When Covid began, my priorities instantly shifted and I heavily focused on my clinical roles. I joined the rest of the world of mental health first responders and quickly activated a new plan to transition from in person to virtual sessions while we were all on home quarantine.
I realized that I was not releasing and grounding like my usual practice, I was not making my own art.
The priority was to triage the emotional/mental/physiological effects my clients were experiencing. Burnout, exhaustion, anxiety, depression and trauma flourished like a wildfire. In response, alongside my community of fellow AWBW facilitators, I started offering virtual creative workshops focusing on themes such as grief/loss and stress reduction for students, nurses, medically fragile homeschoolers and mental health professionals.
However, I began to notice that my body was starting to hold the pandemic pains and I asked myself what was different about my self-care. Prior to Covid, my creativity flow included a combination of making art during work breaks, community art group workshops, attending AWBW events and personal projects at home. I realized that I was not releasing and grounding like my usual practice, I was not making my own art. This experience called on me to activate much needed self-care, a practice that reminds me about resiliency, gratitude and grounding.
So one night after a long day of sessions, I sat in my chair, closed my eyes, and called on some much needed creative guidance. The vision of an ocean instantly came to my mind. And then I was transported back to the previous AWBW office. This space was sacred to me. It’s where I participated in art-making workshops that meant so much to me and where I have one of my earliest memories about the importance of self-care.
I see my self-care like a symbolic battery. It was understandably low and my body was telling me it was time to rest and recharge. My pre-pandemic practice of art breaks and time for “I release” practices were put on pause. It had shifted to “I can’t release”. And so a new creative journey began and I self-led the start of a beautiful process in which I used AWBW workshops to support my own self-care process.
Beginning with Funeral of “I Cant’s”, a workshop that aims to help participants notice their strength and resilience and empower them to say goodbye to their internal “I cant’s.” It is an opportunity to reflect on all the things you thought you could not do, or feel like you can’t do, and create an art piece that symbolizes saying goodbye to all of those “I cant’s’.” I lit a candle, listened to meditative music, gently blew the dust off my Sharpies and began making art, began grounding, began affirming “I CAN”, began releasing.
Self-care also means to me that we are open to another helper helping us. Participating in AWBW’s virtual Wellness Day in 2020, the facilitator of the workshop Cup of Gratitude was that helper for me. This workshop provided an extra creative spark that helped me release what no longer served me. The cup I created represented the compassion I embraced for myself during this difficult pandemic; that we as individuals are not broken but instead can embrace tough times as teaching moments that validate our resiliency; to let art help us explore areas of gratitude; to feel the warmth of our creative hearts; to get reconnected; and to practice enjoying the present moment.
In reconnecting with self-care, I revisited a video I created in 2015 as part of AWBW’s Digital Storytelling project: My Heart Story, I CAN Pledge To Self Care. Art is my heart story and this video reminded me about the importance of practicing gratitude as self-care. As I continue on this self-care art journey, I hold close to my heart that art will always be an ongoing process. Art is a foundational pillar of self-care for me and I will continue to make time for my art.
I re-pledge to take care of me, I re-pledge to my heart, to let the wind take away and release my clients pain, let the wind take away my work related stressors. Currently I practice meditation more, sitting in my chair before and after sessions, just noticing my deep breaths, pledging to release before and after work, I pledge self-care.
Angela Barrios-Lucero, LMFT, ATR
Windows Facilitator & Workshop Author
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A Window Between Worlds (AWBW) supports hundreds of direct service organizations across the country to incorporate creative expression into their work with trauma survivors. With this blog we uplift the voices of our art workshop facilitators and participants. We invite you to take in this perspective, notice what resonates and explore how it may fit into your life.