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Art as Self-Care

Updated: Mar 24, 2021

Some months ago, I was part of a dialogue where we discussed how Self-care as a word has become a trend. I personally say it is a welcome trend - especially in the Indian cultural context, where the general rule of thumb is that other’s needs (family, friends, partner or colleague) come before our own needs. If social media is now beginning to talk (or even yell) the concept of Self-care - then to that I say - it's about time!

Self-care looks different for all of us, curated by what we like or what brings us comfort. I personally have a gamut of things that fall into the category of self-care. Ranging from taking break days, to skin care, to eating right, to saying 'No'. However, this blog post is an ode to the arts and the support they have lent to me over the years. I have always had ‘the Arts’ in my life, first as a skill to hone and later, a practice to align, express, and share.

I believe it was somewhere around the age of 15 when I realised that dance for me is no longer restricted to just a hobby or a skill I possess. I discovered that I would find myself in Odissi class even when I would be unwell or in times I was feeling low. This was also when I had begun to surrender to the dance form - Odissi, after very many years of training. There were moments of divinity that I experienced while in class learning a new dance or while watching certain performances. It became a place of escape as well as a place of feeling grounded. Imagine zooming in when the subject is in focus and the background is blurred - that’s what I would feel oftentimes when I would find myself dancing Odissi. It was a space that levitated, and was rooted at the same time - I would be in a state of flow. Soon, I began noticing how I started surrendering to the characters played by Indian Classical dancers, somehow pouring my emotions into these characters and giving my emotions space to be and breathe. At that point in my life - I couldn’t articulate what Odissi meant to me - and to this day, I probably still can’t explain in entirety what that art form has lent to me. But I’d say this is when I started to, unknowingly, use my Art of Odissi as Self-Care.

Soon after I graduated, I started to explore the Contemporary style of movement, and there I learned the idea of improvising to music or impulses. A large contrast from Odissi, which was rather structured and full of rules - Contemporary opened me up to a whole new spectrum of movement. I find myself improvising when I need to connect with myself or process emotions that make me uncomfortable, such as in times of anger, irritation, or feeling overwhelmed. Somehow, my body just knows that I need to move - without any structure or restriction - listening to what my body needs. There have been moments when I have cried in the middle of an improvisation, leading to a much-needed release. There are moments when I have gone into an improvisation angry/frustrated, and come out smiling; feeling lighter.

When it comes to Visual Art, I used to draw and paint from a young age - but it was only when I went to a design college, that I really immersed myself in this form of Art. Some techniques that have proven to work wonders for me are using a lot of colour, feeling the textures with my hands, and throwing colour on a piece of paper. As I am writing this, I notice that yet again - I enjoy unstructured explorations.

On the other hand, when the lockdown began, there was a sudden and collective shift in momentum everywhere in the world, and in everyone’s being as well. It was during this time that I stumbled upon Islamic Geometric Art. I remember suddenly craving a geometric, symmetrical art form, which is exactly what I typed into Youtube - where I found myself lost in the world of Islamic Geometric Art and it's tutorials.

Somehow, my body and mind knew that I needed to exercise some control, as there seemed to be a lack of it in my external life. It was so chaotic, cloudy, and overwhelming - whereas this particular art form was regulated, methodological, and satisfying. It helped me focus on a single task for hours on end, which in the end made me feel very content and aligned.

Writing has been daunting, and I never really had the courage to dip my feet into this art form. I have always found it so commendable to see someone translate their thoughts into words, and for a moment, make the audience peep into their worldview. It was only when I was doing my Expressive Arts Certificate Course that I worked past my mental blocks and began to warm up to the idea of writing. The unravelling of my thoughts onto paper was so remarkable. To be able to make sense and consolidate everything I was feeling and thinking often left me in awe. Everything I needed to hear, came from within. I often find myself writing when I have experienced a situation, turbulent or otherwise, and it helps concretise all that has been brought to my awareness. Scribbling is another tool I use when I am particularly angry, irritated and in need of some venting.

I realise now that I need both when it comes to art practices - control and structure, as well as spread-out and unstructured. There isn’t a particular routine that I follow, but a lot of my self-care practices are guided by my intuition. I trust that my body and mind know what they need in a given moment of time. Every passing day, I am trying to attune to my body's needs. There have been many trials and errors. There were also moments when I thought that a certain art form would help, but it just didn’t feel right - that’s where the other self care practices came in - to not DO anything occasionally, and just spend time with the discomfort. I have had to continuously remind myself to be an active participant in caring for this vessel; caring for my mental and emotional well-being. I owe it to the Arts for always being available, and I also owe it to myself for having the courage to extend my hand and reach out to the Arts.

If you have any such experiences with the Arts and self-care and you are willing to share - I would be delighted to read how the arts have been present for you. Please feel free to write in the comments or email it to me at

Written by Charvi Budhdeo

Founder of The Movement Spectrum


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