My Card Creations: Being Kinder to Myself by Lauren Marcus

I began making cards as an act of kindness towards other people, which is something I have always been intentional about throughout my life. Giving handmade cards to others is a way for me to share my creativity with those who I care about, while also sending the message that the receivers of my cards are important enough for me to truly want to put the time, effort, and thoughtfulness into anything I give to them. I introduced card-making to one of my dearest friends who has a disability and was looking for a meaningful and therapeutic activity to channel herself and her creativity into, without feeling stressed about the result. Card-making was the perfect option – it can be about the process and not the result; it is a forgiving form of art; it can be simple or complex or both; it can involve any and all forms of art; it is open-ended and allows freedom; versatility and thoughtfulness is the name of the game when it comes to card-making. We have made several cards together, some of which we have sold, and many of which we have given as gifts to friends and family. Hopefully when COVID is over we can participate in a local craft market.

More recently, I have been using card-making as a form of self-kindness, which has always been something that comes far less easily to me than kindness towards others. In general, over the past 1.5 years since I began working as an occupational therapist, I have put a huge amount of pressure on myself to develop my skills and knowledge, and to make a difference in the lives of my clients, sometimes at the expense of my own self-care and mental wellbeing. I am hard on myself when I feel that I can’t help someone in the ways that I want to and I sometimes allow my compassion fatigue to get the best of me, leaving me feeling burned out and discouraged. I also have had difficulties setting boundaries for myself – answering phone calls/emails from clients outside of “work hours”, spending far too much time on client-work/paperwork than I should be, and not being able to shut off the voice in my head telling me “you should be doing work right now rather than relaxing/socializing/sleeping/etc”. Far too often, that voice in my head wins, and I end up doing work-related stuff at all hours of the day, and on weekends. So my resolution? Card-making! It is relaxing, enjoyable, and allows me to become totally engrossed in the activity, such that I can shut off my mind from work stuff or other stress and just get into the flow of creation – often while listening to music, documentaries, or podcasts at the same time to add another level of “mindfulness” and focusing on the present activity. And the products that come out of my artistic/creative activities are always satisfying evidence that I AM progressing in my goal to practice more self-care, leisure, self-expression, and boundary-setting. I AM being kinder to myself and engaging in something that is whole-heartedly for me (and occasionally for others as well, which makes me even happier).

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