Not surprisingly, a lot of people arrive to the studio stressed—and I’m happy to report they always leave feeling much calmer. This isn’t by any miracle we perform, per se, so much as the fact that being creative just does that.
And yet, these very same people go back to their lives—which for most of us means juggling a million responsibilities—and all too often, they make arting their very last priority.
And really, that is the worst thing you can do!
So I thought I’d quickly review the facts:
People in their 40s and 50s (like, almost half!) are caring for both young or grown children living at home and aging parents (or significant others)—and 75% of those caregivers are women (although more and more men are stepping up). You've probably heard the apply named for this group: the Sandwich Generation.
Our hearts are in the right place.
Of course we’re going to care for the people who need us most—and of course we love them so there are many rewards. But—being women, most of us—we’re highly likely to sacrifice our own well being in the process.
I’m telling you—will you listen? —don’t sacrifice your well being!
And if you don’t believe ME (I'm not a medical professional), believe the experts. This article sums it up entirely:
More caregivers than non-caregivers suffer from “anxiety, depression and other symptoms of emotional distress”, with estimates for depression between20-50% or higher than the general population.
Stress has a strong correlation to eroding physical health. “Research indicates that caregivers are at increased risk of developing serious conditions including elevated blood pressure and insulin levels, a weakened immune system, and even cardiovascular complications.,,,
Or as another medical site put it more bluntly: “serious life-threatening illnesses such as heart attacks, kidney disease, and cancer.”
Listen, we don’t respect the ravages of chronic stress enough.
While we love our loved ones and surely, we must do what we must do, it is EQUALLY important to take care of ourselves. Mental/emotional and physical health is VITAL—it not a luxury.
Ill health is not something your children or your aging parents or anyone you love wants or needs from you.
Ill health is not something you want for yourself, either Right? It's so easy to put our heads in the sand about the consequences of not taking care of ourselves—and to pretend stress is okay and we can "handle it".
No. Stress causes dis-ease.
In both of the two articles above, you will also find solid advice for keeping yourself healthy while caregiving. And one of those important strategies is allowing yourself a creative practice...and I am here to highly recommend art journaling.
I’m telling you…okay, well first listen to the research:
“Elizabeth Warson, professor at George Washington University’s art therapy program, [says] the regular practice of creating via an art journal can reduce your heart rate, increase serotonin flow and immune cells, and decrease stress responses. These findings complement previous well-known studies by James Pennebaker …”
An art journaling practice gives you respite—a break—it gives you opportunity to connect with your inner world and the present moment. It gives you a private space to express your thoughts and feelings and to experience delight.
Your art journal is not for anyone else. You do enough other stuff for other people!
The good news is that you you can take care of yourself and take care of them, too. And as you will repeatedly hear me say, an art journaling practice doesn’t have to take a ton of time (or materials—here is an example of a minimum and portable supply list).
You can bring your art journal with you and do it while waiting for appointments or in between activities.
You can do it with the ones you love. Get out the art supplies for everyone to join in the fun!
You can commit to taking just a little time for your arting practice over everyone else's priorities. Think lunch hours, breaks, 20 minutes before the day begins--during television time, or before bedtime...
If all you have is once a week at the art studio—do it! Come in every week, close the door to the world—and create.
Barring emergencies, make yourself the priority for just that time period. Even better, in between studio visits, take your art practice into your life and commit to short little sessions throughout the week.
But please—whatever you do—make your arting practice a priority in your life.
Caring for yourself is important, too.