Emotional Regulation & Art: Using Art As A Coping Mechanism
Have your emotions ever spun out of control? If you are human, of course, they have! Can you believe emotional regulation is something we are not born with? Usually, emotions and moods are used interchangeably. But today, I want to clarify my perspective of emotions.
What are emotions?
-Usually caused by a specific event
-Sometimes the feeling is very brief
-Specific such as, happiness, sadness, anger…
-Action-oriented in nature
-Usually accompanies by distinct facial expressions
What is emotional regulation?
Emotional regulation is the ability to maintain and modulate internal and external conflict involving an intensity and expression of emotions. Internal conflicts are simply you vs. yourself. Your struggle is within. For example, you may “believe” you will not pass the class or exam, graduate from high school or your physical standards are not worthy enough to wear a certain type of outfit. External conflicts are battles or struggle against someone or something.
Self-awareness is the ability to recognize your emotions and know your strengths, limits and weaknesses. Before you can use coping mechanisms, you have to first check-in with yourself. What does a check-in look like? Before you can change anything about yourself, you must have an open unapologetic discussion with yourself. Ask yourself, what are my strengths and weaknesses? Or ask for feedback from a loved one. It is the ability to have a better understanding of yourself to recognize the moments when your emotions are high. Self-awareness is the foundation of personal growth and success. Just like most things, self-awareness is a life long journey of learning about ourselves. But once you increase your ability of self-awareness and areas in your life that needs improvement, you learn and develop skills to help regulate your emotions.
Emotional Regulation Skills
The ability to regulate your emotions does not happen overnight. It is truly a life long process, which requires a lot of practice. There are emotional regulation skills that may work for you, but not work for the next person. And again, this goes back to self-awareness. As a general rule, I tell my clients to practice their skills while they are calm, and with progression (not perfection) they are able to apply the skills when necessary. But also, to incorporate healthy habits daily.
During one of my training classes, I learned the STOP technique.
S– Stop what you are doing.
T– Take a few deep breathes. Count slowly to 3 or say “in” and “out” (while breathing).
O– Observe what is happening, to include your thoughts, feeling and emotions.
P– Proceed with something that will help you at the moment: say a prayer, a cup of coffee or tea, call a friend, journal, paint, etc.. Here is a list of coping skills to print off.
Using art as a coping mechanism
While art therapy has its own field, you can use the benefits of art to express your creative side. I became interested in art after the move to California. The move brought about a lot of changes in such a short period of time. From my personal experience, using art has helped with:
Distraction: I found myself wandering off thinking about how, when, what and where. Art can help center your mind on what is going on at the present moment. In return, art helped decrease my anxiety and cognitive distortions.
Self-care: Art became my hobby and helped ground me during the times where I felt stuck (in my own mind (internal conflict)). I am a firm believer in self-care and giving myself the time and space I need to just “be.”
Gratifications: The creation of something beautiful, but more importantly something that was created by me is instant gratification. Gratifications bring a lot of meaning and purpose in my life. Some gratifications require me to use my best personal skills and some teach me how to learn other skills, which enhances me to use a sense of “flow” (being near-meditative).
Winnie’s Pick graciously sent me a paint-by-number activity. The art activity is a canvas that is pre-printed with an outline and numbers. The numbers correspond to the numbers on the paint.
-High-quality linen canvas: The canvas is extremely sturdy and of thick material.
-Acrylic paint set: The painting set includes 24 different colors. A little takes you a long way as the paint is thick.
-4 brushes and canvas clips
-Painting instructions: Step by step instructions for beginners.
-Free printable canvas
I chose the painting titled Africa’s beauties (how fitting for me). I eventually want to hang my canvas in my home office.
I paint outside during the early evening. The painting helps me to practice grace, mindfulness and gratitude towards the things I accomplished throughout the day. I place my canvas on a small sturdy table. The painting requires patience and time. Art is a process that will help improve mental health conditions. I decided to start from a corner and will work my way around in small sections. It is a personal preference for me to see completion in one area.
Winnie’s Picks has many categories to choose from, and some are geared towards children. You also have the option to do a custom painting by uploading a photo to the site. Check them out and let me know what you think.
Are you a creative or artsy individual? Or are you similar to me, use art as a form of a coping mechanism? Comment below or email and let me know how do you use art to express your creative side?
***This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional help or advise. Please seek the appropriate help if you are in a life-threatening situation. Call the 24-hr National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If your issue is an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.