COVID-19 and beyond: Staying creative for a healthy mind

By Victoria Sanchez, Canadian Red Cross Digital Volunteer

How many of us actually mastered the perfect sourdough, grew a healthy garden, or finished weaving a tapestry during isolation is debatable. However, we tried.

We all tried not necessarily because we had the extra time at home, or the exact supplies needed, but because we were all eager to try something new and disconnect, even if for a short while, from all the overwhelming unknowns that the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it.

We sought comfort in the things we already knew, but curiosity and creativity played a huge role in helping us cope with a very stressful situation.

What we made in isolation

Before COVID-19 hit, I worked from an office, went to my creative studio, attended events, hung out with friends and came home to unwind. All of a sudden, we were asked to stay home, and my apartment became my world. My work-from-home desk became the stage for productivity, socialization, and creation. I made paper, I wove tiny baskets, attempted new recipes, and at one point during the isolation period, I felt so stressed that I scheduled 10-minute breaks throughout the day and made pom-poms the way I had seen on a video tutorial.

Friends and family do know me as the “artsy type,” and while I do work in a creative industry, the truth is that we all have the innate ability to be curious. And from curiosity comes creativity.
Photo of woman painting
"Painting became my creative outlet. It allowed me to bring colours to life and make any canvas into something beautiful.” 
-D. Concepcion

I was not alone in this. I saw many friends try their hand at painting, spruce up their gardens, and even build a homemade app to plan meals for isolation when constant trips to the market weren’t possible. We created something important to us, and we shared in the feeling of how much our mood and quality of life had improved while working on these “new-to-us” projects!

You are creative

At its core, curiosity is about exploration, questioning and wonder. But a question isn’t enough. Creativity is how we act upon that initial curiosity. And if we approach a situation or project by being open, flexible, and playful (characteristics you can practice), we can achieve a more positive outlook on life.
Photo of wood structure.

“I like to build. It’s my way of being creative. My daughters wonder how I know how to do these things. I am not afraid to try. I think about it for quite a while, often during my sleep! And come up with how I want to do it.”  - Wendy A.

Here are some tips to make the best of your creative time and keep your spirits up while at it:

1)    Be kind to yourself: It is essential to work from a place of kindness and patience, especially as we try something new! Commend your effort, be open to new experiences and fight your fear of failure.

2)    Make the time: In a world of instant satisfaction, working on a creative project for a few days or even weeks, sometimes not knowing where to even start, can seem uninspiring. However, it is with time that we understand and develop our strengths. Slow down, creativity is meditative.
Photo of yarn

“After logging off from work, my desk became a space for experimentation. These are small samples for what one day might become a larger project. In the meanwhile it relaxes me to make small yarn coils.” Victoria S.

3)    Try something new: When it comes to building your creative skills, stepping outside the box is highly rewarding. Seek out local artists, musicians, dancers, writers, galleries and museums for exciting stay-at-home projects.

4) Find a community: Connect with family, friends, or meet new people on your favourite social media platform. Share your progress. There are plenty of people out there ready to cheer you on and be inspired by what you create!

Now that our routines begin to go back to regular and social circles start to expand, I encourage you to keep curiosity and everyday creativity in your toolkit, practicing it as a skill for a healthy mind.

If you are struggling with continued feelings of extreme stress, your healthcare provider, local organizations, and friends and family can lend a helping hand. Asking for help is a sign of strength.

Take a moment to check out the Canadian Red Cross Psychological First Aid Guide, free to download. 
Photo of food
"With the economic uncertainty and not being able to eat out, we wanted to be self-sufficient while still being able to try new dishes. So I spent time imagining and creating a homemade web app with all our favourite recipes. K. Werklund

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