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  • Naomi Blayney

Creativity has saved us during the pandemic

Updated: Mar 2, 2021

This past year has been a difficult one for everyone. It has been one of those experiences we will all remember. We will all have a story to tell our grandchildren. We have gone from living our normal lives to something very different - being locked inside for long periods, unable to send children to school and unable to shop for food without queueing and wearing masks. We’ve all jumped into a hedge to keep our distance from others walking by. “Oops I’ll turn off mute, can you see me now?, how do I share my screen again?” are all part of our new Zoom/Teams meeting language. We all know someone who has had the virus. Many people have lost their jobs and many are facing much uncertainty. Many people have died and many people are still suffering. But thankfully we are now starting to get vaccinated so there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

In relative terms I've been fairly unaffected. I was lucky enough to continue my job working from home. I’ve managed to get a little fatter from eating all the cakes and biscuits in the house and now only my joggers fit (I’m sure I’m not the only one) but I haven’t been ill. When schools have been closed I've been lucky enough to have support from my Mum with homeschool - she’s an absolute superstar. I've been able to shop for food and get outside for exercise when I can (not very often mind you). Like most people, the main things I have missed is interaction with friends and family and generally being free to do things without checking google to see if I’m allowed. And holidays - I really need a holiday! But despite being one of the lucky ones I feel like there’s a thin veil of anxiety draped over everything. Not too intrusive but always there in the background. Like a dull ache which never goes away. I think for me these feelings have brought out my creative side.

Since the pandemic I’ve really thrown myself into writing and art. At first I thought I’d just found the right outlet for my creativity. And whilst I do think that’s true, I also think it has done wonders for my mental health. Once I find the motivation to pick up my pencil (we talked about this in my last blog), it produces a whole load of benefits.

Countless academic and scientific studies have found that artistic expression can help people overcome trauma, reduce stress, decrease anxiety and negative feelings and even improve the functioning of the immune system.

How does it do this? Creative activity causes changes in the brain that help you feel calm and happy. It stimulates endorphins, serotonin and dopamine - the feel-good chemicals. It also blocks out other external influences in a similar way to meditation which helps you to feel calmer and more relaxed.

When I draw I tend to zone everything else out. I don’t think I realised how much of a stress buster it is. The minutes and hours fly past without me realising. When I’m too tired to continue I sleep a bit better and I feel generally calmer. Until I step on a Lego and then I’m back to square one.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

Charles Darwin

I’d be naïve to think that the pandemic wouldn’t affect my children also. Change affects everyone in different ways and some find it harder than others. They’ve watched some of the press conferences and I’ve explained things to them as best I can. Overall they have understood and coped extremely well but they have really struggled to focus on their school work. Whether that’s the usual inability to behave like the angels they are at school or whether it’s more to do with the pandemic I’m not sure. But I quickly found that their creative activities really helped them focus better and cope with all the change going on around us.

Music lessons continued online and we have spent hours painting, cutting and sticking paper. We spend some time drawing or colouring every day. I think they see it as their release, their time to decompress. It helps to keep them calm. When they get a bit anxious or angry it’s the first thing we turn to. My eldest has thrown herself into her piano practice and she loves to draw. My youngest has spent weeks making a doll house out of paper and it even has a tiny little remote control and a face mask for Barbie. She also sings just about every second of the day. They have even both shown an interest in drawing digitally and they love the magical undo button in Procreate as much as I do. Now they fight over my iPad but that’s another issue.

Most days we draw together. Yesterday I sat with Nina and we designed a garden together with a pink slide, a pool and purple flowers on the iPad. This morning I woke up to find Zara colouring beside my bed singing her little heart out. One day in the first lockdown we drew pictures all over our driveway. We’ve made garlands that adorn the house, we got covered in glue doing a decoupage reindeer and we have made lots of things out of cereal boxes and toilet roll. One of the most impressive was the cardboard dragon’s head we made for Zara’s Chinese New Year project.

I’m so proud that they have shown such fortitude and I know that their creativity has played a big part in that. Knowing they are creative gives me confidence that they will take life in their stride and will get through tough times in the future. Next time we feel that life is weighing heavy on our shoulders we will get our pencils out know that our creativity will help us through.

Have you found that your creativity has helped you through? Has it helped your children? Tell me your stories below :-)

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