You know that automatic social greeting where you run into someone you know and you exchange hello’s, ask how the other is doing and blindly answer “good, how are you?”

How many times are you really just “good?”

More important question…

If you were expected to give a real answer to how you were feeling,

would you know what to say?

Do you know how to access that authentic space inside you where you can accurately gauge your current mood, thoughts, or opinions? How often do you check in with yourself? How long do you give yourself to process how you’re feeling and how do you internally respond to your own emotions?

With work, social, and familial obligations, not to mention our current social, political, and economic climates, it’s no wonder we often don’t have the time, patience, and or interest in personally checking in. I mean, what does that even look like?

Too often it feels like we are some version of The Looney Tunes’ Tazmanian Devil, going quickly from activity to activity without stopping. Any lag time is often spent looking to our phones so as not to be stuck in a dreaded moment of….nothingness… boredom…time to think. Before the advent of smartphones, we had so much time to think! And probably also time to check in with ourselves.

Why Checking In Is Important

Giving ourselves the opportunity to pause, evaluate how we feel, name our triggers, and problem solve ways to proceed can help us from overreacting to others or mindlessly coping in unhealthy ways. Sometimes just naming how we feel can ease the pressure difficult feelings can create.

Alternatively, allowing ourselves moments of reflection to appreciate feeling positive feelings can help us to experience these emotions more mindfully and ensure that we continue to put ourselves in situations which lead to those positive feelings.

Finding The Time

In order to have the ability to access that intuitive space where we can answer for ourselves the question “How am I,” we need to adopt a regular practice of checking in. What that looks like can vary widely from person to person based on how much time an individual has as well as their motivation level. Whenever we are thinking of starting something new, Its important to accurately assess how motivated we are to following through, otherwise we run the risk of setting ourselves up for failure. Maybe we are extremely motivated towards cultivating greater self-awareness and ability to self-reflect, but only have a small amount of time in our schedule to commit to it. So, we might only be able to check in with ourselves for 10 minutes once a week at first. However, if its really something we are motivated towards implementing into our lives, we often figure out ways to make the time.

“Your soul needs time for solitude and self-reflection. In order to love, lead, heal and create you must nourish yourself first.” Linda Joy

Here are 5 ways to check in:

1. Set a timer on your phone or go old school and tie a string around your finger to remind yourself to stop what you’re doing at least once a day (but ideally much more) and literally ask yourself: “How am I feeling emotionally, mentally, and physically? What just happened? If you find you are feeling less than ideal, think “what can I do or say to myself to turn this negative feeling around?”

2. Meditate in a quiet space for 10 minutes, breathing slowly and deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth. After 10 minutes, take note of how your body, mind, and emotions feel.

3. Create a painting or drawing using different colors and symbols representing your current mood.

4. Stream of Consciousness Writing

5. When you are with other people, take a moment to observe the energy around you. How are you feeling? If you notice yourself feeling frustrated, sad, anxious, evaluate whether those are your authentic feelings, or whether you are picking up on another person’s mood/energy? Imagine yourself in a protective bubble. Visualize their energy being unable to enter your bubble, your space. Feel the difference in your mood when you put a boundary between yours and another person’s mood/energy.

September Adult Art Therapy Group

This September, at Create Space Buffalo, we will be exploring this topic of self-reflection. Slowing down, finding ways to be more present, accepting of our feelings, experiences, thoughts, and opinions is important for minimizing stress, avoiding burnout, and living happy and successful personal and professional lives. Each week, a new method of self-reflection will be introduced and each week, participants will have the opportunity to explore feelings, thoughts, and experiences resulting from the use of that method of self-reflection through the creation of art and group discussion.

To join us, please visit our Group Registration Page on our website

And please reach out with any questions.

See you at the studio!

Anna and Katie

Imagine the last time you laughed really hard. Who were you with? What were you laughing at? How did your body feel? Did your stomach hurt? Did tears well up in your eyes?

Sit with that for a second. Feel that moment. Does it bring a smile to your face to think of it?

How often in your current life do you really laugh? How often do you play? How often are you engaged in an activity that you really love and enjoy doing without feeling guilty, without thinking about what else you should/could be doing?

Why do we not do more of what makes us happy? Makes us laugh? Delights us? For young children, the majority of their day is spent doing things they enjoy, playing, laughing, running around with friends. At some point, we are suddenly expected to sit still, be silent, do the chores, do the homework, take the tests, get a job, meet those deadlines, pay those bills and on and on....

Enter, "SELF-CARE," a (sometimes overused) word meaning simply to take care of yourself doing things you enjoy so that you are not so stressed. In my opinion, the "doing things you enjoy" part is crucial. If I am feeling stressed from all of the obligations on my plate and someone suggests that I go to the gym to work out, but I despise the gym (which I do), then having yet another thing on my "to-do" list that I won't enjoy is not going to help me. However, if exercising is something I generally enjoy and I know will help relieve stress and keep me healthy, perhaps I can join an intramural kickball team or take walks around my neighborhood.

Finding out what you like to do -- what will make you smile, laugh, help you feel more calm, happy, playful and less stressed -- That's half the battle. The next step is all about focus. Being present. Whether creating art, exercising, playing.a board game with friends, cooking, playing with your kids, even watching tv, the more mindful you are about the present moment, the more you will enjoy yourself.

According to Steven Bradt of The Harvard Gazette, "people spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing , and this mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy." When we allow our minds to wander, they often either go to the past or the future. When wandering to the past, we can experience depression. When wandering to the future, we can experience anxiety. It isn't easy though. Our brains are meant to wander, its what they do.

Having a regular routine of taking care of yourself then becomes important not only because as an adult you will likely encounter stress with some regularity, but also because being present is hard work and practice is key to success with anything challenging.

Gone are the days when we were magical little young beings whose main responsibilities were to be creative, play, laugh, and run around. That doesn't mean we can't infuse our current adult realities with some of the tried and true methods of fun that kids use. Who says "self-care" can't be terrible knock-knock jokes, impromptu stops for an ice cream cone, singing your favorite song as loud as you can, or running full speed down the street just to see if you can fly. If it makes you laugh until you cry, or feel freedom from the weight of your worries, its worth a little side eye from your neighbor.

"No one looks stupid when they're having fun." -Amy Poehler

Hi, everyone! Anna here. So, I'll be honest. Sitting down to write the first entry to our blog felt super important and super daunting. I enjoy writing, but as an art therapist, I am much more comfortable drawing, painting or sculpting my thoughts and feelings. I also enjoy the creation of art for the process much more than the product. I could care less whether it makes sense to anyone else or looks pleasing to their eyes. But in writing a blog about your business, the whole point is that it has to make sense to other people. That, in part, in our goal for this blog. Helping others make sense of what is inherently so obvious to us: the healing power of creative self expression through art therapy sessions.

For this week's entry, we wanted to introduce you to Create Space Buffalo (unless you're already well acquainted with us, in which case "Hey girl, hey!" (or guy!)

and tell you what we have planned for next month's series.

The Birth of Create Space Buffalo

Create Space Buffalo started as a thought in May of 2017. A "wouldn't it be cool if..." type of conversation between myself and my good friend, Katie Mullaney over lunch. We were getting great feedback about (and were proud of) the work we were doing at BryLin Hospital in our daily art therapy adult groups and also disappointed that there weren't more opportunities for adults to receive art therapy in groups outside of the hospital.

Knowing very little about starting our own business, we challenged ourselves to figure out a way to open up a private practice by May 2018. We started right away meeting weekly, contacting business owners and friends, following small business competitions in the area, reading books and articles, and working with a business coach through the Canisius College Women's Business Center. Thanks to support from professionals, friends, and our families we were able to open our doors in November 2017, 6 months ahead of schedule.

Create Space Buffalo has exceeded our expectations over the past 9 months. Week after week, we are blown away by the bravery, honesty, hardwork, and dedication our participants. Not only do they continually show up for themselves, despite how uncomfortable they may feel at times, but they show up to support other group members, some of whom they only just met. Month after month, we leave the studio feeling fulfilled and proud of the space that we were able to provide for the community.

"But I'm not artistic!"

From our years of experience providing adult art therapy groups, we know that many people get very nervous about what to expect. Usually, the first thing we hear when inviting someone to one of our groups is something along the lines of:

"Oh no! I'm not artistic!"

"I'm not creative!"

"I draw like a kid!"

"I can only draw stick figures!"

and sometimes just a hearty laugh and an eye roll.

If thats you, let me reassure you. You do not have to be artistic. You do not have to consider yourself creative (though we know you are creative because everyone is!) There is NO right or wrong in art therapy. It doesn't have to look like anything in particular. All that matters is that you are taking whats inside-what you're feeling, thinking, struggling with, happy about, nervous about, ambivalent about-and get it OUT.

At one point in your life, probably before age 5, you didn't hesitate so much. You didn't doubt yourself like you do now. If you were 3 years old and I put a piece of paper in front of you with a box of colorful markers, what do you suppose you would do? You'd JUMP in. That's the type of energy we encourage you to pull from if you're hesitant to create. Its not easy by any means, but you'll get there.

A Typical Session

At Create Space Buffalo, each session has a predictable structure. When everyone arrives they can feel free to grab tea/coffee/snacks and take a seat in our cozy seating nook with our custom benches and large windows that face Bryant Street. (pictured below)

Once settled, we begin our "check-ins" in which we hear about highs/lows of everyones week. This is a good opportunity to get to know others in a relaxed setting and ground ourselves for the night.

After checking in, we introduce the night's topic and have a brief discussion around it. We try to keep this relatively short so that we have as much time as possible to create.

We then move to our large custom built art table where materials are either provided ahead of time or participants are free to gather whatever supplies they need from our shelves to starting creating. We are nearby, also making art and making sure everyone has what they need

After about 40 minutes of creating time, participants and leaders alike have the opportunity to share what they created and receive group feedback or questions. The process of sharing artwork is often daunting for first-time participants and we do not make anyone share who wishes not to, however Create Space is a confidential and non judgmental place where everyone is free to express themselves openly, so we hope that eventually you feel comfortable enough to share.

Finally, we go back to the seating area to ground and close our group with a meditation or final thought.

Our Next Session

Since opening our doors, we have provided a new topic each month based on feedback from participants and brainstorming sessions. One idea we have wanted to test out since the beginning is an "Open Studio" format group series, which is what we are piloting this August. Rather than have a set topic for the month, with suggested materials and methods, we are offering a more relaxed opportunity for expression of whatever emotions, challenges, or situations may present themselves each week. We will still have our typical "check-in" and "closing meditation," but we hope that the open studio format will offer more time to create art and greater freedom to address personal challenges as they are experienced. If this format is well received, we will look into adding a standing "open studio" group series each month in addition to our more directed series topics.

As a community art therapy studio, one of our goals is to be adaptable to the changes and needs of the community. We also want to be transparent about what we offer and what participants can expect in coming to the studio. We welcome any and all comments, questions, and suggestions as we move forward, so don't hesitate to reach out via the comments section, email, or phone!

Stay tuned to our facebook and instagram accounts (@CreateSpaceBuffalo) for quick updates and daily inspiration.

Much love,

Anna and Katie

Create Space Buffalo
296 Bryant Street. Buffalo, NY 
(716) 427-8398