Chloe posts

Glitter Jars and Glass Painting

‘Glitter jars’, or ‘calm-down jars’ are a great example of how crafts can be used to promote good mental health. Glitter jars are essentially jars filled with water, glue and coloured glitter, that you can shake up and down when feeling stressed or anxious. They can also be used with children as a timer for time-out, or as a tool to help with regulating emotions and sensory needs. They are a wonderful tool for adults too! They are a brilliant stress reliever because watching the swirling glitter settle is very calming!

Glitter jars can also be used as an analogy for mindfulness. You can imagine that each colour of glitter represents something different e.g. silver might represent feelings, and purple might represent thoughts. At the start of the day, the glitter is settled at the bottom of the jar because nothing has happened yet to create bad thoughts and feelings. However, throughout the day, lots of events might take place to shake up the glitter in jar. We might be late getting ready, leave an important piece of work at home, or get into an argument with our sister in the car. It may now be more difficult to concentrate because the jar has been shaken up and the glitter, or negative thoughts and feelings, are in the way, blocking our view and making it difficult to see clearly. The moving glitter represents how thoughts can swirl around in our heads when we are angry or upset, and this can make it difficult to think coherently.

When this happens, we can’t push the glitter to the bottom, and no amount of effort will make it settle more quickly. Being still is the only thing that can be done to settle the glitter and make everything clear again. We must be still, acknowledge the thoughts and feelings, and let them be there. If we are still and acknowledge that the thoughts are present, they will then fall back to the bottom of the jar again and settle so that we can see clearly again. While we wait for things to settle, the glitter doesn’t go away. The thoughts, and feelings are still there and we don’t want to get rid of them, we just want them out of the way. We want to notice that they are there but not always act on them or get carried away with them.

To make a glitter jar you will need:

  • Any jar or bottle you can seal shut permanently once finished
  • Clear glue or glitter glue
  • Water
  • Coloured glitter
  • Food colouring or watercolour (optional)

How to make a glitter jar:

  1. Clean out your jar/bottle and remove the labels
  2. Put 2 tablespoons glitter glue in your jar or fill it until it takes up ¼ of the jar. It is up to you how much glue you add. The more glue you use, the longer the glitter will take to fall to the bottom. You can use coloured glitter glue or normal clear glue.
  3. Add the glitter! Add as much or little as you want but be aware that if you add a lot of glitter, it won’t move around as much. You can also add beads and sequins or anything you fancy.
  4. Add hot water (but not boiling as this may break the glass) and stir with a spoon to dissolve the glue. Fill the jar but leave a little bit of space at the top.
  5. It is optional to add watercolour or food colouring. You can make it as dark or light as you like. Use a stick to stir it in little by little until you get your desired colour.
  6. Seal the lid and shake. Watch the glitter swirl and fall to the bottom!

Here is a link to a YouTube tutorial which demonstrates the process:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJIYMl_XV00

Here is a link to a website that explains how glitter jars can be used to improve our mental health and help us to be more mindful:

https://www.mindful.org/how-to-create-a-glitter-jar-for-kids/

At the café this month, we did some glass painting and played games. Here are some photos of what we got up to:

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Happy New Year!

Chloe posts

The Pressure to be Perfect

In 2019, I’m convinced that looking after our appearance could be a full-time job. We live in a world where the way we look is of increasing importance – we must have a toned hairless body, a full face of makeup, manicures, pedicures, balayage straightened-then-curled hair, tanned, blemish-free skin, white teeth, eyelash extensions, Instagram-ready eyebrows, and the perfect outfit, with shoes to match. Society’s beauty standards are excruciatingly high, for all genders, and they’re practically impossible to live up to.

Perfection (or our idea of what perfection is) may seem desirable, but the truth is that striving for perfection can be exhausting, and it is difficult to maintain in the long run. Often when we spend too long trying to make something perfect, it can stop us from enjoying the activity, or we can spend hours agonizing over it, and picking out flaw after flaw. Nothing is perfect, and the definition of ‘perfect’ is highly subjective, so pursuing perfection can be a waste of time.

This can be a hard pill to swallow, especially for the perfectionists amongst us, but constantly pursuing perfection can prevent us from enjoying life. It’s better to start living our lives now, rather than waiting until we feel that we are the perfect version of ourselves. In reality, the way we look is actually quite irrelevant, and it doesn’t matter half as much as we think it does. Our bodies are just bodies; they’re just things that kart us around the world, that allow us to jump, walk, talk and enjoy life. It’s important to appreciate our bodies for everything that they can do for us, rather than hating them because they don’t measure up to an impossibly high ideal.

The message that ugly is bad and pretty is good has been transmitted to us from a young age, so it’s a difficult myth to debunk in our heads. In Disney films, the villains are portrayed as evil and ugly, whereas the princesses are presented as kind-hearted, with an otherworldly type of beauty. Because of the messages we receive from society about the way we are expected to look, we can feel compelled to seek out treatments and enhancements to improve our appearance, so we can finally become ‘perfect’ and eradicate our insecurities. Perhaps society’s standards are so unobtainable for a reason. If society made people feel comfortable with themselves, we wouldn’t feel that we have spend money on improving ourselves, and it wouldn’t be good for business. Though we can use things like makeup and beauty treatments to express ourselves and increase our confidence, it can quickly become harmful if we begin to feel that we’re not good enough without it. Even if we don’t look like supermodels, actresses and popstars, we are good enough, and we are completely fine as we are. The way we look is only one tiny fragment of who we are, and though it can be difficult to remember this sometimes, it is not the only thing that matters.

 

Chloe posts

Coping with Stress

Few of us cope well when we are stressed. The most put-together, organised person may still be prone to crumbling under pressure. Stress occurs when the demands of the situation are greater than our perceived ability to cope with it, and none of us are immune to the effects of stress. It can weaken our immune system and cause stomach aches, colds, and headaches, yet we still persist with work and projects that trigger our stress responses. Though it is practically impossible to avoid stress completely, there are many strategies we can use to try and cope a little better with it. Here are a few tips and techniques to try:

Problem-focused coping vs avoidant coping

Distraction techniques such as having a bath, relaxing, and doing something you enjoy can be helpful, but they can often lead us to avoid the stressful situation, rather than face it. In the past I’ve found that when I cope with my stress by avoiding it, the stress reappears as soon as I’ve stopped distracting myself. For example, if I’m stressed about a difficult assignment, and I spend the day socialising to avoid thinking about it, the stress will come back once I’m on my own again. Problem-focused coping means thinking about the root cause of your stress and identifying steps you can take immediately to solve the problem. If I’m stressed about work, I’ve found it’s far better to be pro-active by writing a plan, e-mailing my tutor for help, or getting started on it, rather than distracting myself and pretending that the work doesn’t exist. However, when we are incredibly overwhelmed and stressed, thinking of solutions to the problem can seem an impossible, insurmountable task. Distraction techniques can be helpful when we feel this way, because they allow us to improve our mood so that we feel able to get started.

Avoid taking too much on

Having high standards of ourselves can be wonderful, because it means that we’re challenging ourselves. However, there is a fine line between pushing yourself, and taking on more than you can handle. If you find that you have more things to do than time to do it all in, it can be useful to remove a few activities from your to-do list so that you can quickly reduce the number of things you are worried about. If this is difficult, try thinking about your values and the things that matter to you most. It can be helpful to make a list with 3 sections: things that I must do, things that I like to do occasionally, and things that I do not like to do. You might find that your life is very cluttered, and you are wasting a lot of time doing something you do not enjoy (scrolling through social media, getting distracted by the television…). You may realise that you could swap the half hour you spend scrolling through social media in the morning, for something more enjoyable and productive. It’s important to remember that it’s completely okay to be assertive and say no to things that don’t appeal to you/activities you don’t have time for. It is your life and your time to spend how you please, and protecting your mental health will always be more important than pleasing other people!

Think about the situation from another person’s perspective

It’s easy to become our own worst enemies, and this can become even easier when we’re stressed. It’s easy to beat ourselves up about all the things we said we would do but didn’t do and ruminate about everything we are worried about. But this style of thinking isn’t productive for anybody, and it only serves to attract more negative thoughts. Thinking about what you would say to a friend if they were in your situation and practicing self-compassion can be useful to combat these thoughts, and it helps us to stop being so hard on ourselves.

Focus on what you can change

There are some stressful situations that we can change. We can cancel going to a social event that is worrying us or change jobs to one that won’t stress us out so much. We can control how we react in situations, where we work, what we say, and how we act. There are other stressful and worrying events that we are powerless to change. We cannot control the disturbing events on the news, what other people say about us or the way that they act, so it is pointless to spend lots of time worrying about these things.

 

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Chloe posts

Everyday self-care

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When we are busy or stressed, it can seem impossible to fit everything in. When we are constantly faced with work pressures, deadlines, commitments and social events to attend, it can seem like our to-do list is never-ending. Life can be chaotic, and it can often feel like there is barely time to breathe. During these times, it’s important to remember that self-care isn’t always something that we always need to set big chunks of time aside for, but something that we can build into our everyday lives.

Self-care is so important because it helps us to stay mentally well. It is crucial to take regular breaks because they allow us to calm down and re-charge so that we can go back to our work with a clearer head. Here are some self-care ideas:

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Chloe posts

Mindfulness

I am a notoriously unobservant person. My friends and family often laugh at me, for failing to remember the route to a new place, notice a new shop that has sprouted on our street, or realise that the layout of our living room has completely changed. To many people this might seem crazy, but I know that I’m not alone in my unobservant tendencies. Many of us drift off into our own worlds much of the time, where we choose to over-analyse the past, or worry uncontrollably about the future, rather than live in the present. For this reason, being “off in our own world!” for a large chunk of time, might not be ideal for our mental health.

Have you ever travelled a familiar route on the bus or in the car, but felt completely oblivious to your surroundings throughout the trip? Or have you ever ventured on a long walk to ‘clear your head’, only to end up ruminating over the same thoughts, and failing to enjoy your surroundings? Mindfulness seeks to put an end to this. It is all about remaining in the present moment and enjoying and appreciating everything in it.

There are a variety of ways we can use mindfulness in our everyday lives. Mindfulness can be concentrating on each step of your morning routine, and noticing the sights, smells, tastes, and noises around you as you do this. For example, rather than thinking about your itinerary for the day while getting ready, you stop to observe how the shower water feels on your skin, the cute design on your coffee cup, and the texture of buttered toast in your mouth. You can also use mindfulness on the commute to work – rather than worrying about the argument you had with your housemate that morning, take time to really notice your surroundings. Look at the sky, the weather, listen to music, look at the people around you, and try to avoid going into ‘automatic pilot’, and getting lost in your thoughts.

There are mindfulness meditation tapes, books about mindfulness, apps for smartphones, mindfulness courses, and much more. Mindfulness meditation is particularly useful for relaxation and breathing exercises. It helps us to see thoughts and feelings as things that come and go, like a train passing through a station, rather than viewing thoughts as things that are fixed and constant in our minds. When our heads are swarming with negative thoughts, it can be seriously overwhelming, and it’s easy to think that we will feel this way forever. In these moments, it’s helpful to remember that thoughts and feelings are temporary, and the way we are feeling right now, is not permanent.