Coping through creativity

The use of creative outlets to help cope with the new normal

As we near the end of our first full official semester back in person on-campus after the COVID-19 evacuation in March 2020, returning to “normal” has been different than envisioned. For some, returning to in-person classes and rebuilding a normal social life has brought a familiar sense of ease and perhaps relief; for others of us who enjoyed aspects of isolation brought on by the pandemic, returning to “normal” has posed new anxieties and challenges associated with reintegration into society.

Either way, many of us have found or maintained certain creative outlets to turn to for a variety of multifaceted reasons. Someone might use a creative outlet for self-expression, relief, or to further inquire into an issue. It should be noted, however, that these reasons are fluid, not strictly defined and are not exhaustive of the reasons why a person might seek out a creative outlet.

Simply put, creative outlets can provide a glance into the subjective contemporary dispositions and attitudes we hold as 2021 is coming to a close.

Not to keep circling around the COVID-19 pandemic (I understand we are all tired of it at this point), but we must admit that it has changed us and perhaps our outlooks on life. Although creative outlets can serve as coping mechanisms for our reintegration into “normal” everyday life, we must keep in mind that this is our normal now; there is no return or backtrack, we can only go forward. Surely, we have both heard and told ourselves this repeatedly.

Even so, our acknowledgment of our current situation does not make things easier to grapple with. Ideally speaking, perhaps art is the medium best-suited for grappling with looming issues — issues that will, in reality, never go away. From the minuscule to the massive, art is a way to tackle things that we take issue with. Perhaps we can utilize creative outlets to worm our way through difficult times and ultimately come to terms with them.

Art does not have to be an active effort to solve problems; it can just serve as a means of being. Personally speaking, my work in photography has allowed me a space to concentrate on details like lighting, exposure time and subject matter, instead of focusing on literally anything else (as the Still Woozy lyric goes, “you wouldn’t last a day in my head,” which I am sure resonates with everyone). In this way, my creative outlet is a safe space that can almost distract me from looming issues, both personal and general.

Don’t think you have a creative outlet? It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular. Dancing, cooking, collaging, doodling in class, singing, making music and writing are all low-stake creative outlets that may prove to be beneficial — the list goes on and on. Although creative outlets can provide a healthy coping mechanism for some, I am not intending to suggest that creative outlets are the only viable coping methods, but that they are options for anyone open to trying to create or exploring new methods of relaxing.