How art therapy helped me overcome depression and burnout

My story

I am telling you a very personal story. I am writing this post to share with you how art therapy has helped me overcome depression. In 2003, I had depression and it was a difficult time in my life. The most important thing is that it is possible to get out of it. Just before I continue, if you think you are having symptoms of depression, it is very important to get help and to see a doctor. Also, don’t stay alone with your symptoms and speak to someone even if it is the last thing you feel like doing. To learn more about depression, burnout and the ways I have found to get out of it, you can go see my series of 4 videos on the subject. In this post, I briefly tell you about my story, what is art therapy and how art therapy has been beneficial for me..

Note: To watch the video version of this article, click here to jump at the end of the post.

Depression and anxiety

In 2003, I was working in the IT field, with responsibilities beyond my capacities. I had young children and I was traveling 3 hours a day for my job. I was exhausted and I came to no longer be able to look at my computer. I had several symptoms of depression: lack of concentration, fatigue, nausea, headaches, crying, dark thoughts. I went to see the doctor. He prescribed me a sick leave and medication. I was completely helpless in the face of the disease. Also, I didn’t want to accept it and refused to take any medication at first. As a result, I went deeper into the depression. So, I had to realize that maybe the medication could help me and I finally accepted the treatment.

This situation generated a lot of guilt and shame in me as I had no control over my usual physical and mental capacities. I couldn’t perform anymore. I had pushed the machine too far. I hadn’t paid attention to myself or listen to my limits. I was always a volunteer and took on responsibilities that I believe were beyond my abilities and skills at the time. I wanted to be recognize as an excellent worker. I was always on the run and was putting a lot of pressure on myself. I had low confidence and self-esteem. I had over used all my energy resources. We have to face the facts that we are in a society and an era where we live 200 km an hour and that human beings were not designed to live this frantic pace. As much as we would like, we are not Superwoman or Superman, and there are only 24 hours in a day.

Recovery

I can testify that slowly but surely you can go up the hill and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Once you are in recovery and staying at home, it is important to find activities that will do you good. These activities restore confidence in our resources and hope in our abilities. The simplest things are the most effective. Wash, dress, eat, take a walk. My brain was not functioning for my main activity and I could no longer look at a computer screen. I was slowly getting better and had to find something to hold onto. In my recovery process, I needed to find an activity within my abilities, within my limits and aligned with my personality. Something that was going to bring me light.

An idea came up

My children were the first key to my recovery because I wanted to be there for them. Since I always read them stories before they went to sleep, I had the idea to write them a little story with drawings. This is how “Petites perles de comptines” was born. These are little rhymes for children with animals. I borrowed pencils from my kids, I had beads, and I went to get some colored paper for one dollar. With little, I made a small project. For me, it was pure art therapy and it helped me a lot in my recovery.

I got back to drawing a little bit every day. At first, I didn’t allocate a lot of time a day to this activity, but gradually it gave me light, hope and confidence in my abilities. Confidence that I could re-educate my brain to focus and do an activity. Art has been very therapeutic for me.

What is art therapy?

Art therapy is a form of therapy through expression and creativity. It is a therapeutic process of self-expression that can improve our physical, mental and emotional health. Art therapy allows you to: reduce anxiety and stress, communicate with others, express and learn about yourself, relax, create emotional, physical and psychological well-being. It is also known to have healing effect. The visual arts like drawing, painting and collage are used to express oneself.

You don’t need any art knowledge or experience to practice art therapy. Rather, they are instinctive exercises where the pleasure of letting go of your inner world takes the place. For example, you can draw or color a mandala, or any other drawing. This way, we can let go of our minds with no expectation, like when we were children. There are professionals who can support you and fun exercises are available online. A little research on the subject will open up great horizons for you! To color a mandala, you can download a free Emoji style mandala by clicking on this link. This will bring you to a download page.

To make a mandala, you can read my article What is a mandala, purposes and how to make a mandala.

It is possible to get out of depression and burnout

I have received a lot from life and I am so grateful that I could experienced this period to realize how life is so precious and worth to enjoy. I have been working on my personal journey for several years and I am always curious to find new tools that I share with you through articles and videos. After an episode where mental health is affected, there are necessarily questioning and recognizing that we must learn from this episode. Learn to take care of yourself, to love yourself, to say no, to respect yourself and to respect your limits, to take a break when necessary, to manage your time, to manage your stress, to manage your anxiety, to find means and tools, such as meditation, to refocus. We are learning every day of our life.

It is normal and healthy to be in search of well-being, better balance and happiness. It’s very possible. You can be with others but also have periods for yourself. In our life journey, it is sometimes necessary to open our horizons, to let go of certain preconceived judgments and ideas and to put our ego aside. In the pursuit of wellness, art therapy is a wonderful activity that teaches us a lot about ourselves and our relationships with others.

Other art therapy related activities

You can use art and creativity in other areas and not just visual art. You don’t have to have a pencil or a brush to touch art therapy. For example, here are some activities that I think are an art form: dancing, singing, gardening, doing yoga, making birdhouses, working with wood, making jewelry, walking in nature with appreciation, etc. Everyone can find an activity in which they can practice with enthusiasm. To help you refocus and take breaks, you can do some guided or unguided meditation. I offer several guided meditations and you will find tons of them on the web as well. It can help you be less stressed and reduces anxiety. You can experiment and see what works for you.

Always stay attentive to signs

After an episode of depression or burnout, you must always be careful. Therefore, it is important to take rest, to listen to your body, not to push the machine or come back to negative thoughts that bring us down. In addition, it is crucial not to fall back into old patterns and not to tire our mind too much because the symptoms follow one another quickly. Recognizing the signs and taking action is essential. And, we must always be attentive to the signs. This is why art therapy is a good tool that allows you to stop, decompress and refocus as well. And, it is an increasingly popular form of active meditation which I hope can help you on your personal life journey as well.

Through art therapy, I hope that you will find a spark of joy, moments of happiness, of discovery and appreciation, of calm and appeasement.
My e-book “Petites perles de comptines est disponible” is available in French en version e-book ou en version vidéo on my web site. It is a good way to learn French and you can listen these simple rhymes with your children or grand children and have fun making animal sounds. Il also do the narration on Youtube.

For simple and effective guided meditations, see all guided meditations of La Plume Rêveuse. They are also available on Youtube.

If you enjoyed this article, share it on your social media and feel free to leave me a comment below. I am looking forward to be reading your comments!

May your life be filled with colors, joy and loving kindness!

Namaste

Chantal Rioux

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Video version