Winter is here with its shorter, darker days, but work hours are as long and intense as ever. Some are working night shifts and holidays. Add to that the personal joys and craziness of the holiday season, and stress levels can go through the roof.
As I've been working in my online groups this week, I've noticed a sharp uptick in levels of depression, anxiety, and general distress. That on-the-edge feeling of needing a good release is palpable. Water cooler talk with colleagues is centering more and more on what a crush it is to try to fit in work and family needs at this time of year, how self-care can be neglected so easily, and how pent-up anger and frustration can feed a negative emotional spiral. "I'm irritable, so I can't sleep, and I'm sleep-deprived, so I'm irritable."
Taking care of ourselves, as professionals and as people, can mean so many different things, not least among them finding emotionally healthy ways to break free of that downward spiral. Sometimes it takes a very deliberate and physical act to free ourselves, so that we can begin to put things in perspective and carry on. Here's one recipe for a great stress-busting project that can help break the cycle.
This is a smash-and-create mosaic project. You will need:
- A work space -- a garage or yard is generally best, but an indoor room can work as long as you make sure the floor and walls won't be damaged in the process
- Plates/bowls/porcelain of any kind -- some people buy cheap dishes at a garage sale
- A tarp or other heavy plastic ground cover -- some people also like to have a few old towels on hand
- A piece of plywood -- you can get this cut to size/shape at a local hardware store; other types of solid backing also can work, including sheet metal or driftwood
- A hammer
- Heavy workman's gloves
- Mosaic tile glue
Place your ground cover. Take the dishware, and smash it. You can throw it, stomp on it (if you have heavy boots), and pound on it with the hammer. Note: There will be shards of porcelain flying. For general safety and to keep small shards from getting everywhere, some folks like to wrap the dishes up in a towel before smashing them.
Take as much time as you want/need to smash, throw, and break the dishes apart in any way you can. When you have finished, gather the bits. You'll want those heavy gloves for this part of the project; the shards can be very sharp.
Take a piece of plywood or whatever backing you are using. With the mosaic tile glue, arrange the bits in a design of your choice. The process may take several days or even weeks. Some folks prefer to take the shards and bury them.
This is a project centered on the physical release of emotion. We do that often through crying and sometimes through other means: screaming and fighting with a loved one or colleague, exercise, aggressive driving, etc. What we are aiming for here is to go beyond simply expelling our most provocative and challenging feelings. We are honing the ability to exercise some control over them through a process of release and transition. This is a breaking down of angers, hurts, fears, worries, irritations, and frustrations and a building up of a calm, centered focus -- a chance to take our most challenging feelings and make them meaningful.
For anyone who gives this a try, it would be great if you would let us know how it goes.