Dealing with emotions like sadness, anger, and frustration can be hard work. These are BIG emotions and can even cloud our rational thinking. Life is fast-paced and crazy-busy and we quite often find that we are bottling a lot of these emotions and never really dealing with them. This can lead to a lot of problems later on – your mental and physical health can really suffer. These difficult emotions can become mighty and potent forces in your life unless you find a way to process them. Creatively dealing with them enables you to respond to your life instead of reacting to it.
The creative exercises within this article can bypass our need to express these feelings in a negative manner and allow us to find a way to creatively release them, and then examine and process them. From there we can make rational decisions about how we really wish to react.
You will be responding as who you really are instead of what the emotions have made you.
Listed below are the 11 ways that we will explore these hard emotions and learn how to process them in a creative and tactile manner.
You can do all of them or just some of them, creativity is about freedom and the journey, not always just the destination.
Getting it out on paper
(Never) Send it
Getting it out on Paper: This is exactly what it sounds like! Find a piece or pieces of paper. Grab pens, pencils, crayons, felt tips, paints – anything that you like to use and GET IT OUT ON PAPER!! Go crazy or get calm. You decide. When was the last time you allowed yourself to go “out of the lines” or just scribbled without worrying about what your inner critic (or outer critic) thinks? Focus entirely on what you are feeling. These are ‘stream of consciousness’ creative marks on a page and are for your eyes only. The marks can mean everything and nothing. We are just releasing our emotions on to the page and out of our chaos filled heads and hearts.
Identifying Emotions: I have created a free printable for this next exercise. Please do print out one, or a few copies of this: MY EMOTIONS WHEEL
Gather coloured pencils or pens and start to draw and colour your feelings in the circle, using each 8th as a place for you to draw what your emotion looks and feels like. Maybe it is spikey and painful? Maybe it is soft and sad? Maybe it is big and red or large and dark? Maybe small and tiny? Maybe it is multicoloured and patterned. Do not think too much about each one, let your hands and heart do the talking. Remember to write above each section what emotion your colours and drawings are representing. Maybe you would like to date your work and keep a blank copy to do again at a later date. This wheel is a great thing to have on hand for kids and for your own personal journal/workbook/sketchbook.
Meditation: Did I just hear you groan out loud?! Let me tell you now, meditation can literally be anything YOU decide that you want it to be! What is NOT is something that you cannot do. You heard me. You’ve got this. Let’s spend a moment thinking of things that you like to do that brings you calm. My friend runs herself a lovely deep bath and, knowing that everyone in the house is taken care off, holds her breathe and slides under the water – her mouth just on the surface – and slowly takes deep breaths. Listening to how the air enters and leaves, her body. You don’t think that is creative? It is. She just took a regular everyday thing like breathing and created a space in which it becomes a restorative practice for her. What can you do today?
Pausing from business and life is creative.
It is the process of creating a space around you and within you and altering it into a different environment. One of calm and peace.
Journalling: Another groan?! Seriously?! I understand though. With our busy lifestyles adding journalling on to the end of a very long to-do list is the last thing we want to do – ‘amma right? Remember the first exercise in which we just got things out on paper? Well, allowing yourself to have a journal in which you can do this at any time is a wonderful step into self-care and managing difficult emotions. You don t have to have all the answers – just give your self permission to release yourself creatively from these strong emotions. Maybe you can carry a few colours of pens around and scribble furiously onto the pages. Or maybe you can identify with shapes drawn on your emotions wheel and fill pages up with those shapes and colours. Whatever you decide to use the journal for, know this – it is so very far removed from the need to be perfect than you could possibly imagine. You have full permission for it to be as messy, chaotic, organised and shouty as you could ever need it to be.
Puppet Theatre: I’m still not entirely sure about this one myself. There, I said it. It is also a great example of how some things work for some people and other things work for others. I have seen this work amazingly, and tirelessly, for kids. It can be a safe way to manoeuvre characters and your response to them while still being in control. We have got some pieces of felt and made hand and finger puppets. You can make it as complicated or as simple as you like. We have used it as role play – acting out a situation that caused difficult emotions to arise and looking at different ways that the little puppet characters could choose to react. The more I write about it, the more I am convincing myself that this is actually a very practical and real way to approach hard emotions with children. Also – make sure to have fun making the characters! Lots of colour and fun shapes.
Line Therapy: I always say that a stick person drawing is just another way of saying line drawing. This exercise runs alongside the ideas of doodling or colouring in zentangles or mandalas. You can either use your journal or a fresh piece of paper and simply start drawing lines on to it. There is no final image as your destination – just the desire to fill up the page with lines. I like to use a black fine line pen, maybe you like to use a pencil or a biro. As we have done before, all this exercise requires of you is to let go of any inner critic. We are not trying to ‘solve’ our emotions here since they are not problems. Only indicators that something in our environments is affecting us. (Nor are we trying to create a masterpiece) This use of line drawing makes, or keeps, us present and can be calming. As we focus our intention on a simple thing such as drawing lines or swirls our magnificent brains are working in the wings to restore order and peace. We are not ignoring the issues, we are holding space and time for them but we are not reacting. Here lies the gold. We are acknowledging them, but finding calm within them.
(Never) Send it: This is a fun one. Maybe a little naughty, but primarily fun. This is an opportunity to create a letter or postcard to send to someone that has caused these overwhelming feelings. Maybe it is a service company that has left you feeling like the underdog? You can create an imaginary business (that’s bigger than theirs) design a logo, and write a perfectly formed letter of outrage and complaint to them. Addressing all the ways that they have made you feel less than.
Maybe it is to a family member or loved one. Though I always encourage kindness and communication openness in relationships sometimes the hard truth is that you can’t say something s or that they simply won’t be listened to. If this is the case and all the feels are still holding you back then can I suggest this one, for your own sanity! Create a letter, draw a postcard and get it all out. Then ABSOLUTELY DO NOT send it. If it makes you feel better you can ceremoniously burn it or destroy it. You have creatively processed and worked through your feelings. You have released them and are taking steps towards forgiveness and release. Now its time to move on. (Even if that is just to tomorrow, that is ok. Emotions are difficult and sometimes need to be worked on hourly, nevermind daily!)
Sculpt it: This one is similar to puppet therapy – in which I managed to convince myself that it was actually a good idea, so maybe you think so too? This is very good if you like to really get your hands into something. Unleash the paste, tear up those old newspapers or get the clay out and start sculpting shapes of your emotions – perhaps drawing from the exercises you have done before, or maybe just as your hands lead. This is a good opportunity to really look at how these emotions exist next to each other. Does anger make sadness feel smaller? Maybe sadness makes anger bigger? You do not only have to sculpt negative emotions – maybe you can explore how positive emotions can react to difficult ones. You are stepping out now into problem-solving and I am VERY proud of you!
Rollercoaster: This is another exercise that is very easy to translate into an exercise for children. And how they can examine ways that their external world influences their internal world. For us also this is a very visual project that can narrate to us our triggers and also our remedies. To start with draw a rollercoaster. A wild one. With high highs and low lows. The highs will represent when you are feeling happy and enjoying life, the lows will reflect difficult times and how you got there. Please do use lots of colour to represent your feelings. As you progress through this picture maybe you can start adding words to the rollercoaster – going up or down – that shows how you got there. Like a road map. I know for me that tiredness is a big ole’ issue that I always forget to register until after the event (my bad, sorry!) It is often the root cause for many big feelings despite me thinking differently at the time. In the past, it has been far larger issues stemming from abuse or heartbreak though. Exercises like this can really help you identify the ROOT of the problem. Once we have this information we have the opportunity for healing or correcting ourselves. Go as deep or as shallow as you wish to on this. Don’t be scared. This is not for anyone else to see. Just you. Though this article focuses on how to deal with difficult emotion please do add in as much good emotion as you wish. They are very important too!
Letting go: This used to be where I would tell you to write something on a balloon and let it go BUT we are not releasing any such things anymore after seeing the toll such things take on the environment. Instead, we are finding creative ways to gain the same feeling. Write your feelings down on a leaf, or some biodegradable, unbleached, paper and let them blow away on the wind. Perhaps you can find one of those beautiful sky lanterns that you can write everything down on and release it into the skies at dusk? Our favourite has been to find a pine cone, write on little strips of paper, roll and poke down into the cone – and then place into a fire that is invariably happening near us at some point. (As I write this we head into a cold and blustery winter, it is not that I know a lot of arsonists) This process comes under the title of ‘ritual’. We are creating a ritual of letting go. We can acknowledge that some things are beyond our control and simply just need to be released out of lives. We like this process so much that we have created our own ritual day for such activities once a year. On the 3rd Saturday in January we have “Ember Day”. A day for fire-based activities, be it candle making, etching, baking etc… at the end of the day we roast marshmallows and throw our note filled pine cones into the fire. Sharing with each other, if we wish, what it is we are leaving to burn and what it is we are sparking into life. Feel free to adopt this day into your life, or make up your own.
Your Heart: Open up your journal or get a fresh piece of paper. Fold the paper in half. We are now going to draw a heart. Make sure that two halves of the heart fall on either folded side of the paper. Please leave enough space around the heart for text and doodles on the outside. Maybe yours will be an anatomically correct drawing or it will be a heart-like shape. Whichever you prefer.
Please look back over the work that you have done. We are going to take everything that we have learned about ourselves and these difficult emotions and make ourselves our very own ‘infographic’ –
Infographics (a clipped compound of “information” and “graphics”) are graphic visual representations of information, data, or knowledge intended to present information quickly and clearly. They can improve cognition by utilizing graphics to enhance the human visual system’s ability to see patterns and trends.
The heart represents who we really are. What our beliefs and values are. Please add things that are very important to you into the heart. For example – your family, your friends, the things you do that make you feel like yourself.
On one half, on the outside of the heart, draw, doodle, colour and write all the emotions that separate you from feeling the way that you want too. On the other half write down all of the emotions, solutions, shapes, and words that connect you to how you want to be and how you want to feel.
Keep this in a place that you can look at it easily.
You have created an invaluable tool, infographic or map to help you remember who you want to be and how to get there. You have creatively processed your difficult emotions. Not only that but you have mapped out the process so that when you are feeling lost in it all again you now have a point of reference to return to. Leaving you feeling less alone and chaotic. You did this all yourself. You are amazing!
I plan on diving into lots of ways that we can bring creativity into our lives. From happiness and gratitude to creativity through pregnancy and child-raising. We’ll be wrestling creativity into our lives and the lives of our loved ones.
You are invited to join me on my journey. If you like what you are reading please do sign up for our newsletter – it is packed full of positive mindest and business tips that can be practically applied in most peoples lives and businesses