Use Creative Expression to Cope with Migraines
For more than five decades, art therapists have used creative expression with pain patients in the hospital setting to distract them, decrease anxiety, and help them relax. Creative expression through artwork, music, and writing helps break the cycle of pain, so it’s worth it to take a closer look at this concept.
At a recent Women in Pain conference, the founding director of UCLA Arts and Healing, Ping Ho, guided participants through creative art therapy, with her primary goal being to help people let go of self-judgment. Through creative expression, Ms. Ho helped participants learn to love and accept themselves.
How Did That Creative Art Therapy Work?
Ms. Ho started off by having all participants draw an image of the part of the body that was hurting. This therapy session included:
- Education on what our bodies say about us
- How to perform body-hugging to reinforce the “love yourself” message
- Use of imagery, music, and guided meditation on what it would be like to live without self-consciousness
Visualization, such as that used in creative art therapy, is used a lot with successful athletes, CEO’s, and actors. You become what you focus on for yourself. It’s about relaxing into a story-line and allowing your mind to mold into a more comfortable setting. It can be done in a guided manner, where someone walks you through the visualization, or you can create your own.
In any case, visualization is one of the most important tools you can have in your arsenal to cope with migraine pain. It’s time to make this a regular practice, even if you only have 10 minutes to do it.
Ideas for Personal Creative Art Therapy
Anxiety and depression are comorbid conditions I often see in my migraine patients. Most of us live in a chaotic, fast-paced environment, so it’s no wonder that the stress of having a chronic migraine condition – caused by never knowing when or how bad the attack will hit – becomes a major concern for migraineurs and their providers.
Science is starting to catch on to how beneficial creative expression can be for those with chronic pain and migraines. There’s been a recent burst of information about:
- Guided Meditations
- Enjoyable exercises, like dancing
- Adult Coloring Books
- 5-Minute Journaling Exercises
There are many ways you can use creative expression to help you cope with the stress and reduce the severity and duration of your migraine attacks. Aside from the options mentioned above, you can also consider the following:
- Take a pottery class
- Knit, crochet, quilt, etc.
- Paint, draw or sketch
- Write short stories or poems
- Make a new garden, or re-designing the current one
- Make scrapbooks for family and friends
- Play an instrument
It’s important to keep the creative juices flowing. Studies suggest creative art therapy helps regulate hormone levels, such as serotonin and dopamine. Therefore, keep that creative muse satiated by looking for inspiration everywhere. Here are some tips to staying inspired:
- During a busy day, stop every now and again to admire something or someone beautiful
- Listen to soothing music for at least 30 minutes a day
- Visit art museums
- Read good books
- Walk through a large garden
- Play a game with the children
- Have stimulating conversations with your favorite people
The goal is always to find a way to heal ourselves without encountering too many lab-made dangers. Medications for acute pain and migraines may be necessary for a while, but they should never become the norm. Your body deserves better, and so does your mind. Using creative expression and all forms of art to help you cope with your difficult journey is one of the easiest ways you can do something great for yourself. Find what sets your soul on fire, and do more of that.
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