Chop, Craft and Create to Cope and remain Calm

I read a fascinating book a few years ago, co-written by a husband and wife team. I remember that he was a hand surgeon and she was a psychiatrist and analyst. But as much as I wracked my brain, I could not remember the title. But, I did remember the main point of the book- using your hands to create or fix things reduces depression and anxiety.

Enter my good friend Google where I found the title. The Creativity Cure by Carrie and Alton Barron.

The hands are intricate pieces of the body’s machinery. So much that 60% of the brain’s outer surface (the cortex) is dedicated to the hands. Far less is devoted to big areas like the back, and legs and arms.

And in this age of take out and texting and passive forms of entertainment, we are collectively using our hands less and less. The two authors have 40 years of combined professional proof that using your hands daily can bring feelings of well being and happiness.

You do not have to consider yourself creative to get on board. Chopping veggies, putting together puzzles, adult coloring books all qualify.

I have never understood why cursive handwriting had been taken away from school curriculum. It is an elegant hand motion and fires up those brain neurons. Alton Barron (the surgeon) stated in an interview that we need to keep using our hands to keep stimulating our brains.

Now I understand why chopping fruits and veggies and fruits HAS always had a calming affect on me. And each blog that you read, started out in longhand form first. On paper with a smooth writing pen.

Many of my clients have seen this link themselves. One of my clients gets to feeling down if she does not get regular time in her studio crafting paper art. Another client has started a morning hand written journaling practice and has kept it up for two years and counting. When he misses a few days, he feels out of balance.

Back in the old days, many women would sew or knit at night and men would tinker and fix things. Kids were more hands on as well.

When I work with kids and teens, I bring along things for them to do with their hands. Coloring or tracing or sticker art, etc. This has a positive and immediate impact.

Modern life is taking this away but there is a movement to bring it back. Many millennials are becoming DIY people and Pinterest proves this.

Why not explore how this can be beneficial in your life? Find a hobby or practice that utilizes use of your hands. And see how it impacts your sense of satisfaction and well being. This can become a family project, too and you can pass on fun traditions to the next generation.

Using your hands every day

Helps to chase the blues away

There is No Cure for Life

A client and I were discussing the normal but troubling things that were draining her energy.

A thought popped into my mind and out of my mouth- “There is no cure for life.” It resonated so she paused to write it down.

Before I allowed myself full credit for this quote, I Googled it and the closest thing I found was a hip hop song by the Paperboys titled- “No Cure for Life.”

Being the recovering perfectionist I am, probing deeper I found a similar thought by the Irish playwright, poet and novelist Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) stating- “You’re on earth. There is no cure for that.”

My interpretation of this quote is that life is a mixture of joys and sorrows, pain and happiness, doubt and faith and more.

Our natural tendency is to make the negative feelings disappear as soon as possible and to retain or cling to the ones we perceive as positive.

My clients have often heard me say, “We cannot stop the sucker punches of life.” Some of these are temporary and some have an impact for years and even decades. Some of us appear to face more obstacles than others and that, too, is life.

Two personal, horrific sucker punches hit me in 2017 and 2018. Someone who was near and dear to me lost her battle with cancer in the summer of 2017. Her husband, also a dear and treasured friend, was diagnosed with cancer less than a year later and died just six weeks after the diagnosis in the spring of 2018. I miss them both dearly and think of them often. My sorrow extends to their friends and family who have to navigate life without these beautiful people.

What is your recent or deep sucker punch? How do you cope with the pain?

Sucker punches are unexpected, severe and unpleasant. Many of us try to stuff those hurtful emotions down through unhealthy habits- drinking to excess, shopping too much, electronic distraction and many creative but unhealthy ways to avoid the feelings. Yet, what we resist, persists.

When we avoid feeling an emotion, it lingers while growing stronger. I compare deep emotions to unhappy toddlers. A parent of a two year old who is on the phone with a beloved friend understands this well. The toddler comes to us fussy and annoyed and needing something. If we remain on the phone, the fussiness can elevate to a full blown meltdown. Yet, if we hang up the phone and attend to the child’s needs- hunger, thirst, sleep or discomfort, the little one calms down and we can resume our conversation. Feelings behave this way.

What are some ways to deal with sucker punch emotions?

1- Journal about the impact on you. There is scientific proof of the positive effects of this act.

2- Stop and ask yourself what you need now. Maybe it is rest, a good cry, a warm cup of tea, exercise, prayer or good nourishment.

3-Talk to a trusted friend, therapist or coach. You will often gain new and helpful insights.

4- Honor the feelings as a part of your human experience. You can do this in a way that is congruent with your set of values, learning style and personality.

Most people have not had adequate training in how to deal with difficult emotions. Yet, I would argue that it is an essential skill to build for the ups and downs of being alive.

When we feel, we heal

When we suppress, we regress

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