April 21, 2021

Developing Sustainable Self-Care Strategies with The Artful Life Counseling Center and Studio

by joeyphoenix

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The Artful Life Counseling Center and Studio gives us some great insights about how to practice self-care, make space for ourselves in a topsy-turvy world, and recognize the importance of creative expression for mental health.

You can learn more about them and their Salem center and studio at https://www.artfullifecenter.org

Who are you and what is The Artful Life Counseling Center and Studio?

I’m Natalie Blue…an expressive arts therapist, creator, life-long learner, Jersey Girl, mother of two great kids (12 and 7 years old), avid Brene Brown fan, and co-owner of The Artful Life Counseling Center & Studio located on Canal Street in Salem. My friend and business partner,  Madelene Pario and I created The Artful Life to be a unique alternative to traditional mental health counseling. Our team of therapists trained in expressive arts therapies and other holistic interactive modalities provide accessible and affordable psychotherapy to individuals of all ages. In the month of March our dedicated Team provided over 1200 counseling sessions to children, teens and adults living on the North Shore and beyond. 

In addition, we have a dynamic expressive arts program that include in-studio and virtual groups, classes, workshops and retreats that focus more on being immersed in the creative process and less on being “good at art.” In April, we are running an art journaling group for teenage girls and a retreat for adults using drama and art therapy to tap into the energy of spring to focus on hope for the future.

What are your tools for coping with stress?

Part of the focus of our training as therapists is to develop self care strategies to prevent burnout and manage compassion fatigue. We decided to ask our team for suggestions on their tools for managing stress. Here are some of their favorite stress relievers: “Running”… “Baths with epsom salts”…”Baking”…”Enjoying a favorite snack”… “Getting outdoors”…”Making art”…”Singing”…”Turning off the phone & computer one day each week”…”Sitting at a local beach listening to the waves”…”Driving with the heat on my feet and windows down”…”Listening to podcasts”…”Figuring out how to get involved with local social justice initiatives”…”Reconnecting to the play I loved as a child.”

Why do you think our culture is so stressed out?

That’s a pretty weighty question. I think it’s partly due to the intensity and frequency of acute stressors we’ve experienced this past year. A stressor is a ‘stimulus that activates tension in the body’ while stress is how your body responds to that stimulus. Typical life stressors didn’t stop in 2020 but were only compacted by a global pandemic, remote schooling, ongoing quarantines, devastating human losses, racial inequities, and political divisiveness. Humans have a biological need to connect however our primary means of connection this past year was virtual resulting in people being bombarded by graphic visuals, live news reports and endless ‘comments’ of these acute stressors on multiple social media platforms 24/7. Inherently, stress isn’t bad but our nervous systems can only take so much. Learning how to manage your emotions is a skill we can all learn. It just seems that the constant exposure to what’s happening in our world has evolved into a collective trauma we all need to heal from. 

How do you stay grounded in your daily life?

We also asked our team for their thoughts on this and here is what some of therapists had to say: “I ground myself in movement and in relationships”…”I snuggle my cat or groom a horse”…”I make lists and try to celebrate small accomplishments”…”I enjoy small things like a beautiful sky”…”Right now I stay grounded through running and gardening”…”I always try to practice gratitude of the simple/enjoyable things I have in life, and committing at least 30 minutes to the enjoyment of those things each day”…”Often I just find myself doing some deep breathing while I’m in the car between places”…”I celebrate small victories, make art, and search for sea glass.”

What’s the best piece of advice someone has ever given you about life, the universe, and everything?

In my mid 20s, I had a wonderful boss who told me the secret to his success was that he always hired staff who were smarter and more creative than he was. I think about his words with every person we interview. We now have 20 therapists and 3 administrators who work at The Artful Life. Our therapists are able to build authentic and meaningful connections with each of their clients. They use their creativity to help clients see their own strengths, find hope and learn to heal. All our staff are passionate about their work and Madelene and I are grateful to have a team so dedicated to helping our community meet their mental health needs.

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