In November I wrote about how I was struggling with the lockdown:
Because I was. I found the shorter days and increased social restrictions difficult to manage. I had a wealth of coping mechanisms, but none of them seemed to do the trick. I watched Marvel movies, I ran, I played piano and guitar, I sang, I talked to my friends on the phone, but still felt extremely anxious. However, the lockdown was going to persist with or without my anxiety, so I had to figure something out.
Christmas provided distractions to the anxiety, with my sisters coming home and the organization of the holidays. I got back into baking after a brief hiatus, however I need to take another break because I’m a little sugared-out. I took on the challenge of attempting a more consistent YouTube schedule, a little unsuccessful so far.
But I wanted a better way to waste my time. I love watching YouTube and Tik Tok and movies and Netflix. Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook and just getting absorbed in the lives of other people. But everyone knows that social media and mental health mix like oil and water.
At this point it’s important to remember that wasting time is healthy. You shouldn’t be productive 100% of your day. First and foremost, your brain literally needs to take breaks, it gets fatigued and your productivity will drop. Secondly, you need to do things for the sake of enjoyment, not everyday is about “checking things off your to do list”. As satisfying as productivity can be, your entire life shouldn’t be geared in one direction. You’re going to burn out if you never pause.
So, in a pure lightbulb moment, I remembered a de-stressor I picked up during university. Painting. In second year, I bought a bunch of paints, brushes, and canvases from the dollar store and just played around. I mixed different colours and made essentially colourful blobs on my cheap canvases. And then painted over them. I painted flowers and trees and butterflies. And then painted over them. I had probably four canvases and each was covered in layer after layer of paint throughout my time at UBC. I would simply let my painting dry, be satisfied with my hard work, and then paint something new.
Painting wasn’t about being good or producing something meaningful. In fact, being mediocre was part of the draw. The whole event was low stakes, there couldn’t be associated anxiety. If it turned out pretty, it was a pleasant surprise, if it turned out okay, that was expected, and if it turned out awful, then I laughed at myself and painted over it. There were days I skipped the brushes and finger painted and made a mess as well as days where I tried to paint meticulous details to no avail. But no matter what I attempted I felt better.
It gave me a way to step back from all my stress and take thirty minutes, an hour, sometimes longer, and do something for enjoyment’s sake. Once I sat and tried to paint every bit of the canvas perfectly black, and it took probably only 30 minutes, but at the end it was oddly satisfying and I painted over it in two weeks.
Painting doesn’t take a lot a space, isn’t a large investment if you’re just playing around, and can take as much or as little time as you want. Yes, there are fantastic artists with big studios and expensive acrylics who spend hours painting individual hairs on someone’s head, but that’s not my goal. My goal is to be an idiot for a bit and then start over and be an idiot all over again.
Over the break I dragged my younger sister into my schemes and she and I turned my room into a mini painting studio for an evening. We listened to music and painted and chatted and mixed colours and tried different things until it was midnight. And she reiterated the same sentiment, “I don’t care what happens, because I don’t need it to be amazing”. When I dropped her off at university, we stopped by the dollar store so she could get her own supplies.
I’m not saying it will fix all your struggles and your strife. It won’t make the lockdown go away and you can’t see your friends and everything is still closed and 2021 is still rolling out to be a magical shitshow the way 2020 was. However, maybe for a little bit you can think about something else. And then let it dry and do it all over again.
From me, with love, to you,