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Chronic Illness and Self-Care: Arts, Crafts, and Music Can Help

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art materials

One of the side effects of teaching is that we often give up our hobbies, our crafts, even our art for our job.  Our jobs are so overwhelming that we often sacrifice our music, our art thinking we don't have time for it, not with needing to make another parent phone call or write another lesson plan.

For those of us battling chronic illness or even disability, though, we need to make time for our crafts, our art.  An interesting study by Stuckey and Nobel in 2010 found that patients with chronic health problems do better if they create something, anything, especially visual art, music, dance, or creative writing.  In all reality, it helps all teachers, since the study found that, "despite methodological and other limitations, the studies included in our review appear to indicate that creative engagement can decrease anxiety, stress, and mood disturbances" (Stuckey & Nobel, 2010).  For those of us living with pain or chronic health issues, creating music or poetry, painting or knitting, dancing or sewing can help us heal: "When people are invited to work with creative and artistic processes that affect more than their identity with illness, they are more able to 'create congruence between their affective states and their conceptual sense making.'104(p53) Through creativity and imagination, we find our identity and our reservoir of healing" (Stuckey & Nobel, 2010).  Finding that "reservoir of healing" would be amazing for most of us.

So, how do we fix this?  Kate Harper interviewed Rice Freeman-Zachery, author of Creative Time and Space: Making Room for Making Art, and she came up with ten ways to make time for our creative processes.  In reality, many of these are tricks teachers already use to make time for our jobs at home, but we can also use these to fit in our music, our art, our writing.  I personally like #7, wearing what we need to feel like the artists we are.  We so often wear teaching clothes, even outside of the classroom, putting on that professional mask  It's okay to wear what we need to wear, put on what you need to write, create, sing, dance.  Do it to feel better, to be whole.

References

Harper, K. (n.d.). 10 Ways to Make Time for Your Art: An Interview with Rice Freeman-Zachery. Retrieved June 11, 2016, from http://emptyeasel.com/2009/10/19/10-ways-to-make-time-for-your-art-an-interview-with-rice-freeman-zachery/ 

Stuckey, H. L., & Nobel, J. (2010, February). The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature. American Journal of Public Health, 100(2), 254-263. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2008.156497 

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Carina Hilbert is a middle school English/Spanish teacher currently on medical leave from Kalamazoo Public Schools in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Carina has 10 years of teaching experience in urban, suburban, and rural schools; public, private, and charter schools; and grades 6-12. Last year, she also earned her Master's in the Art of Teaching from the University of Southern California through the Rossier Online program in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages with her capstone research being on rural English language learners in Michigan. Carina's main teaching interests are blended learning, alternative education, project-based learning, and working with language learners across the curriculum. She lives in Kalamazoo with her two amazing children, her fiance and his son, as well as their two cats and her rather sizeable book and yarn collection.

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