Falling Apart? How to Create Mental-Emotional Glue

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One of the best coping methods for stress and symptoms of a mental illness is having a creative outlet, an activity we can pour ourselves into.

It can be anything we deeply engage in such as gardening, scrapbooking, baking, yoga, writing, woodworking or painting. Writing poems is an excellent creative outlet for some and deserves a shout-out since April is National Poetry Month.

Creative endeavors can sponge up our feelings, give us a sense of control, help us explore what we cannot understand, and provide enjoyment and accomplishment. Sometimes they are a glue, holding us together when symptoms seem to be pulling us apart.

The Psychological Glue of Creative Activity

One of America’s most well-known poets, Robert Frost (1874 - 1963), was familiar with symptoms of depression and with the fact that a tendency toward mental illness can run in families:

  • - Frost’s mother, Isabelle, suffered from depression.
  • - William, his father, was an alcoholic.
  • - In 1920, Robert Frost committed his sister Jeanie, age 44, to a state mental institution in Maine. She died there nine years later.
  • - Frost’s son Carol took his own life in 1940 at age 38.
  • - A daughter named Irma was committed to a mental hospital in 1947.

Robert Frost was known to be, at times, jealous, vengeful, depressed and unstable. Although Frost’s darker impulses were sometimes intense, he did not write poetry to escape life, but to engage it. “If poetry isn’t understanding all, the whole world, then it isn’t worth anything,” wrote Frost.

Many of his poems are pastoral in nature, but below the surface of his verse is a tense confrontation with the senseless cruelty found in our world and the unpredictable shadows within himself. Fortunately for for us, he put these thoughts and anxieties into thought-provoking, heart-grabbing poetry.

Lodged

The rain to the wind said,
“You push and I’ll pelt.”
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged--though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.

~ Robert Frost

What’s Your Glue?

We can all engage the world and wrestle with our questions, anxieties, and inner gray areas by putting our energy into activities we are naturally drawn to or have interest in. Even on days when we do not have energy for much of anything, what we have already poured into our creations will help sustain us.

Three suggestions:

  1. Keep the items or tools you need to enjoy your activity handy so you can conveniently pick them up whenever you have the time or inclination.
  2. If all you have the time or energy for is writing one line or pulling one weed, so be it. You can spend one, five, or 15 minutes on the activity – or you can get lost in the activity for hours.
  3. Keep your attention on whatever it is you are doing. When your mind wanders, gently bring it back and refocus on the activity. This is the practice of mindfulness, a natural tranquilizer.

 
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