The world is a busy one. Deadlines must be met, social occasions must be enjoyed, and most of the time we’re too busy throwing ourselves into every aspect of life to slow down and appreciate it. With the pressures on millenials being higher than ever, we’re encouraged to work ourselves half to death, without the promise of any pension-based reward in sight. And even our supposedly relaxed activites can be interrupted by the internal need to capture such a rare sight on social media – just to prove to other people that ‘hey look, I can totally relax!’.I feel like I had my scary moment of realisation when I tried to read a book last week. That was my only plan for the day – to read this book I’d been waiting to get stuck into. But almost in a strange attempt to spite those plans, I ended up filling that day with so much activity I nearly broke down in tears. I was meeting friends, shopping, drinking too much coffee, making lists, tidying the living room, tidying the already clean kitchen. I couldn’t sit down to read my book without making myself two drinks, a snack, plumping the cushions, taking all of the reciepts out of my bag, texting three different people and making a phone call first. It felt like I was afraid of relaxing, and was determined to find any excuse not to do it.Unfortunately, this chronically bad habit can sometimes have another name – High Functioning Anxiety. Although this can have different symptoms for different people, for me, this means having the constant drive to be busy. Most of the time, I’m never actually getting anything done, but I always need to be doing something productive, even when I’m supposed to be relaxing. Whether it’s watching a Youtube video whilst doing the washing up, having the TV on whilst I’m blow drying my hair, or listening to an audiobook whilst cooking. This might just sound like a common habit, but I physically cannot do these productive activites without the noise of something else happening. I crave multi-tasking, as if the more things I check off my to-do list, the happier I’ll be. Right now, even writing this, I have my laptop open on one side of me, a bowl of veggies in front of me, and a book in one hand. I can’t seem to stop. And, though my anxiety is manifesting itself in many more ways than one, until I can get the psychological help I need for this, I’m turning to something else. Painting. I’ve loved painting since I was tiny, and even though I wasn’t particularly good at it, I couldn’t ever bring myself to give it up. But after a particularly low mark in my GCSE art project, I decided that it was time to call it quits – meaning that between the ages of 16 and 20, I didn’t pick up a paintbrush. Until now. Now, with my anxiety driving me insane, my depression threatening to overwhelm me, and my fingers desperate for a productive activity to do that involved relaxing, I took up painting again. So far my personal gallery consists of assorted Disney characters, one abstract landscape, a very frightening imitation of Link, and various plant life portaits. I think my favourite paintings have to be the trio of succulents I painted whilst feeling particularly stressed one day – I can remember the feeling of losing myself entirely into the picture, the paints, the murky water and the dirty paintbrushes. So much time passed whilst I painted those three that when I finally came up for air, the anxiety had long since faded and I was ready to face the world again. For me, the whole process of painting holds a certain vibe, a feeling of creativity, but traditional, ancient creativity. We live so much of our lives online, and as a blogger, 99% of my creativity is reserved to on-screen colour charts, digital photographs and long complicated lines of coding. So, even just for a few hours, painting provides a welcome break to step out of the screen and use my hands for something other than typing. There’s nothing technological about painting. It’s the simple transition of paint to brush to paper, and it’s a hobby that has been pursued throughout history – how can it not be calming? On the best days, where painting is the only goal I set myself, I have a certain shop in which I pick up all of my supplies from called Soestrene Grene. This Scandi shop is my favourite shop in the whole city, as it’s full of so many beautiful things; thick, clay mugs, slim minimalistic wall shelves, pastel pop art prints, and smooth wooden dining sets. It’s a haven of calm that I can’t resist drifting through on anxious days – hunting for their craft section and finding pretty much anything I could ever want to paint on, paint with, and paint for. It’s my artistic hideaway for calm creative days. When it comes to the painting itself, my paint choices tend to vary depending on the subject. The Disney portraits, and textured, realistic plant paintings are typically created using acryllics, whereas the flower compositions are more of a watercolour feature. I was once given the advice to sketch out every painting in a pale blue pencil first, rather than a dark graphic sketching pencil, to avoid the dark colour bleeding into the watery paint surfaces, meaning that every line and every edge is nothing but paint. If you feel like you’ve been experincing any of the issues I’ve described, I recommend that you speak to someone as soon as possible. Because, from first hand experience, these feelings won’t go away without external changes – this can mean talking to a counsellor, a therapist or even just chatting to your GP about it. If you’re worrying about everything but getting nothing done – speak to someone. If you’re feeling worthless because you’re not being productive, but you can’t actually stop being productive – speak to someone. It’s not worth waiting for your breaking point, and it’s not much fun suffering alone. But in the meantime, I can recommend nothing more than finding your own dirty paintbrushes to help keep you calm in this busy old world. I hope this blog post has helped anyone out there struggling with their mental health right now, who need a little helping relaxing. If you want to find out some more about Art Therapy to give your busy mind a break, I recommend this link as a great source of information! To check out my last blog post, on using Pinterest to boost your blog, click here, or to read another article I wrote on mental health and university, click here.
Thank you for reading, and have a great week.