A positive approach during the latest Covid outbreak

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A positive approach during the latest Covid outbreak

Just when we thought it was safe to go out, Covid-19 is threatening to push us back into our homes, again. Maybe not all of us, but a lot of us. The driving force behind this is fear. We are fearful that we will catch it, become unwell, and/or infect our family which could result in us or them dying. Death and the fear of dying is something which plays on many people’s minds as we get older. It is a valid fear as it will happen to us all, but it is important to not let it define your life.

Personally, I am not actually frightened of dying. I am frightened that it might be a painful death even though I know that the majority aren’t.

What does frighten me, is often what frightens me in life. I fear missing out. I want to see my children settled, married if that’s what they want and to see the children my children (my grandchildren) want to have or not. (One of my children isn’t sure that marriage and children is for them, which I accept).

However, the new variant of the Covid-19 virus, ‘Omicron’, which the World Health Organization has labelled as a ‘variant of concern’ is going to have an impact on how we live our lives, again.  So how are we going to cope with it?

Well, the first thing we are not going to do lies in those wise words of Douglas Adams (If you have been following me for a while you will know that I am a big fan of his writing, in particular The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), so Don’t Panic. Really, don’t!

I am sure we all have our own views on the political agendas made known by our family, friends, politicians, other countries’ leaders and the world in general. I think Mother Nature is pretty p****d off by the way we treat our planet, and this is her way of bringing us into line.

I really struggled through the first lockdown. We had so many deaths to deal with, none actually from Covid, and coming out of lockdown last June was scary. Being locked down over Christmas last year wasn’t fun, either and still we had more family deaths to deal with, still none caused by Covid.

I lost 15 people in my family and circle of friends and not one of them contracted Covid. I am not suggesting that Covid doesn’t exist, but I do think the stress it has brought to everyone has caused more illness than the virus, certainly in my world.
Many of my friends have had Covid and been very unwell, but they have all survived. Some have been left with Long Covid and others are just struggling to cope with feeling very tired. Some lost their ability to taste and smell and some were not affected at all. Everyone was affected differently.

So what point am I trying to make? Well, like being fearful of dying, worrying about getting Covid is a stressful waste of your energy. You all know how to stay safe; you don’t have to go out shopping if you don’t need to and whilst meeting friends outdoors is not fun in cold weather, however good those patio heaters are, staying home is still your best option.

For those of you who already have art in your lives, make more. Even if you are a hobby artist and no one ever sees your work, make more. Make work which makes you smile, makes you feel good making it and if you are brave (and, really, what do you have to lose?), share your art with the world. Your work could make someone feel happy.

If art is your career, then get ahead of yourself and make a new collection or collections of new works for when we are all ready to properly re-enter society. Have all your work framed (if that is what you normally do) and get all your labels produced. Create the catalogue for the collection(s) and then post the artwork on your website, Instagram and Facebook feeds.  That way people can see what’s coming and that you really are ready for that next exhibition; not scrabbling about at the last minute trying to get everything together.

experiment with mark making

For those of you not actively engaged in making art, it really is worth picking up a pencil and having a go at drawing. You are not going to produce a masterpiece on your first try, so don’t even think like that. If it were that easy everyone would be able to do it! As with anything in life, to improve you need to practice but the act of drawing and painting is really good for you.

Art is good for us all whether you become actively involved in making it or simply look at it. Plus, art isn’t confined to painting or drawing. For some like my editor, it is taking photos, something he does extremely well. I have friends who say they don’t have an artistic bone in their bodies, but they are brilliant gardeners, manipulators of wood or metal, needle crafts and amazing cooks/chefs. It is all art and whatever type of art you get involved with, it will give you a different way of looking at things and in turn create something more positive in your life. That’s something we all need right now.

On a deeper level, art helps us to understand the world around us creating deeper emotions in addition to increasing our self-awareness. By connecting with art, you connect with your inner self. I have watched a woman burst into tears at a piece of artwork which touched her so deeply she just had to have it in her life. Clearly that is not a daily occurrence, but art can really touch something deep inside you.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, just draw.

So, on the positive side, research has shown that in 75% of participants, 45 minutes of making art can significantly reduce levels of cortisol (AKA the stress hormone). How? Well, making art is like meditating. Meditation slows the mind down and distracts you from the outside world because you are focused elsewhere. This in turn makes you less anxious and helps you to feel much calmer.

It is also worth knowing that once you have created your artwork, putting it in a frame and hanging it on the wall helps to create the feelgood hormone dopamine. This decreases feelings of depression and increases confidence. A total win, win. If you don’t want anyone to see your work, hang it in your bedroom.

When I had a bit of a rant in one of my blogs about politicians wanting to remove art from the school curriculum, I wrote about how learning art from a young age teaches problem-solving skills. This is still true as you get older so never assume you are too old. Through any art practice you are forced to use your imagination and this creative thinking leads to increasing your ability to reassess your life differently.

Just have fun moving paint around the paper

Only last week I met a lady who has taken up art in her 70s. She said it has really changed the way she sees the world. She hadn’t realised that she had taken so much for granted all her life and was only now beginning to look properly and see things around her as they really are.

Amazingly, art has been shown to improve cognition which is particularly positive for people with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. It has been shown that making art for people with these conditions helps to strengthen and even create new neural pathways to the brain. It is also brilliant at reducing anxiety so is very helpful to people suffering long-term illness.  

Even though this latest variant is a worry, and our lives are being restricted again using art to feel more positive and calm yourself is a bit of a no brainer. So, pick up those pencils, paints, cameras, needles, or knives, give yourself just a few hours a week and see what difference it makes to your life. I am pretty sure you won’t be disappointed.

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