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Creatively Coping


Creatively CopingBy Alysia Lee AspCreative Coach, Consultant, Educator, and Co-Founder of Soul Well Creative Wellness Center.



THE SITUATION
As I sit here in my enclosed balcony watching a thunderstorm through my window after 30 days of straight lockdown, I wonder. What can I write to help my fellow expats and Chinese neighbors through this difficult time? The enormity overwhelms me. As of April 25, 2022, John Hopkins University reports:510,000,000 Covid infections worldwide6,220,000 Covid deaths
With this much illness and death, the world is spiraling into an increasing mental health crisis. Globally the news is painting a bleak picture. Personally, as a wellness professional, my colleagues and I are fielding a huge number of requests for help.  It is not surprising when you look at the staggering data collected in a large 2020 worldwide study:53,000,000 added cases of major depressive disorders*76,000,000 added cases of anxiety disorders**Youth and women were more effected.
These estimated reports are PRE-OMICRON WAVE and well beforethe Shanghai Lockdown. I wonder whatthey would be now

THE CHALLENGES
As a creative coach & consultant, I find the best way to help find solutions to any problem is to use the design thinking applied to lifes challenges. Applied to the current situation, I hope this can help you navigate your situation, as well. Here are some suggested steps:
1. Understand Stress vs anxiety (the symptoms of the problem).


Stress is a RESPONSE to something EXTERNAL that seems threatening. Anxiety is a FEELING that is INTERNAL and usually lasts a while. It is often a SPECIFIC RESPONSE to ongoing or combined stressors.

2. What are the root causes?   

 Stressors C what is causing the response EXTERNALLY for expats? Lockdown, lack of freedom, food scarcity, financial difficulties, domestic arguments, problems back in our home countries, evolving changes in the expat community, changes in location (like going to a Covid Camp as some are calling them), etc.

 Anxiety C what is causing the response internally for expats? There are many emotions I could list, but I feel it comes down to two.

o We feel FEAR from the uncertainty of everything. Uncertainty is hard to navigate for many people because we have an innate desire to CONTROL as much as we can. That gives us a sense of safety and security.   In our situation, there is increasing areas of our lives where we have less and less control of stressors externally.

o We feel LOSS from people passing away, losing our supports as they plan to migrate away, losing jobs, losing connections, and  losing our way of life. It is very normal to go through the 5 stages of grief for all of this! Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance are likely to be parts of our coping process. There are models of change that have other stages, as well. The model is not as important as understanding that this is a NORMAL PROCESS.




STRATEGIES & SOLUTIONS
3. Get calm somehow. We suffer from Fight, Flight, or Freeze responses due to survival neurochemicals from the days when we wanted to avoid being eaten by wild animals. So at this stage we need to release emotions (valid emotions) and then get to a calm rational state to solve a problem. There are hundreds of ways to balance yourself so that stress stops before becoming anxiety! Here are some ideas that work during times of limited mobility:
PRACTICE MINDFULNESS.

o Take an online Yoga class.

o Meditate using guidance from professionals (online classes, apps, audiobooks, etc.).

o Change your Point of view (examples: sitting on the floor or on a yoga ball.).

o Try visual meditation videos online.

o Try coloring for adults using online free patterns.


EXPRESS YOURSELF.

o Dance like no one is watching to fun music.

o Try stream of consciousness writing C write whatever comes to your mind in no specific order.

o Write letters to people you care about (by hand) and either send an image of them, or wait to send them after services are restored.

o JOURNAL!

o Try a new art or craft.

o Create a vision board or drawing of your goals to get your mind actively thinking about your future, which can remind you that there is hope for renewed control and happiness there!

o Make a joke. I actually started creating some funny videos about lockdown to help keep things in perspective. Laughing about things decreases their negative power in your mind.


CULTIVATE GRATITUDE.

o Use canned goods or things around your house for exercise as weights to appreciate them and your body!

o Smile for at least one minute and it actually releases neurotransmitters to make you happier. This is one case that works to fake it till you make it.  

o Before you go to sleep and/or when you wake up, think of three things you are grateful for.

o Write successes and/or things you are grateful for in a journal.

o Make a list of the 30 people you are most thankful for in your life.  Each day choose one and write an email, message, or note to them telling them why you appreciate them and how they have improved your life.


4. Time to evaluate our true control C What can you really control? What cant you control? These seem like easy questions, but we often stay in a freeze state to feel we are a helpless victim, a flight state to feel like we can escape truly dealing with the situation, or a fight state where we try to change things we often cant. So heres a hint - what we CAN control is our REACTION to the stressors to reduce anxiety.
5. Get help for the things you CANT solve on your own to focus your time and energy to work on the ones you cant. For example, my meager Chinese language capabilities necessitated the help of some bilingual neighbors (who have basically helped to keep me alive!). If you cannot alleviate the anxiety on your own, or find solutions to challenges, seek appropriate professional help (from coaches, counselors, doctors, etc.).
6. Now the fun part C finding creative solutions! Now you can start figuring out possibilities, choosing the ones that resonate with you, and strategize ways to get through things.

THE LONG RUN
Please remember C since most stress and anxiety comes from a lack of perceived control, the more you can find ways to control things in your life, the more secure and safe you will likely feel. Controlling a pencil on paper to draw an apple is a win. Every little creative effort adds to your collective calmness. With time and consistent practice of these steps, we can cultivate a growth mindset to decrease the whole caveman emotional responses to stress and increase the way we innovate our lives. That is creatively coping.

Author


Alysia Lee Asp is a creative soul who inspires individuals & businesses to transform their lives through innovative coaching, consulting, educating, & creating communities.  She helps professionals, businesses, and companies to creatively innovate their futures. She is a national award winning art educator with over 23 years of experience with degrees in art education & psychology who uses innovative techniques as a certified coach.  She founded several communities and social enterprise businesses in the USA and China and helped countless others on their journey to success.  Recently she started Creativity Consulting Co, Ltd.  and co-founded Soul Well creative wellness center in Shanghai which provides holistic programs for personal & professional growth onsite & online. 

WeChat: alysialeeaspEmail: [email protected]LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/alysialeeasp/

Soul Well C Creative Wellness Center



Wellcome to Soul Well!

We creatively help people to connect, so they can naturally develop a soul-centered life of wellness. Soul Well is a creative wellness center in Shanghai. We are an oasis in the heart of the city where our global soul-centered community enjoys: creative workshops - working spaces - collaboration - professional entrepreneurial acceleration - and professional services.

No. 61, 632 Middle Yan'an Road,

Jing'An District, Shanghai, 200041

63261

+86-21-62299912

WeChat: soulwellcenter



Sources

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/so-stressed-out-fact-sheet

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/stress-vs-anxiety#difference

https://www.trainerslibrary.org/the-stages-of-change

https://www.youthline.co.nz/stories/nine-easy-creative-activities-to-relieve-the-stress-in-your-life

https://www.verywellmind.com/tips-to-reduce-stress-3145195

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/creative-ways-to-deal-with-stress

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/creative-ways-to-deal-with-stress

https://hbr.org/2021/10/4-ways-to-spark-creativity-when-youre-feeling-stressed

https://www.kaylahuszar.com/blog/2019/creative-coping

https://wellness.ku.edu/25-weird-breaks-stress-relief

https://positivepsychology.com/stress-management-techniques-tips-burn-out/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/live-long-and-prosper/202108/creative-coping-in-troubled-times



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