far more embodied experience where I belief we become far more in-tuned with how we are doing in that moment.
I often incorporate this technique in to my practice, both as a means to figure out what has come up for me following as a session but also at times in session with a client who is perhaps feeling a little disconnected or "stuck". I wish to share it with you as something you can try at home as part of your own self care ritual. You do not need to be "good at art" or have even touched an art material since school. In fact, this might proof to be far more insightful for you if that is the case.
All you will need is a piece of paper and some chalk pastels. Try to set yourself up in a quiet space where you will not be disturbed. Some people prefer to work at a table but you can work on floor or on the wall, whatever feels right for you. Chalk pastels do leave some residue so just be mindful of this in relation to the space you are in and the area you wish to work.
Once you feel comfortable in the space start to tune in to your breathing. Maybe close the eyes and just notice where you are in your body right now. Whatever comes up for you, try not to push it away, allow it to be there. Acknowledge its presents in the moment. When you are ready, take a chalk pastel and with your dominant hand, begin to make some marks. Allow the material to move around the page in whatever way feels natural. As you do this, really notice the sensations. The texture, the sound, the smell, maybe even the taste (do not try this at home kids). Follow your own intuition in where the marks take you remaining mindful of whatever thoughts and / emotions are coming up for you.
Note: Try to give some time to this and not rush. In fact the more time you give yourself, the more you will learn about yourself.
Once you have given time to work with your dominant hand, gently shift to your non dominant hand. You can chose another chalk pastel if you wish but it is entirely your choice. Always trusting your own initiative in the process. Again before you make your mark with your other hand. just take a moment to check in with your breathing again here. Maybe closing the eyes and tuning in to the sensations of the body, its rhythm, its texture. Has anything changed?
When you are ready, begin to make your mark with the non-dominant hand. This might feel strange. Check in with how that feels, what feels different and what that is bringing up for you. Allow the movement to be organic as you shift from the need to control to the enjoyment in the letting go. Try to give the same amount of time mark making with each hand but more importantly, spend time with where feels right for you today.
When you feel that you are finished, check in with the breath once again. Check in with the sensations of the body right now. How do you feel? You can write this down if that feel right for you. When you are ready, take some time with the image you have created. What is that like? What do you see? You can write this down too if you wish. Notice what the experience was like for you. What was the experience of using your non-dominant hand in comparison to your dominant hand? What kinds of thoughts came up in the process? Allow some time for reflection before you move on to clearing up.
Once you are satisfied (or are starting to feel really hungry) just be mindful of what you do with your image. Think about whether you would like to keep it private or if you would like to share it with someone else and how that sits with you.
Note: Remember that this is not an art therapy session and that the presence of an art therapist is an important factor in what makes the art therapy session. This is just a technique that I use for myself and something that I have incorporated in to my sessions with clients. My purpose is to share something with you that you might find useful as part of your own self care routine. If you require further support please do reach out to a professional.