What Are Life’s Transitions?
Life’s transitions can be a positive change or a negative one and can be unexpected or planned. Some occur without warning and can be dramatic, as in cases of:
- Job loss;
- Serious illness.
Others come from positive events like:
- Getting married;
- Starting a new job;
- Going away to college;
- Giving birth to a child;
- Moving to a new city.
Even though experiences like these are typically planned, they can be just as life-altering as the unexpected ones. Whether negative or positive, life transitions make us leave behind the familiar and compel us to adjust to a new way of living, at least momentarily. They can leave us feeling completely uncertain send us into a personal crisis, feeling angry, sad, withdrawn, or shocked.
Challenges of Handling Life’s Changes
Life transitions are particularly challenging because they make us let go of what is familiar and face the future with a feeling of defenselessness. Most life transitions begin with a string of losses:
- The loss of a person;
- Loss of a role;
- The loss of your sense of where you fit in the world;
- Loss of a place.
Any substantial loss makes most people feel anxious and fearful. And since your future may now be filled with uncertainty, it’s normal to feel afraid. Our culture has taught us to be uneasy with uncertainty, so we become anxious when our lives are disturbed.
But on a positive note, these transitions give us an opportunity to learn about our strengths and determine what we really want out of life. This period of reflection can result in a sense of stability and renewal.
Art Therapy for Handling Life’s Transitions
Nobody is protected from the effects of change. And regardless of whether you embrace change or if it makes you feel scared, it can make it difficult to cope. This is as true for children as it is for adults, which means that change and transition can have an impact on the whole family.
Art is a formidable tool that can inspire and unite us and allow us to deal with change in a positive way. As a coping device, art therapy calms us during trying times, allows us to express ourselves in ways that aren’t always possible verbally, and help us determine how best to deal with future changes.
What makes art therapy so unique is that it allows us to explore art for art’s sake. It doesn’t force us to position ourselves and our views into a tiny keyhole. It allows us to express ourselves in whatever way we choose. There is no right or wrong way to create art and art therapy allows us to work through transitional stages in our own way and in our own time.
The beauty of art therapy is that it permits us to express ourselves without having to find the right words. Texture, line, shape, and color provide the tools we need to instinctively put our feelings onto paper.
Feelings of anxiety are often caused by change, and art has been shown to calm and regulate the nervous system. When we focus on creating, rather than stress, we’re able to gain access to the parts of our brains that allow us to deal with external stresses. Art gives us a voice without necessarily having to speak.
Benefits of Art Therapy for Life’s Transitions
With art therapy, art and psychotherapy combine to provide a therapeutic result. The art therapist uses a variation of directives and art materials to guide clients in the creative process. The resulting artwork is then used as a catalyst for exploring feelings, emotions, behavioral patterns and coping skills in a safe, therapeutic way.
The benefits of art therapy for life’s transitions include:
- Reduces feelings of inadequacies and boosts self-esteem;
- Develop skills for coping with anxiety, addiction, depression, etc.
- Process traumatic events;
- Process and explore life transitions;
- Discover and enhance your sense of self;
- Improve a sense of mastery to elevate confidence;
- Get out of your comfort zone, which may be a source of coping;
- Explore difficult emotions and feelings in a symbolic, nonconfrontational and nonjudgmental way;
- Increase an overall sense of control;
- Decrease feelings of isolation.
If you’re struggling to manage one (or more) of life’s transitions – don’t hesitate – call us today at (516) 659-0403 to find out more about how art therapy can help ease your anxiety.