The Importance of Art in Times of Stress and Uncertainty

We have all had bad days. Each and every one of us has had a time in our lives when things seemed bleak and the future uncertain. As I am typing this (July 31, 2020) the entire world finds itself in the center of a particularly treacherous and unanticipated predicament. The future of the world feels like it is growing dark, with slimmers of hope popping up here and there each new month. Everyone is stressed in one way or another and everyone is dealing with their stress in different ways.

Some people turn to therapy and counselors to deal with their emotional troubles. Others choose to keep their issues to themselves, opting to work it out on their own. Others turn to media formats such as music and films to help them through these times. And some people decide to try and channel their frustrations through an artistic art form. This form of emotional expression is what we will be focusing on in today’s blog.

Art, I believe, is one of the most important and useful forms of expressing emotion in the world. I myself found that I could express my emotions through an artistic medium early on in life. Through taking photos and writing different stories I was able to convey the thoughts and emotions I was having and experiencing. These photos and stories were not just expressing negative emotions either, but happier ones too. For every story about sadness or loss, I am sure there is a picture of a blue sky or a flower to match. This form of artistic expression is not something that I invented or am alone in though. This is a form of expression and dealing with stress that has been used countless times throughout the years from everyone to celebrities to normal people going about their day.

For some famous examples, think of the countless break up records which have topped the charts and become international hits over the years. You’ve got “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver, “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers, “Someone Like You” by Adele, “Stay” by Rihanna, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler and countless other hits. All of these songs are artists expressing their emotions through the art form of a song. And you know what? Most of these songs are pretty darn good! Why are they so good? Because they come from an honest and relatable place. When the artist strips away the sense of celebrity and glitz and glamour, and fully embraces their emotions surrounding a subject, the art that they can produce is often better than anything they have produced so far. In this instance all of these artists share a similar experience and similar feelings related to that experience.

So as I am writing this and the world finds itself inside a pickle inside a pickle inside a pickle, here is my suggestion for anyone who feels on edge or has experienced great consternation over the state of the planet recently. Tell us how you feel through art. Whether it be a painting, a song, a photograph, a script, a book, a poem or anything you want, get those emotions out and commit them to a piece of art that you can either keep to yourself or share with others. For example, if you have had a week where you are totally stressed out, consider trying to find a way to share your stress with others through art. This might make for a really interesting writing exercise or maybe it would make for a great painting? I will admit myself that when I first started trying to express my emotions through art (in this case photographs) it did not go great. Every picture looked overly happy or sad and did not have very much emotional heft to it whatsoever. What I found that my problem was, was that I was trying to hard too express the desired emotion through the photograph instead of letting my mind allow the emotions to run through and simply take the photograph. When we try to hard to express emotion through art it can seemed forced to others, what me must do is try our best to simply enter a state of “flow” and let the emotions flow through us and into our work. Often when I take pictures and want to convey a certain emotion I am feeling, I do not find myself trying too hard. I just allow my mind to go blank and just take pictures that feel right. You have to let go, in a sense, of the thoughts surrounding your emotions and just allow the emotion to manifest itself subconsciously in your art. Lets talk about an example of how to try this.

So lets say that you want to write a poem about a really great time of your life. You want the poem to express your happiness and elation that you felt during that time. In order to do this, it is extremely simple. Just write what feels right. Sure you could spend time trying to pick the exact right words and vocabulary to express your emotions, but your brain already knows what it is feeling. And more than likely, your brain knows how to express it in a way that you will recognize in words. Now that isn’t to say that you cannot go back and edit the art after you finish it. This is what drafts are for. But to get started, let your mind go blank and just write down what feels right to you. After the poem has been written or the picture has been taken, then you can go back and mess around with it more. You can then think more about how your emotions can be expressed through this particular piece of art. For instance, after you take a picture you may look at it and feel that it needs an extra ounce of something to express your emotions more fully. It is at this stage that you can edit it further to better exemplify and communicate your emotional status.

It is integral that in times of stress we remain connected to each other and to artistic mediums which can allow us to express our emotions in productive and helpful ways. As someone who has used art many times to express my emotions during times of great uncertainty, I think it is extremely important that we recognize the power of art in our everyday world, and that we recognize that there are healing qualities to art which can be helpful to countless individuals. Not only does art allow us to express what we feel internally, but it allows others to approach our emotions in the external world in a way which can inspire conversation. This method of expressing emotion may not be for everyone, but if you have not tried it yet I highly encourage you to do so.

So that is my post for the day. I hope that you may find this helpful if you are struggling with your thoughts and emotions during this trying time in all of our lives. Do you use art to express your thoughts and emotions? If so what are some of your favorite ways? Let me know in the comments below and as always…

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