For Jessie, AKA Chromakane, art was a way of coping with Covid lockdowns, and before long she was part of a community helping others to do the same.
Imagine you are walking a tightrope. Think about the balance and coordination you require to reach the other side without falling. Your steady focus and steely determination as you put one foot in front of the other. You can feel your heart beating, your senses are heightened, you’re alert. Even though this scenario is just in your imagination, you are feeling a kind of stress and your body is releasing adrenaline and cortisol to help you deal with the pressure you’re feeling in this moment. And when it passes… your hormone levels stabilise, and your body returns to normal.
You see, stress is complex. Sometimes a little bit of stress is just the thing you need to propel you forward, to get you to the other side of the tightrope, so to speak. But what happens if stress isn’t an occasional event? How can we cope when we are exposed to prolonged periods of high-pressure – maybe a project at work, health problems or even moving house or getting married? This is when stress could stop pushing you forward and instead unbalance you. Because when you don’t have the opportunity to consistently fall back into your normal levels of adrenaline and cortisol, stress may begin to show itself. It can manifest as stomach aches, headaches, sleep problems or in any number of other physical ways. It can also make you highly irritable, deeply anxious and/or depressed. In short, too much stress can make you feel very genuinely unwell. However, there are some practical things we can all put in place to help us to find balance and make sure we’re in the best shape to cope with stress when it finds us.
Plan ahead and share the load
It can often feel easier to just do everything yourself, can’t it? But taking on too much is a sure-fire way to push the pressure button. It’s important to be realistic about what you can and cannot personally achieve and there is absolutely no shame in asking for help and support during times of high stress. Or better still, in anticipation of them. Always take time to speak with your manager if you don’t feel that you can resolve workload issues alone. This may feel stressful in itself in the moment but taking a few deep breaths and having the conversation is a kindness to your future self.
Take regular breaks, but don’t hit the caffeine too hard
Getting up from your desk and taking a walk around every so often is good for the body and mind. So, believe it or not, when you’re working through a stressful time, a trip to the coffee machine may actually help to reinvigorate you – but beware. We all know the effect caffeine can have on sleep quality, which in turn could have an impact on how well you cope the following day. This can easily turn into a pattern of tiredness-caffeine-tiredness-more caffeine, and that is the path to stress and exhaustion. The common-sense approach would be to try and stick to your morning latte, then follow it with herbal tea whenever you need to step away from your desk.
What’s for lunch?
When you’re busy, it can be all too easy to skip lunch or grab a sugary snack to help you power through, but in the long-term, that’s not good for your energy levels or concentration. In fact, you’ll be more likely to have an afternoon slump if you skip or snack, which could exacerbate any stress you are already feeling. Even if you feel you simply cannot get away from your desk, it’s a good idea to have a packed lunch to eat. Or some healthy desk snacks to hand, such as dried fruit and nuts, wholegrain crackers, or even instant oatmeal. It’s all about putting the right fuel in your body for the stress journey.
Make time to be mindful
Mindfulness comes in many shapes and sizes and can fit into even the busiest lives. Some people like to use an app or smartwatch that takes them through a couple of minutes of guided breathing. Others prefer to switch to an activity that give them a sense of purposeful mindfulness. The most well-known of these are creative crafts, such as knitting, drawing and colouring. They bring us into the present moment, drawing all our attention to our hands, the colours we’re using and the care we are taking in the action of creating.
Creativity with purpose
If you’ve never tried a mindful activity, it couldn’t be easier. We have been working with a couple of amazing illustrators who know a thing or two about the therapeutic power of art. Wednesday Holmes and Johanna Basford have designed a selection of printable designs to paint, colour or collage that can help ease stress and anxiety. It’s simply a case of print and colour – it’s not about the end result, but how you get there. “You don’t need fancy art supplies to get the most from these designs” explains Johanna. “The thing about art supplies is that they respond differently to each unique person that uses them. Coloured pencils are a good starting point, but it’s important to have fun and experiment a little.”
Eat well, sleep well, take regular breaks… these are all things that we know we must do. But it’s also incredibly important to pause, even when you’re under pressure, especially when the heat is on. Taking a few minutes out of your day to switch into a mindful moment is a habit that can really support your good mental health and help you through the stressful events that life throws at us all. And remember – never be afraid to ask for help.
Download and print Wednesday and Johanna’s beautiful designs today – and keep them handy for when you’re in need of a mindful moment.