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Arts and Mental Health in the Pandemic Panic

photo by Howard Jude

Panic, grief, hoarding behavior, exhaustion–have you felt any of these visceral emotions? Maybe they’ve come in full waves, followed then by numbness at the overwhelm of it all. Chicagoans, especially in this phase of self-isolation, may feel they are see-sawing between emotional worlds. 

One of the topics that many of my clients and I talk about is the peculiarity and eeriness of this season. I work as a hypnotist and coven facilitator for creative artists. In this weird, secular spiritual time, I look at the role of emotional wellness, higher callings, and meaning making in all of this. 

I work with Art of Balance, a Chicago group therapy practice.As we therapists adjust to HIPAA compliant tele-therapy and Zoom meetings, we check on each other; How can we be in service during this emotionally exhaustive time, and how we are taking care of ourselves?

Chicago, first of all, please have compassion for yourself during this time.. It is weird, it is eerie, and there is so much communal grief. Give yourself space to feel, whether it may be through therapy services, calling a friend, or starting a virtual book club. Voice all of your emotions so they don’t linger inside. 

I am talking to you single people especially!

Second, create a routine. Having one thing that you do for yourself every day helps anchor the body, mind, and spirit in a time when it is so easy to not know the time or day.  

What, it’s Friday? I thought it was Tuesday. 

Third, if you are exhausted right now and full of brain fog, know that this is normal. Your feelings, thoughts, and actions have shifted. There has been a disruption in society, and survival is paramount.Give yourself permission to rest.

Whatever you spend your time doing, if it helps you process emotions, good. Continue to do that. If it is bringing some humor and normalcy to your day, good. Continue to surround yourself with that. 

We live in unique spiritual times, to say the least. What I mean by spiritual is the personal, intimate relationship you have with your meaning, intuition, and value system. This relationship comprises existential complexities like God or religion, Self,  and fear of death. 

Finally, do not underestimate the therapeutic power of art. Use art to do two things: care for your spirit, and connect with the collective grief, beauty, fear, joy, and compassion that this pandemic has materialized. 

Collectively, folks are escaping from their minds and into the weird and wondrous world of Tiger King, yoga teachers like those at Inner Sense Healing Arts are offering online body movement classes, and artists are opening their Patreons to group painting and live concerts. 

Right now, as philosopher Alain de Botton describes, we can see our spiritual needs being met by artists; Film, music, zines, plays, and visual art soothe us. Now that everyone is relying on them for entertainment and escape, artists seem especially crucial. 

I believe that, collectively, Chicagoans are some of the most resilient people around. I see it every day with my clients, my coven, and with the artists I work with. The strength, humor, and community that has risen from this crisis astounds me. Looking for the helpers is easy. Cultivating empathy for the interconnectedness we share during this time is a secular and therapeutic modality that we should practice together.

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