English Publications Welzijnsrubriek

A Sanctuary of Mind

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Lately I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather. I don’t seem to enjoy my life to the fullest as I once did. The days seem to be filled with university work, board tasks, committee tasks, pressure and frustration, and this seems to make a dangerous cocktail. What should you do when you hit that spot when all you feel is *stress*? That was at least what I asked myself. I have been thinking, but what do you really do when you feel like you cannot breathe?

I figured that we are taught so little about our mental health and the importance of maintaining a good emotional wellbeing. It often feels so overlooked in schools, however I think that we are slowly approaching a turning point. “Yeah, well, that’s great for them! But what’s in it for me?” That, my friend, is why we are here!

I would not be a musicologist if my (partly) solution did not have anything to do with music, or creativity in general. Creativity is a big help when you feel crushed: it takes your negative feeling, looks at it, touches it, and cures it. Creativity brightens our minds and gives us hope and space for our emotions. It is an outlet for our bottled up emotions. I don’t like those cheesy sayings, but sometimes they are striking, because there is no painting without pain.

I realised that I was not singing or writing lyrics anymore. It was like the song in my heart had its perfect authentic cadence. I did not really know how to make music anymore, but I knew I needed creativity. That’s when I decided that white walls were boring and bought a big tin of forest green paint. Now my room is like a little forest that gives me hope. Since then I started painting my closet with small doodles. It is slowly becoming a passion project of mine. To my surprise, it gave me space and time to think. So much that I wrote a song for the first time in half a year and that I cried when I finished it, because I knew it was what I missed and what I needed. 

I know that I don’t feel like I used to, but I know how I can cope with pressure and frustration. The only danger is that I don’t know when I do too much and when I’m burying myself in the workload. I hope to learn that as soon as possible.

My greatest tip to improve your mental health is to engage in creative activities. Start painting, writing a song (of course without parallel fifths), bake that cake with as many sprinkles as you own, sew that dress, and give yourself time to think about something that is not your life. In other words, create a life outside your own as a sanctuary.

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