War Paint

As part of the Creative Coping Strategies crusade I’ve been waffling on about, I want to try and broach many creative activities that you may not have thought of before.

Creativity isn’t just about painting and writing (although those are both wonderful distractions if you enjoy them). The point of using creativity as a distraction is that it’s so consuming, you are removed from the stress around you. I read this excerpt in a book recently, and it very eloquently puts what I’m trying to say –

In essence, every part of life is a creative process.

Creative Counselling, Pg. 24, Tanja Sharpe, May 2022

So yes, any endeavour can be creative, and somewhere amongst the dross of daily life is a creative venture that you can enjoy enough to distract you from anxiety, reduce the impact of stressful moments and even help you find that elusive thing that seems hard to understand – zen!

I’m starting with something that seems obscure deliberately. In my opinion, it shows that you can find comfort and solace in the strangest places, and (thankfully) it’s a distraction I know very well. It might even seem mundane to the next man – it certainly does for my partner!

I’m talking about…


It’s a subject I’ve chosen not to discuss previously because it’s a way of placing an essential barrier between me and the real world. It’s a very personal and private tool I use once or twice a week to boost my mood.

Make-up is the ONLY thing that gives me the confidence to take a photo and post it publicly. I’ve tried a few times to post pictures of myself without it, but I hate them. I think everyone who looks at those pictures can see inside my soul. They can see my social anxiety and my deep-rooted fears of the world and because they are exposed, the people looking at me must dislike me too. And I hate myself even more for admitting that, but I NEED make-up because it gives me a layer of confidence. Even to answer the door to the postman!

On the face of it, this might seem like the most feminine-centered post I’ve written so far, but I could surprise you with details of the men I’ve known in the past that are putting their ‘best face forward’ with cosmetic assistance (don’t panic men – no names mentioned here!).

In fact, if you DON’T use make-up, you’ll soon be in the minority.

Where’s the creativity?

I enjoy art and love to draw digitally. It gives me a style of freedom and headspace that’s difficult to articulate. I can sit and focus on a drawing, spending time on details that visitors to this website probably don’t even notice, for bloody hours. Literally hours.

And in the time I’m drawing I can focus on that alone if I want to. I can get lost in the colours, curves and concepts. Ideas will flow freely and a one-dimensional image becomes a living cartoon before my eyes. I start to find additional aspects that make it more fun, thought provoking or just realistic.

Even the time spent researching a drawing can be helpful and zen-like. Digging around Google for pictures and styles that I can pad-out and develop into something authentically ‘Steph’ is a lot of fun. The whole process just for the image attached to this post was more than 4 hours. Throughout all the time spent on this drawing I wasn’t thinking about my health, our daughter and the impending anniversary of a relatives death – things that are all weighing heavily on me when I’m not distracted.

What’s that got to do with my war paint? Believe it of not, if make up is one of the things that gets your serotonin levels up, then the same process can apply here too.

I know because I do it myself!

I’ll sit in the mirror for an hour getting the spread of my colour corrector even, then the same with foundation, and don’t get me started on the concentration required to get the huge, sharp flicks perfect as I level out each side of my eyeliner.

Even if you’re in tune with your natural beauty (embrace it you lucky sausage!) and make-up isn’t desired in your routine, spending some time primping and preening, concentrating on getting those pores clean, moisturising your plump lips and plucking those pesky stray eyebrow hairs – it’s all a creative distraction.

That’s right, just like those painters and writers we mentioned earlier, your beauty regimen is a powerful distraction that IS 100% creative. Why? You’re CREATING a fresh / new / better / pimped-out / cleaner / more confident version of you. Even better, you’re spending your creative distration time on the most important asset in your arsenal – yourself. Nothing is worth more investment. Nothing.

What else can you depend on?

So put your best face forward, and spend plenty of time in the mirror looking at your freckles and finding ways to enhance them because they are bloody beautiful and you SHOULD feel confident.

Yes, hypocracy is abundant here, I am fully aware that on the odd days I do my make up, I apply more than RuPaul getting ready for a Drag Race finale. In fact, I probably wear more than all those queens put together. But I do so with pride and honesty. Why? Regardless of the heavy applicaton, blankets of powder, and wings that could comfortably glide a Boeing 747 to the hangar at Gatwick Terminal 2, when I wear my war paint it makes me feel better. I know people think I wear too much, I know there are many opinions about the amount of cosmetics we should each be using regularly, but I’m focussed on the way it makes you feel and honey, in the words of Sheryl Crow, if it makes you happy it can’t be that bad.

There is nothing more needed for mindfulness than headspace. Using only your breathing, position and comfort you can find some internal calm and leave the worries and stresses behind. Gently managing your mind, body and soul using cleansers and creams, spritzers and shadows, contours and colour correctors, waxes and wipes, all gives you room to find that same headspace.

As I’m always saying, Creative Coping Strategies come in all shapes and sizes, and everyone has the key to their creative treasure chest. You might just need help to find it.

For the record…

These are only temporary fixes. Creative Coping Strategies will help, possibly long-term one day, but I’m talking about quick fixes that get you away from triggering situations.

When you find a distraction that works it’s important to have it prepped and ready for when you need it. When stress and anxiety hits, you may not be able to get your shit together and work out a routine to get distracted by. That’s why it’s crucial to get your creative coping strategy fully prepped and ready to deploy when you have some down-time.

What I’m suggesting is that a distraction will give you some calm in a stressful moment (for as long as you need it to) but it needs to be ready to use the second you’re anxious. It needs to be as simple as possible to get stuck in to. And afterwards (to add to the gift of your newly found calm) when you return to the stress that’s waiting, you might be able to manage it in a more balanced, less fraught way.

The picture

I went a bit wild with this one, creating a chibi of myself with a dull representation on the left of my make-upless grossness, and the depiction on the right trying to make clear the way I feel for 4 hours before my freshly applied make-up droops and leaves me at home (not even somewhere fun!) looking like the long lost member of the rock band Kiss.

I am nothing, unpresentable, and lost, without my make-up and the weekly hour and a half I get to concentrate on applying it.

I’m just not so keen on the other 164 hours of the week.

Published by stephc2021

Hi! I'm Steph, an amateur writer and illustrator specialising in Mental Health and being a self-confessed Spoonie. My website is home to any successful fiction I create, with stories that have won so far covering difficult subjects such as baby loss and mental health in grief as well as some funny and heart-warming tales when I get the inspiration. Every drawing and picture on my website was created by me. I spend a lot of time coming up with illustrations to accompany all of my posts and pages. I try to create original content across all of my channels, whether I'm writing about my own fiction or just generally musing on mental health or my own issues. I want to be part of the change because I believe the understanding of MH in the UK is getting better, but has a very long way to go. By being honest about my own struggles and symptoms I think others will relate and hopefully it will encourage them to talk to someone and get the help and support they need. Long term my goal is to help children too, help them understand their own mental health and how to help with the mental health of those around them. I live in the UK with my partner, daughter and dog, I swear frequently and I adore a well made, traditional, gooey, chocolatey, delicious brownie.

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