By Emily Palmerchuck
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
A high school senior stuck home, unable to participate in extracurriculars or clubs. Not knowing if they’ll be able to walk across the stage to receive their diploma. A college student is unable to walk to the library or their professor’s office. Unable to spend time with friends in their dorms or common area. A college professor is unable to connect with their students in person and check-in with how they’re doing. Having to rearrange their lesson plans. A food service worker working extra hours. An artist, photographer and business owner unable to see clients.
What People Are Going Through
During this time of the coronavirus, many people are feeling anxious, alone and unmotivated. It’s a new world with new challenges.
David Suh, a professional photographer, and business owner, shares, “My sleeping schedule (has been thrown off). When you’re just working for yourself, it’s really just up to you to keep yourself accountable ... corona sort of broke down all that foundation (of good habits). I guess you could say I was in a rut for quite a while. Right now, I’m just sort of falling back out of it.”
Ella Heckman, a high school senior, adds, ”The hardest thing is finding the motivation to just get myself out of bed.”
Suh is a professional photographer with his own studio in Sacramento, California. He’s been doing photography for eight years and has owned David Suh Photography for close to three years. He loves empowering his clients to see the beauty in themselves. Now, he can’t see them in person. He can’t stand behind his camera and take pictures of the women and men he has helped make feel beautiful.
“I had to reschedule all of my clients. At first, it was until mid-April. And now there’s not a certain date; it’s just sort of in the air,” Suh said.
Ella now spends her days in a Pennsylvania house. She can no longer go to chorus, drama club practice, to the art room, or give her friends hugs in the hallways.
“I’ve felt a huge sense of shock having to transition from my fast-paced life of senior year to now waking up every day with nothing on the agenda,” she said.
Benjamin Smith is a college student attending school and working in Maryland. All of his college courses have moved online. Working in food service, he has been picking up extra shifts to help those who cannot work. Due to this, he is either working on schoolwork or is at his job.
Dr. Bridget Moriarty is assistant professor of theater and vocal performance at Niagara University. She now has to teach vocal lessons over video calls. She can’t enjoy students popping into her office to talk and ask her questions. She must rely on technology to get her job done.
“My focus is pulled in so many directions trying to stay on top of the technology and the needs of the students, by the time the day is done I'm tired. Now it's settled into somewhat of a routine, and I am spending this time trying to maintain a focus on the good, rather than the unknown,” Moriarty said.
Everyone is dealing with their own struggles. But it hasn’t been totally bad. This time has given people a chance to reflect and reconnect with parts of themselves that may have been pushed to the side.
“It has definitely been nice getting back into some routine of playing piano for fun, rather than for academic purposes,” Moriarty shares.
Suh also shares that, during his quarantine, he gave himself a K-pop transformation and took self-portraits.
He says, “That was a big sort of eye-opener for me as I’m so used to giving my clients an experience through their portraits. Through that, it’s a big journey of self-exploration and coming to terms with who you are and reconnecting with yourself. And many times that turns into finding this newfound confidence for yourself. I’m so used to giving that experience, but never for myself.”
With everything changing, one thing that can stay constant is creativity. Each of these people has creative interests that they’ve explored during this time. Suh continues to photograph, though in different ways. He also enjoys taking time to dance. Heckman explores painting, singing, knitting, writing music, and just writing. Smith listens to music as he works on school work. Moriarty takes time to play the piano, but also sits down and experiments with pen and pencil coloring.
What is Creativity?
When talking about creativity, we often think of traditional art forms: drawing, painting, singing, photography, etc. – but there is creativity in everything we do.
“Creativity is so much larger than just the art forms. I think creativity can be applied to anything we do,” Suh shares.
Moriarty agrees, noting, “There was a mad rush of creativity when it came time to completely rewrite my course curriculum for the second half of the semester in one week. Taking a performance course and transitioning it to remote learning is a very imperfect process, and it has forced me to be very creative with content and approach.”
Creativity is Good For People
It can feel difficult to find time to do these things. Everyone still has responsibilities. Essential workers are picking up more hours. Students are still trying to continue school work online. Teachers are rerouting teaching methods and business owners are trying to organize and prepare their work. Finding time to be creative can be good for a person. It can impact your mental and physical health in positive ways. People want the release and connection creativity brings.
The act of being creative helps your mental health, too. Mental health is a concern and struggles are real for many amid the pandemic.
“I’ve been rather anxious. When I’m anxious, it can get to the point where it can make me physically sick,” Heckman explains.
“I worry about my students, for all sorts of reasons; I worry about their mental health and their stability,” Moriarty says.
Focusing on a creative project can be an almost meditative experience.
“These are such difficult times and many of us do not truly know how we are feeling. With the help of our creative resources, it can help give a sense of stability to the chaos that’s around us,” Heckman shares.
Musical and artistic ventures can help ease stress and anxiety.
In the article “The Connection Between Creativity and Mental Health” on Mindwise.org, this thought is explored. “In fact, researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression and pain.”
The writer also mentions that this affects the brain in a way that helps you process information. Tapping into your creativity helps your brain in “providing nutrients and energy to neurons. These changes can lead to improved mood, memory and a reduction in stress.”
Spending time being creative isn’t just good for your brain. Research shows creativity can be good for your body, too. We all know that being active is good. Stuck at home, the couch may be appealing. However, moving around by dancing, building things, or doing yoga can be fun ways to get moving.
Getting moving isn’t the only way creativity affects you physically.
According to “7 Ways Creativity Boosts Your Mental and Physical Health” on MemoricalCare.org, “Music and singing therapy have been known to help decrease inflammation, which is the cause of many common illnesses. … The calming nature of musical or artistic ventures can also help those with heart conditions, as it helps to keep blood pressure low.”
Creativity connects people and, during this time of isolation, we can feel the furthest apart and most disconnected as we’ve ever been. People want to be together.
“Stay connected with people. Even if you're an introvert, it's important to get people time. Whether it's a phone call, video chat or a coffee date (virtually). People are life, so don't try to do this alone,” Benjamin says.
The article, “The Importance of Art in the Time of Corona Virus” on TheConversation.com puts it into words well: “In this time of restriction, TV, film, books and video games offer us a chance to be mobile. To move around freely in a fictional world in a way that is now impossible in reality. … In our current context, it also connects us to a world where anything is possible. A world out of our grasp for now.”
People are reaching out for each other and for creative media. According to VisualCapitalist.com, a Global Web Index has shown over 80% of U.S. and U.K. consumers have consumed more content since the outbreak started. In a ranking on the site, listening to music, watching movies and shows, and funny videos were at the top of the list, only preceded by reading news about COVID-19. Reading news articles and watching webinars were at the bottom.
According to SocialMediaToday.com, social media apps are seeing an increase of interaction, too. The new social and creative app, TikTok, being the most downloaded app since the start of the pandemic. It’s one of the big new ways people are expressing their creativity.
Suh created a TikTok account and shared, “Connecting with a lot of people through online, hearing what they’re going through and hearing that my little goofy video that’s under 59 seconds is helping them, giving them a little laugh … and sometimes they feel really empowered, sometimes really confident and I think that’s been really cool.”
Also in the 10 most downloaded apps are Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Netflix and Spotify – apps used to view and share creative media.
Now is the Time
You don't need fancy equipment to let your creativity show.
Now is a perfect time to try something new. We are stuck at home with what may be the most amount of unstructured time we have in our lives.
“I know a lot of people that box it (their creativity) away once we start working. But we have time, so bring it out,” Suh said.
“Join TikTok, too,” he jokes.
Do something that makes you happy, whether it’s creating something, dancing, singing, listening to music, making a playlist, or even just enjoying others’ content.
You don’t need any fancy supplies or equipment, either. Moriarty has started an organizational journal for this time that she jokingly adds she “may burn it when all this is done.”
You can even DIY things at home. DIY setups to take pictures and videos with your phone. A DIY standing desk using ironing boards or boxes. As Suh says, “Quarantine itself promotes creativity beyond just art.”
Creativity can be anything and everything you want it to be. It can help you “be goofy, have fun and create” as Suh says he’s been doing since starting his TikTok account. Embracing creativity can help you discover and reconnect with yourself in amazing ways.
Suh gives a piece of advice to college students that everyone could use during this time: “Use this time now. What I would hear from my college peers all the time is just a lot of excuses. ‘I don’t have time,’ ‘I don’t have money,’ and the thing is, once you graduate out of college, none of that changes. You’re still gonna be in debt, you’re not going to have time. … Use this time, if you’re a college student, to really check that out. Check-in with your passion, check in with the other side.”
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