Right now, it’s hard to know how to feel—and what to do with those feelings.
So, we reached out to our dear friend and art therapist Lynell Weiss so that she could pass along some incredibly simple, practical and peaceful tips for feeling a bit more centered during this crisis.
Hello sweet community, my name is Lynell Weiss and I am a psychotherapist and art therapist practicing in the Los Angeles area. In these deeply uncertain times, I often find myself reflecting on how I can meet this moment as it is, and soften my expectations. How to witness all that is unfolding around me, around all of us, with loving awareness rather than relentless attachment.
This is a time filled to the brim with all types of complicated and conflictual feelings. We can oscillate between feelings of fear, anxiety, overwhelm, and loneliness to feelings of newly discovered courage, bravery, gratitude, and joy. Sometimes all within the same 10 minute period. And guess what? It’s all okay. We have never dealt with anything like this before, and it’s important to be gentle and kind with ourselves, especially when we start to notice the more difficult emotions arising within us. We are navigating a tremendous amount of change in a very short amount of time, and how we treat ourselves has never been more important.
Below you will find a compilation of resources to address the stress response in the mind, body, and spirit. My invitation to you is this: take what you need, and give yourself permission to leave the rest. Sending you all steadiness and ease.
A breathing exercise to calm a racing mind:
1. Start by taking a few deep breaths in while expanding and contracting your belly. Now, as you breathe in, fill your belly with air and start to count up to 4 in your mind. Hold.
2. And now breathe out through your mouth as if you are blowing out through a straw, and count to at least 6. Feel your belly deflate.
3. Repeat 6-8 times
4. Notice if anything has changed in your mind or body. Repeat as needed.
- What have you found most challenging about this time?
- What have you found most helpful during this time?
- What are your expectations around productivity?
- If your inner ally could speak to you, what do you think they would say about those expectations?
- What would you do with your time if you weren’t “should-ing” yourself?
- What feels challenging about having unscheduled time?
- What supports you in moving through your feelings?
- What is within your control?
- What are you grateful for?
- Make a list of all of the reasons you can give yourself credit today (ex: I got out of bed today. I brushed my teeth. I read 1 chapter of a book I enjoy. I virtually connected with a friend). Add to this list as often as possible and watch it grow.
Take out a piece of paper and the thickest pen you can find. You can also do this with paint, pastels or any other medium that you feel drawn to. Take a few deep cleansing breaths and then start scribbling with your dominant hand with as much energy as you can channel onto the page. Now switch hands and do the same thing. Think about all that you are releasing as you scribble. Notice any changes in the body and mind.
Take out a piece of paper and the drawing instrument of your choice (pen and pencil are just fine). Create an outline of a gingerbread person, and then take a few deep breaths to connect to your body. Imagine visualizing any sensations you notice through color, texture, shape, size, temperature and anything else you can imagine to help you notice the sensations in your body. Stay in this space for a few minutes, simply noticing what there is to notice.
Once you feel complete with the internal practice, shift your attention to the paper and gingerbread outline you just made, and make some marks within the body of the gingerbread person to download and track the sensations you just observed within your body. Give yourself permission for this practice to take any form that it needs to. Release the need for it to be “perfect” or look a certain way, and allow yourself to simply be present to the experience of downloading sensation to paper.
If you’d like to take this one step further, once you complete the exercise turn the paper over and start journaling about anything that may be coming up for you. What was it like to go inward? To pay attention on purpose? What aspects of the exercise were pleasant? What aspects of the exercise were unpleasant? How did you respond to the aspects of the exercise that were unpleasant? How was this useful? How can you turn towards yourself with gratitude?
Collaging our mixed emotions:
Take some time to gather images that you have access to, whether it’s cutting out images from magazines or printing images off of the internet. Create a little collage pile. Once that is complete, allow yourself to create a collage about the different emotions you may be experiencing at this time. Notice what comes up for you as you start to create your collage. Allow the process to take on whatever form it needs to in order to meet your needs. You can repeat this exercise as often as you need to in order to check in with yourself, and express some of the emotions you may be holding onto internally.
None of us have experienced COVID-19 before, and we are all doing the best we can to manage the uncertainty we are currently facing. Remember to hold yourself with the deepest compassion and softness at this time. Be gentle with any judgements you may have about how you are responding to this moment.
Things I like to remind myself when I find it hard to access self-compassion:
- I am not my thoughts, I am the one who notices.
- My thoughts are not facts.
- Feeling anxious right now is an appropriate response to the current stimuli.
- Anxiety was evolutionarily built within us to help us survive, and in moments exactly like these it supports us in ensuring our preservation and survival.
- I get to choose which thoughts I reinforce, and which thoughts I simply notice.
- This is a moment of suffering, and not one that I asked for.
- It’s okay to not be okay.
- This is temporary.
- The feeling I am currently experiencing is very real, however the meaning that I am attaching to this feeling may not be accurate.
A bit about me. My approach to therapy is an active and integrative one. I fuse together various western and eastern modalities including art therapy, mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy, narrative therapy, body awareness, and self-compassion to support my clients in ultimately returning to balance and alignment within themselves. I am currently accepting new tele-therapy clients in the state of California at a reduced rate to ensure that support is widely available to anyone who may need it. To find out more about how to work with me, please visit my website at wholehumanhealingla.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.