Posted at: 23 Feb 2024 / Mental wellness skills, Reading/Writing, Art / Crafts
My name is Margaret Alvarez, I am an artist, art teacher and creativity coach. I am from Houston, Texas. That is where I still live with my husband and 8-year-old son.
I have been an artist ever since I could hold a pencil. I attended the High School for The Performing and Visual Arts in Houston and that is where I started using art journals. I Graduated with a Bachelors and a master's and I am currently teaching kindergarten-8th grade art in a private school. I have been teaching for 15 years.
I am beyond passionate about art! It is who I am. I love being creative and sharing this with my students and my clients. During the pandemic, I started My Artsy Coach. Along with being a full-time art teacher, I am a creativity coach who teaches people to combine creativity and mindfulness. I bring my experience as an artist and teacher, but I am also very interested in practicing mindfulness. I especially love teaching the benefits of both creativity and mindfulness combined. It brings me so much joy!
I struggle with stress and anxiety. This started when I became an adult. I started to realize that “adulting” caused major anxiety. All the responsibilities and uncertainty was hard to cope with at times. When I was young, I used my art journal to cope.
As I got older, I started doing a bit of research on happiness. I got really into universal laws, spirituality, and self-help books. I would watch or read anything that I thought would help me. The one common denominator was “gratitude”. No matter what, gratitude was almost always mentioned. So about ten years ago, I started using my art journal as a gratitude art journal.
I would set the intention on the first page of my art journal. A letter to myself to use my art journal specifically for my gratitude and art. When I feel anxious, worried, or frustrated, that is when I would go for my journal. I would draw, paint, collage, or write. I started this ten years ago!
Anxiety happens often. I get lost in my thoughts and now that I have a family and even more responsibility using my gratitude art journal is what I do to cope. I work in my journal weekly, sometimes more if I have a lot going on.
When I embraced gratitude, my whole life changed. Gratitude is the one thing that always brings me back to the present moment. It helps me worry less and feel less anxious. I didn’t know how significant my gratitude art journal was till years later. When the pandemic happened and my anxiety was high once again, I decided to share my ideas. This is when My Artsy Coach was born. I knew that everyone was on edge, and I wanted to help. It felt like divine timing! I wanted to share this practice and become a creativity coach.
I think that prioritizing my happiness as a young adult was a good starting point for me. I did the research and tried to discover what it was that would make me a happier person. I think in general; people forget about themselves a bit. I now make it my priority to teach people how to use gratitude, creativity, and mindfulness. This is just another tool to achieve peace and happiness and channel stress and anxiety into a creative flow. This is self-care.
Posted at: 07 Feb 2024 / Mental wellness skills
Healing your inner child is a sacred work. It allows you to go to the root of your past and heal it on a fundamental level.
I always think of inner child work as a way to reparent yourself. But this time, the source of support, love, encouragement, and understanding doesn’t depend on someone from the outside. It is entirely in your hands.
You are the child, and you are the parent.
You can also think of it like this: your conscious, logical mind is the parent. She knows the right thing to do, what is good for you, and what you need.
Your subconscious mind is your child. It represents all your beliefs, habits, and behavioral patterns that (often) unconsciously drive your life.
When your inner child is acting up, your subconscious mind is in play. Let’s take relationships as an example.
Your partner, friend, or someone else is not giving you the attention that you desire. You don’t feel seen or heard. Therefore, you may use silent treatment as a way to cope with it and indirectly demand their attention.
Although your conscious mind(parent within you) knows this isn’t the best way to deal with the situation, the subconscious mind (your inner child) is taking over and running the show.
Therefore, to begin healing your inner child and make her feel safe, here are 3 simple, yet effective practices you can start with.
When your inner child is acting up, meaning doing things that are unhealthy or not good for you, she is asking for attention.
She wants you to pay attention to her and listen to what she has to say.
Often, we dismiss these moments because they feel uncomfortable or because we prefer not dealing with them.
However, these moments of discomfort are our opportunity. This is our chance to pay attention, look within, and see what is there.
I always shied away from my anger. It was like a scary monster I didn’t want to face.
One day, out of nowhere, I got angry because of some mundane thing I had to deal with. It alarmed me right away and frankly, surprised me. I didn’t expect this surge of anger for such a small, almost unimportant thing.
Suddenly, I realized that it was the little girl inside of me that was angry. Often, she wanted me to pay attention to her and validate her, but because of my fear of anger, I kept dismissing her.
The moment I recognized and validated her (my) feelings while approaching them with acceptance, the anger left my body.
It was a profound experience that made me understand that we must validate our inner child’s feelings.
Both emotions, negative and positive, are essential to our well-being. Negative emotions serve as a compass telling us that something isn’t quite right or that we need to reevaluate the situation.
Validating your inner child’s feelings means that you give them space to express themselves and don’t judge what is there. You feel them and accept them for what they are.
In this letter, express everything you want your inner child to know. How much you love her and care for her. Maybe you want to ask for forgiveness or let her know that today, she is safe because you got her back.
Use this letter to express deep love, compassion, and empathy.
Save the letter and reread it anytime you want. It can serve as a reminder of your path to inner healing or an expression of love and gratitude.
Remember that with any healing modality, whether it is inner child work or something else, it is vital that you move away from emotions like judgment, guilt, and shame and go on the other side of the spectrum to embrace emotions of love and support. Because when you do that, that's when healing always takes place.
How to build discipline.
Posted at: 03 Oct 2023 / Mental wellness skills
Discipline and I have a long, turbulent history, and I'm sure many of you can relate. Just a few months ago, I was running four times a week, averaging about six miles each run. I was working full time, putting in 36 hours a week at my nursing job, and on top of that, I was consistently working on my project. Some days, I didn't feel like getting out of bed, but like David Goggins, I told myself, "Get up!" and I did what needed to be done.
Fast forward to the present, and the most exercise I've done this week is going for a walk twice. Granted, it's something, but I'm nowhere near where I used to be. Although I'm much better than I was just one week ago when I did absolutely no exercise, it's as if I used up all my willpower.
That's why I'm writing this article – to share insights into how I regained my discipline.
1) Discipline is Willpower
I realized that discipline is all about willpower, not motivation. Doing things because you feel motivated isn't discipline. It's about doing something you absolutely don't want to do because you know you have to do it for your greater good or the people you genuinely care about.
The thing about willpower is that it can be limited, which brings us to the next point.
2) Willpower is Limited
Keeping this in mind, I realized the mistake I made. I was exerting myself too much, trying to juggle running, a full-time job, and a project simultaneously. Some people can manage this long-term, but as a beginner, it was a bad idea.
Remember this: If you have a vision of who you want to be and the life you want to live, start by doing one thing at a time. As the cliché saying goes, "Rome wasn't built in a day." It might seem slow, but trust me, this is the way to go.
In my quest to become the stereotypical entrepreneur who gets up at 5 a.m., takes cold showers, works until they drop, maintains a great social life, and a great body, I ended up as a tired, baggy-eyed, and sad entrepreneur. Now, I'm focusing on one thing at a time, and it's making a significant difference.
3) Willpower Aligns with Your Core Values
One major mistake people make is setting goals that mean nothing to them personally. For instance, someone might decide to lose weight not because they want it for themselves but to seek revenge or gain acceptance. That sets you up for failure.
Take the time to introspect and discover what you genuinely like and value, then start setting goals from there. Willpower becomes much easier when you're doing something that aligns with your true self.
4) Discipline is Freedom
I once heard the quote, "Discipline is freedom," and it struck a chord with me. What it truly means is that discipline provides freedom from your feelings and from the life you don't want.
I'm not suggesting you should become a robot and discard your feelings. Instead, learn to recognize when your feelings are hindering you. For instance, if you know deep down that you want something and you've made a plan to achieve it, there will come a time when you face resistance from within – when you find yourself procrastinating or rationalizing delaying your tasks. This is doing yourself a disservice. In such cases, having the willpower to push through helps you break free from the "feelings trap." Over time, this consistency will liberate you from the life you don't desire.
In conclusion, discipline is a multifaceted concept that plays a crucial role in achieving your goals. To recap: Discipline is willpower; willpower is limited; willpower should align with your core values, and discipline ultimately leads to freedom. I hope these insights were helpful. Stay tuned for next week's article on resilience.
Now, let's put what we've discussed into action. Take a moment to think about a goal or task you've been procrastinating on or struggling with due to a lack of discipline. Follow these steps to get started:
Remember, discipline is a skill that can be developed and strengthened with practice. Stay consistent, and you'll see progress toward achieving your goals and better mental health.
Guided exercise to work through resistance
Posted at: 17 Sep 2023 / Mental wellness skills
Do you feel like part of you is the dog and the other half is the dog owner in the photo, fighting with your self to make needed changes in your life, for your own good. Resistance in mental health refers to the inner struggle or reluctance to engage in behaviors, thoughts, or actions that are beneficial for your well-being. It's that feeling of inertia or hesitation when you know something is good for you, but you find it difficult to follow through. This guided exercise is designed to help you explore and address resistance in your mental health journey.
Exercise: Exploring and Addressing Resistance
Step 1: Define Your Resistance
Start by finding a quiet and comfortable space where you won't be disturbed. Take a few deep breaths to center yourself. Close your eyes if it helps you focus. Then, think about a specific action or change that you know is beneficial for your mental health but that you've been resisting. It could be anything, such as starting therapy, exercising regularly, or practicing mindfulness.
Once you've identified this area of resistance, write it down on a piece of paper or in a digital journal. Be specific about what it is and why you think you're resisting it.
Step 2: Explore the Root Causes
With your identified resistance in mind, take a few more deep breaths. Allow yourself to delve deeper into the reasons behind your resistance. Ask yourself:
Write down your thoughts and feelings as you explore these questions. Try to be as honest and compassionate with yourself as possible.
Step 3: Challenge Negative Beliefs
Resistance often stems from negative beliefs or self-doubt. Examine the thoughts and beliefs that are contributing to your resistance. For each negative belief, try to challenge it with a more positive and realistic perspective.
For example, if you're resisting therapy because you believe it's a sign of weakness, challenge that belief by reminding yourself that seeking help is a courageous step towards healing and self-improvement.
Step 4: Set Small, Achievable Goals
Breaking down your resistance into smaller, manageable steps can make it less overwhelming. Set small goals related to the action you're resisting. These goals should be achievable and incremental. Celebrate each small success as you work towards your larger objective.
Step 5: Seek Support
Share your struggle with a trusted friend, family member, or therapist. Talking about your resistance with someone who understands and supports your mental health goals can provide valuable insights and encouragement.
Step 6: Visualize Success
Close your eyes and take a moment to visualize yourself successfully overcoming your resistance. Imagine the positive outcomes and benefits of taking action. This visualization can serve as motivation and help reduce the resistance.
Step 7: Commit to Action
Now that you've explored your resistance, challenged negative beliefs, set small goals, sought support, and visualized success, it's time to commit to taking action. Start with one small step today. Remind yourself of your motivations and the benefits you'll gain by addressing your resistance.
Conclusion: Resistance in mental health is a common and natural part of the journey toward well-being. By acknowledging, exploring, and addressing your resistance, you can gradually remove the barriers that stand between you and what's right for your mental health. Remember, it's okay to take things one step at a time, and seeking support is a sign of strength, not weakness
Simple gratitude practice.
Posted at: 10 Sep 2023 / Mental wellness skills
Hey, fellow pessimist? Here is a challenge to start the week off looking at the good in your life. Practicing gratitude doesn't have to be a one-time event; it can become a meaningful part of your daily routine. This exercise will guide you through a week of gratitude, helping you cultivate a habit of appreciating the positive aspects of your life. Each day, you'll focus on different aspects of gratitude to keep your practice fresh and engaging. These exercises can be used for simple reflection or journaling for a more detailed self discovery.
Day 1: Morning Gratitude
Begin your week by setting a positive tone for the day. You will most likely feel resistance to this because it’s new. Feel the resistance, try to understand where its coming from but don’t let it stop you from following through. (Separate article coming next week on resistance). In the morning, before you start your daily activities, take a moment to reflect on three things you are grateful for. These can be simple things like the warmth of the sun, a cozy bed, or the aroma of your morning coffee. Write them down in a journal or simply say them out loud to yourself. This exercise will start your day with a sense of appreciation.
Day 2: Express Appreciation
Having trouble finding positive things about yourself? Today, focus on expressing your gratitude to someone in your life. It could be a family member, a friend, a colleague, or anyone who has made a positive impact on you. Write a heartfelt thank-you note or send a message of appreciation, letting them know how much you value their presence and support. This not only brightens their day but also strengthens your relationships.
Day 3: Reflect on Challenges
Turn the negative experiences in your life into a form of motivation. Gratitude can extend to challenging moments in your life as well. Take some time to reflect on past challenges or difficult experiences that have shaped you into the person you are today. Identify the lessons you've learned and the personal growth that has resulted from these challenges. Gratitude for overcoming adversity can be a powerful source of resilience.
Day 4: Nature Appreciation
Connect with the natural world around you. Spend some time outdoors, whether it's a walk in the park, a hike in the woods, or simply sitting in your garden. Observe and appreciate the beauty of nature—the colors, sounds, and the sense of tranquility it offers. Take a moment to reflect on the natural wonders that often go unnoticed in our busy lives.
Day 5: Gratitude for the Little Things
Today, pay attention to the small, everyday things that often go unnoticed. These might include the taste of your favorite meal, the sound of laughter, or the comfort of your home. Throughout the day, take a mental note of these little things and express gratitude for the joy they bring to your life.
Day 6: Mindful Gratitude
Practice mindfulness to deepen your sense of gratitude. Engage in a short meditation or breathing exercise, focusing on the present moment. As you breathe deeply and let go of distractions, consider the things you're grateful for right now. Mindful gratitude helps you appreciate the beauty of the present.
Day 7: Gratitude for Personal Growth
You made it to day seven! On the final day of your week of gratitude, take stock of your personal growth and achievements. Reflect on your accomplishments, both big and small, and acknowledge the progress you've made in various aspects of your life. Celebrate your journey and express gratitude for the opportunities that have allowed you to become a better version of yourself.
Yes it can be tough sometimes but when done, practicing gratitude throughout the week can be a transformative experience. By intentionally focusing on different aspects of your life and expressing appreciation, you can cultivate a habit of gratitude that brings positivity and fulfillment into your daily existence. Over time, you'll find that gratitude becomes a natural part of your mindset, enhancing your overall well-being and outlook on life.
Don’t start at just reading this article, I challenge you to join me on this gratitude challenge.
Journaling to plan out your week.
Posted at: 05 Sep 2023 / Reading/Writing
As the new week starts, its good to take time and pause. Think for a minute. Are you living consciuosly or just surviving, "going with the flow". There are times when "going with the flow" is necessary but living in that state most of the time can be detrimental.
To help you stop and puase here is an article stractured as a journaling prompt to help you figure out two main things 1) What is really important and 2)how to get it done.
Lets get into it.
Step 1: Reflect on Your Priorities Take a moment to reflect on your long-term goals and values. What are the most important things in your life right now? Consider your personal, professional, and health-related priorities. Write down at least three priorities that you want to focus on this week.
Step 2: Set Clear Goals Now, let's break down your priorities into specific, achievable goals for the week. What steps can you take to make progress toward your priorities? Be specific and realistic in setting your goals.
Step 3: Organize Your Time Create a weekly schedule by allocating time blocks to your goals and priorities. Consider how much time each goal requires and how you can fit these tasks into your daily routine. Be sure to include time for self-care and relaxation.
Step 4: Weekly Tasks and Errands List any weekly tasks, errands, or chores you need to complete. These can include grocery shopping, laundry, or checking in with a friend. Allocate time for these in your schedule.
Step 5: Self-Care and Well-being Don't forget to prioritize self-care and well-being. What activities make you feel rejuvenated and balanced? Schedule these into your week as well. This could include exercise, meditation, reading, or simply relaxing.
Step 6: Reflect on Potential Challenges Anticipate any challenges or obstacles that might arise during the week. How can you prepare for them or adjust your schedule if necessary?
Step 7: Gratitude and Affirmations End your journaling session on a positive note by expressing gratitude and setting affirmations for the week. Write down three things you're grateful for and three positive affirmations to boost your motivation and confidence.
Congratulations! You've successfully planned out your week, ensuring that your priorities, goals, and well-being are all taken care of. Remember that flexibility is key, and it's okay to adjust your schedule as needed. Regularly reviewing your plan and making adjustments will help you stay on track and achieve your desired outcomes. Embrace the week ahead with confidence and determination.
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Coping with anxiety using breathing
Anxiety is a common emotional response that can be triggered by various situations and our lives. While seeking professional help is essential for managing severe anxiety disorders, integrating simple yet effective breathing techniques into your daily routine can help you gain better control over your anxiety levels. In this article, we’ll guide you through a step-by-step process to overcome anxiety using breathing techniques.
Step 1: Create a Calm Environment
Find a quiet and comfortable space where you can sit or lie down without distractions. Turn off your electronic devices and ensure you won’t be interrupted for the next few minutes.
If you can’t leave where you are, Close your eyes, block out the noise with headphones or just focus on yourself.
Step 2: Practice Deep Belly Breaths
Step 3: 4–7–8 Breathing Technique
Step 4: Box Breathing
Step 5: Mindful Breathing
Step 6: Visualization with Breathing
Step 7: Incorporate Breathing into Daily Routine
Step 8: Stay Patient and Positive
Remember that mastering these techniques takes time and patience. If you find your mind wandering or feel frustrated, gently guide your focus back to your breath. Positive self-talk and encouragement can significantly enhance the effectiveness of these techniques.
Breathing techniques are powerful tools that can help you regain control over anxiety and promote a sense of calm. By incorporating these steps into your daily routine, you can gradually reduce the impact of anxiety on your life. However, if your anxiety is severe or persistent, seeking guidance from a mental health professional is essential. With dedication and practice, you can pave the way to a more peaceful and anxiety-free existence.
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Art therapy importance
Posted at: 31 Jul 2023 / Mental wellness skills, Art / Crafts
In a world where stress and emotional struggles have become commonplace, finding effective ways to heal and cope is essential. One such transformative approach is art therapy—a creative and evidence-based form of therapy that utilizes artistic expression to promote emotional well-being. In this blog, we will delve into the world of art therapy, exploring its history, benefits, and real-life applications. So, let's pick up our paintbrushes and embark on a journey of healing through art.
What is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is a therapeutic practice that encourages individuals to express their thoughts, feelings, and emotions through various artistic mediums. It is facilitated by licensed art therapists who possess a deep understanding of the connection between art and the human psyche. Through the creative process, art therapy helps individuals explore their inner world, resolve conflicts, and develop healthier coping mechanisms.
The History of Art Therapy
The roots of art therapy can be traced back to the early 20th century, where psychiatrists and psychologists began recognizing the therapeutic potential of art. It wasn't until the mid-20th century that art therapy emerged as a distinct discipline, thanks to the pioneering work of Margaret Naumburg and Edith Kramer. Since then, art therapy has gained recognition as an effective tool in psychotherapy and counseling.
Benefits of Art Therapy
Emotional Expression and Healing: Art therapy provides a safe and non-verbal outlet for expressing emotions that may be difficult to articulate verbally. Creating art allows individuals to release emotional tension, leading to catharsis and a sense of relief.
Stress Reduction: Engaging in artistic activities triggers the production of endorphins, the brain's "feel-good" chemicals. This promotes relaxation, reducing stress and anxiety levels.
Enhancing Self-Awareness: Art therapy encourages introspection, enabling individuals to gain insights into their thoughts, behaviors, and underlying emotions. This heightened self-awareness can lead to personal growth and a better understanding of oneself.
Cognitive Stimulation: Creating art involves problem-solving, critical thinking, and visual-spatial skills, stimulating various cognitive functions and promoting mental agility.
Building Resilience: Through art therapy, individuals can confront and process past traumas, leading to increased resilience and the ability to cope with life's challenges.
Real-Life Applications of Art Therapy
Working with Trauma Survivors: Art therapy has proven to be effective in helping survivors of trauma, such as veterans, survivors of abuse, and individuals experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Children and Adolescents: Art therapy is particularly beneficial for children and adolescents who may find it challenging to express themselves verbally. It aids in addressing behavioral issues, building self-esteem, and promoting emotional development.
Mental Health and Wellness: Art therapy is widely used in various mental health settings, including hospitals, counseling centers, and addiction treatment facilities, to support individuals in managing depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns.
Malchiodi, C. A. (2019). The Art Therapy Sourcebook. McGraw-Hill Education.
American Art Therapy Association (AATA). (n.d.). About Art Therapy. Retrieved from https://arttherapy.org/about-art-therapy/
Reynolds, F. (Ed.). (2012). The Handbook of Art Therapy. Routledge.
Rubin, J. A. (2016). Approaches to Art Therapy: Theory and Technique. Routledge.
Art therapy is a powerful and versatile form of therapeutic intervention that harnesses the creative process to promote healing and emotional well-being. Through artistic expression, individuals can tap into their innermost emotions, process trauma, and develop coping strategies. As art therapy continues to gain recognition and popularity, its positive impact on mental health and overall well-being becomes increasingly evident. So, why not unleash your creative spirit and explore the transformative world of art therapy today?