All too often we can’t seem to see past our struggles in life. Our struggles could be the everyday pressures of modern life or the bigger problems we face and they can completely consume us. Focusing on anything other than our struggles can seem unimportant or a waste of time in comparison so we neglect to dedicate time to other things and think we are helping ourselves.
Actually, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. At some point it’s likely you will start to feel a bit lost in your problems; you need to recognise this and give yourself permission to let go of them (even if you can only do this temporarily and in a small way your wellbeing will benefit massively from giving yourself a break).
Expressing yourself can be the best way to provide this sense of release and can be easily achieved. Whether it’s expressing how you’re dealing with and feeling about the personal battles you face or focusing on anything but your issues to find joy in the world around you, self-expression is a powerful tool when you realise just how important creativity and imagination are in giving you a direction in life.
What works for me
I really can’t describe just how great for my wellbeing writing this blog is proving to be. In a short space of time I feel like I’ve uncovered so many things about myself. I’ve discovered I think things I didn’t even realise I thought and I feel things I didn’t realise I felt; the whole process has been illuminating. Yet, as introspective as writing this blog has been, it has also provided a much-needed escape for me from the everyday tedium of MS and I feel free to explore a welcome new world of creativity and self-expression. Add to that the warm, contented feeling I get from helping other people through sharing my experiences then that makes for a powerful concoction.
Writing and designing this blog is clearly a great creative outlet for me but not something everyone would want to commit to. However, the medium you choose for your self-expression isn’t as important as the fact you are expressing yourself. Trust me, as someone who taught Art and Design to high school students for years, I’ve seen first-hand many times what a much-needed release from the pressures of life self-expression can be and how it can lead to a higher understanding of self, increased confidence and personal growth. It also helps to get those rusty cogs moving again by setting into action parts of your brain you have more often than not neglected!
Do what works best for you
If you’re struggling with some hurdles in life which are restricting you from expressing yourself in some way (due to time, energy, health, cost etc) then it’s time to ditch whatever types of self-expression that aren’t working for you anymore. Even though you used to enjoy them, if they aren’t suitable for you right now, you will end up feeling frustrated and restricted in your creativity and end up expressing yourself less. Instead, adapt what you are doing or find more suitable methods to explore. Like I say; the important thing to remember is not how you express yourself just that you do it at all. Trying new things really helps to get you out of a rut and can bring new happiness into your life when you need it the most.
Even if you can just dedicate a few minutes a day to expressing yourself, go for it, it will be so worth it!
Here are a few ideas to get you started;
You could express yourself as an Artist or Designer
Drawing; you could keep a sketchbook or visual journal documenting the everyday things you encounter- this will definitely make you more observant of the world around you. You could also set yourself small daily drawing themes or challenges.
Photography; pick up a camera and start snapping un-posed and natural shots of friends and family or go outside and capture the amazing close-ups and landscapes of wherever you visit, even if you are just out and about on a short walk.
Painting; anything goes- perfect your skills at creating realistic images or go wild with some paint splattering and abstract styles to create some statement pieces!
Designing; if you love interiors you could start sketching out your own ideas and collect/present visual inspiration to create your own inspiration board. You could also design your own weird and wonderful fashion, cakes and bakes or architectural creations- let your imagination run wild!
Textiles and crafts; get out those needles- knitting, crochet or sewing and master the basics by following a few tutorials. You could make gifts for friends and family or just experiment and have fun- try using chunky knitting needles and exploring unusual yarns or colours for added creativity!
Jewellery-making; create beautiful jewellery for yourself or others, you can make your designs as simple or intricate as you like. There are loads of tutorials around and it doesn’t have to be expensive- try upcycling a few found objects to keep costs down.
Add colour; there are loads of colouring books out there for adults now featuring some beautiful designs so access some art therapy and start colouring. Some venues even offer weekly social sessions where you can get together with others and natter whilst perfecting your artistic skills!
You could express yourself as a Performer
Dancing; you could sign yourself up to a dance class if you’re able, if not stick on a few of your favourite tunes when you’re at home and dance your socks off- this is so uplifting! If you’re on your own then you can truly go for it and you won’t feel self-conscious, if you have small children I’m sure they would love to join in too!
Singing; join a group, such as a local choir if you can commit to it. If you’re like me and like to sing but not inflict your efforts on others then have a good old warble in the shower, car, listening to music whilst cleaning or whenever takes your fancy really!
Acting; again there are probably local amateur dramatics groups you can join if that is do-able and of interest to you. If not rope in your partner, friends or children to play different acting roles in quick sketches or scenarios just for fun- you could even improvise a few easy costumes too!
Entertaining; if you fancy yourself to be a bit of a comedian, make up a few of your own stories and jokes and try them out on a few friends who you know have a good sense of humour. Alternatively you could teach yourself a few simple magic tricks to perform to others, who knows what hidden talents you might find?
You could express yourself as a Writer
Write a blog; I can’t enthuse about this enough! Don’t worry about the theme of your blog initially, just start writing about the things that matter to you on your laptop or in a notebook before you commit to setting up your blog- you will probably find there are some topics that are clearly easier and more interesting for you to write about. You can then start your blog knowing you’re on the right track.
Write a book; keep it simple to begin with and don’t put any pressure on yourself to create a best- seller, your book could just be for you. Start out small with a short story or a tale for your children and take it from there.
Keep a diary; so good for exploring your feelings and just getting everything out of your head for a bit more headspace. It’s also great to look back on old diary entries to remember details and memories you might have otherwise forgotten.
Write poetry; poems can be as daft or as deep as you like. Have fun exploring different writing styles and approaches and perform them to others or keep them strictly just for you if you prefer.
Express your personal style
Don’t forget there are loads of other ways to express yourself too; your clothing, hairstyle, make up and your home interiors are just a few things which reflect who you are and which you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with. If there’s a certain look that you like then run with it, don’t be too swayed by fashion- explore colours and styles which you identify with and which make you happy.
Taking an interest in cultivating your personal style can seem really unimportant and a huge effort when you are dealing with bigger things in life but even just taking the time to put on a small piece of jewellery which reflects your personality can make you feel more contented and a bit more like ‘you’ again.
Whatever you do, do it primarily for you. Remind yourself to stop being a perfectionist and wanting to please others. I find this really hard as I always think that nothing I do is ever good enough but the important part is the process and letting out your creativity- not the perfection of the end product!