Photography as Self Care
In the mental health world, we talk a lot about self care. The general consensus is that we cannot extend our arms out to others when they are too full carrying the burdens of our own lives. We can only give so much before we need to give back to ourselves. In school, we are required to make weekly "daily care" logs to further ensure we are taking time for ourselves as we navigate through our field practicums. For me, self care can vary from lounging on the couch with a bowl of ice cream to being productive in other areas of my life.
My favorite version of productive self care is photography. There are a million and one ways my camera has gotten me through the stress of a difficult week. The very basic level is by, well, taking pictures. Photo projects keep me grounded, like my Project 365; they give me something to shift my focus on to, something to fall back on, something to work on that isn't "work". My project 365 is something I look forward to, not always in the moment, but knowing how rewarding it will be upon completion. It's hard to explain why, but a big part of it is being able to look back and have documentation of how my photography has improved over twelve months. It's like writing in a journal- you won't know if or when you've moved forward if you don't document the process.
And speaking of writing in a journal, photography is expressive in a way that words sometimes just cannot convey. Photographs can read between the lines when our words fail us. Don't underestimate the power of imagery.
The process of editing is therapeutic to me as well. I upload my SD card, put on my favorite music, and relax, alone, making art. My editing process can vary based on my mood, and that's okay. On more than one occasion I've gone back and re-edited photos only to discover that I was no longer feeling the original edit.
What's important to remember is that you absolutely do not have to be a photographer to utilize therapeutic photography, just as you don't have to be an artist in art therapy. I've been using photography for self care since before I even knew what self care was or why it was important, as well as before I knew how to properly use my DSLR. It's true what they say: if you want to get better at something, you have to keep practicing. Therapeutically speaking, it's more about doing something you love and are passionate about, and turning that love inward as a means of rejuvenation.