Art Therapy and Journaling: Dealing with the Lockdown Blues

You’re sitting at home. Thoughts are weighing on your mind, and frustrations are piling up. 

Due to lockdown or other government restrictions that make you stay at home more often, you have to cancel your plans with friends. Suddenly you have more time on your hands, but less motivation. Since there’s no place you can go, you feel stuck.

I can help you there. Journaling doesn’t need you to go out, while hopefully keeping you sane! 

I have done some form of journaling for years now. Journaling involves any creative way of recording dreams, inspirations and frustrations, and will be your favourite outlet when you are feeling blue.

Here I’ll talk about regular journaling, and then give some ideas on how to visually express your feelings through colours and collages if you feel inclined to do so. 

To start off with, you will need a book and pen.

The Writing Journal

Fill the various pages of your journal with your choice of creative writing:

1. List your goals

You can record the goals you are striving for in a journal. Really think about which ones matter right now, and which would take years to achieve that you can cut back on. Draw a circle in the middle of the page. In that circle write your current responsibilities. Outside of the circle, write down the thoughts on your mind that are not your responsibility, or not something you should think about right now. What is inside the circle is what you should focus on.

2. Come back to reality

There are many pages in your new book, so there’s lots of thoughts to fit in.

You can have a page talking about your ‘reset button’. Draw an on/off button and next to it write the small actions you do that bring you back to reality and energise you once again. As a Muslim, some of these actions can be to read a small surah, to say some dhikr such as subhanallah, alhamdulillah and la ilaha illa Allah.

3. The basics

It is easy to forget your basic needs when you’re under a lot of pressure. Draw up a checklist where you ask yourself the question: when did I last take a shower? Am I eating enough in a day? Eating the correct foods? Am I getting fresh air if only by going out into your backyard or opening all the windows?

The rumbling tummy or the bad scent on your clothes are not difficult to miss, but a bad mood can make you ignore them on purpose. To combat this, you can for example make it a habit to eat at least one healthy food every day, even if it be something small.

4. Write your daily list in a creative way

There is nothing more exhausting than seeing an impossible list of things to do. Why not make it fun? One basic way I like to write my list is to do mini sprints and complete a task within a time frame, just in time to have a fun break. Another way is to write them on colourful cards, and on the other side of the card to write the reward you can give yourself. Another favourite is to prepare your day as if it were a recipe, list what you do under ‘ingredients’ and your steps under ‘method’. Choose what you find best. 

5. The classic journal entry

This is possibly the most important bit of your journal. Take the time to let out as much of your feelings as you feel comfortable to write down. Track everything that happened that day, store all the memories. Express your true emotions throughout your day, whether you’re tired, or bored or in a joyful mood. 

Go off on a rant and write whatever you wish to express but can’t do in other ways. Sometimes what you write is extra sensitive. If it helps, get yourself loose paper, write what you need to get out, then rip it all up so you don’t have to see it again. 

6. Creative exercises

A way to write down your experiences and express how you feel without feeling the need to tear it into pieces is this: fictionalise it. That’s right. Give people an alternate name and gender, and now you can freely write everything while feeling control over your experiences through the power of imagination.

Visual Journaling: For The Artist in You

For the visual expressers out there, there’s much more to journaling that can appeal to you as well! Here are plenty of methods to spend your time. No talent is required! Anyone no matter what level of artistic talent they are at can benefit from these activities.

1. Colours

Take out your colours, whether it be markers, highlighters, pens or pencils. Pick out the ones that match your emotions and make an emotions wheel, or any drawing using those colours. 

2. Change your phone wallpaper

Here’s something that is easy to do but is appealing to the eyes when it’s complete. Search up wallpapers in one colour of your choice, whether it be to represent your emotion or it be your favourite colour. Make a meaningful collage using that colour and some symbols. A tip: use apps with the word collage in them, or Canva or Desygner, all of which take not long to get accustomed to. 

3. The Worldbuilder

Imagine an alternate universe. It could be something you had a dream about, or something based off a published story. What are the people in this universe like, who is in power, what other species exist and what would your house look like in that world? Then hop onto Google images or Pinterest and save inspiration for this world into a photo album. Use what you’ve saved as inspiration for drawing. You may print out images and trace over them. You could make little sketches in your notebook. 

4. Play Quran or nasheed in the background while drawing

I find that sounds can create certain atmospheres and change your mood, so make a playlist while you are busy with your creative tasks. I find that reading along to Quran as I draw images of Allah SWT’s miracles such as green nature, the planets and so on is so relaxing. 

Really embrace your creative brain and challenge yourself to think outside the box. Your emotions don’t fit snug in any box, nor does your imagination. Creative activities let you refocus, to calm down and to think about your reality in a different light. 

Whether you follow the activities listed above is up to you and what works for you. But, don’t be shy to alter the steps, or make something of your own. True creativity is when you adapt an activity to what you feel expresses who you are best.

Disclaimer: The views, opinions and conclusions presented in these pieces are strictly those of the authors. MYA does not necessarily endorse the personal views of the authors.

Nour Jamal

Nour Jamal

Nour Jamal is an avid writer in many genres and forms. She loves looking at art but although she believes she doesn’t have an artistic hand, she appreciates all types of art and loves how people can express themselves that way.

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