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Expressing your stress

7 ways to relieve stress (creatively)

Stress is an emotion we all experience when we feel something has become too much for us. It is a mental message from our body telling us that it is time to take a chill pill!  Every so often stress can be detrimental to our health and often causes physical and psychological illnesses, which becomes even more stressful since we are unable to perform. Discovering ways to manage stress can actually just supplement the stress and become equally time consuming.

With 2016 coming to an end, students are dealing with final exam stress and the working class is dealing with deadlines and a heavy workload before getting your boss to sign off the request for Christmas vacation! Doing two things at once might just help you cross a few extra things off your to-do list, so I have attentively gathered a list of seven ways you can relieve stress (without a stress ball) and express your creative side at the same time.

  • Invest in a mini Zen-Garden

As a child, I would watch my sister use her little Zen garden after school and I was quite amused by the fact that someone would actually gift her something that I considered a very peculiar item. So I decided to do some research around this.

The ‘Zen’ tradition is commonly known for expressing mindfulness, peace of mind and letting go of the negatives that surround you. Creating your own mini Zen garden is a useful way to bring about some of these qualities in your life. The expressive part is that you can design the mini garden in your own personal way and add a touch of what you are feeling through the design of your garden. A mini Zen garden generally comes with stone, sand, gravel and a mini rake. Some also come with miniature plants or a miniature Buddha. The size varies but they are never bigger than an A4 page, which makes it easy to keep on your desk or bedside table.  You can purchase one of these for about R130 at bookstores, home stores or online! Ps; if you don’t want to spend any money, you can find a free desktop zen garden or an app for iOS and Android.

Alternatively, you can learn to make your own by watching this video.

  • Writing in a journal

 As children, many of us had diaries in which we would write a few daily rants about the girl who was nasty to us at school or our secret crush. This was because writing is an outlet that anyone can use. It is simple and accessible. Journal writing has been used as a form of therapy prescribed by psychologist to those experiencing mental distress, so why not pick up a pen and jot down some feelings? By making yourself aware of what happened in your day or by writing down a few thoughts, you will find that this makes tackling the next day easier. Especially if you aren’t one to share your work stress with a loved one, a journal will be you best friend and you might even get to know yourself a little better.  Admittedly, I find it hard to write down what I feel, because once you put pen to paper, seeing the words on a page make it real. It puts your emotions or distress in the real world, and sometimes this is difficult to deal with. But on the other hand, this is also a better reason to do it because you can then deal with the issue instead of blocking it out.

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  • Dancing

This one might seem a bit weird and maybe even seem daunting. But I don’t mean join a class and become a professional dancer. I simply mean just put some music on after your long day, lock your room door and shake off the stress! Dancing has been known to have the power to take your mind of the ‘now’ and help you enter a new world. Taylor Swift explains how to shake if off pretty well, so if you are stuck for some music options then this might be a great start.

  • Colouring In

At least one person we all know of is a colourer, this has to be a good sign, right? One of The Expresso’s first series were about the benefits of adult colouring. Adult colouring is a new craze and it doesn’t go unsupported. Plenty of research and experience has encouraged adults to partake in this activity. Adult colouring creates a peaceful and serene environment and the colourer feels at ease with themselves. It is ideal for stress relief and you can personalise it to suit your mood. Take a look at our series for more scientific facts and testimonials from passionate adult colourers. Colouring books are easy to carry around with you so they’re perfect to take to work and they are well priced. You can pay between R30-R100 for a colouring book from any bookstore.

  • Marbling

Marbling is a simple yet beautiful form of art. It is not the most popular art form but it provides the similar comfort and peace of mind as colouring in does. But if you find colour pencils or crayons a bit too juvenile, this is definitely for you. Marbling is similar to tie-dye, it is the art of printing multi-coloured swirl-like patterns on any piece of material using little tubes filled with paint and inserting tiny droplets of the paint onto an oil or water like base.

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You can either place a paper on top of this liquid (which now has your pattern) or any form of material. The stress relief comes from the creation of a unique pattern, some find it relaxing to mix and create colours. The best part is that you could print coasters or plates and keep them around the house. They can even be used as gifts, how nifty! When I was in high-school, my mother would watch DIY shows on TV and she used to help my sisters and I make the things she learnt about. One of which was marbling items.  The only downfall is that you have to be at home to do this and it gets a bit addictive. Marbling sets sell for about R125 at any art or stationary store.

  • Yoga

Yoga is one of the most common forms of stress-relief for the working class women. Some take a class at the gym or they try it at home. It is also very useful for men but a but mostly favoured by women. Yoga helps one find inner peace and assists you in separating yourself from reality. It is also beneficial for physical health and even weight loss. If you don’t have a gym subscription, you can use your smartphone to download a free app which will guide you through a step by step yoga session. You can practice this in your office (with the door closed) or in your bedroom, it might even be a good idea to try your garden or balcony. If you do not have a smartphone, you can google a workout session step by step diagram and stick it up onto your wall.

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  • Gardening

Gardening is a hobby and a pastime that creates mindfulness. It helps you become aware of your surroundings and the combination of fresh air and sunlight releases toxins in your brain that assist with relaxation. The mental focus one invests when taking care of a few plants is enough to set the cause of your stress aside for a few minutes. Gardening doesn’t have to be growing tomatoes or pumpkins! It can simply be having a few small plants in your garden or balcony and taking care of them. You could also invest in a bonsai or an orchid and dedicate some of your time to growing it beautifully. One of our Expressos is a passionate gardener, take a look at one of her pieces to learn more.

 

Written by Khinali Bagwandeen

 

 

 

 

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Shedding light during darkness through the power of performance

There is no single way for one to put into words the fountain of emotion felt by the University Currently Known as Rhodes during the #RUReferenceList protests against rape and sexual violence. However, the Rhodes Chamber Choir managed to encapsulate this through song and poetry.

I went to their first performance, titled ‘Light from Darkness’, and absolutely bawled my eyes out when they performed their adaptation of the struggle song ‘Senzenina’. The room was stunned into silence. This was conductor AJ Bethke’s aim – creating a space where these very specific feelings could be felt and expressed however people were comfortable with. A safe space was created, even if it were only for a single evening.

With purple bands wrapped around each performer’s arm in solidarity with survivors, the chamber choir conveyed the hurt and sorrow felt and experienced by the community with a multitude of carefully-selected songs. The evening was made more diverse with performances by various poets, their words echoing the common emotions associated with the theme of the night.IMG_4377

We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to see the choir and poets perform a second time with ‘Light from Darkness V.2.0’, and my time to share this experience arrived.

“We felt that to ignore these important issues when they were very much part of our community here would be a mistake. So we needed to create a space here in the university that was more of a healing space than a confrontational space, and music offers that,” conductor AJ Bethke explained when asked about his motive to put on a performance such as this. The audience and choir members alike were afforded a space “where feelings could be felt, acknowledged, and just allowed to be”.

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Whilst the people who chose to attend the performance were able to confront their thoughts and feelings about this issue through musical means, choir members were also able to embark on a journey of healing alongside each other. This performance and process towards it enabled members “to let out the feelings and the angst that was there, but also lift people up afterwards and not leave them withering in the darkness”, AJ said.

As well as contributing to a process of healing, the choir’s performance was aimed at raising awareness constructively. AJ explained that “I think any confrontational violence in any way is not going to help. I prefer to see something constructive through poetry, through music, through dance, through listening as a process of non-violent reaction.”

Megan van der Nest, also a member of the choir, worked alongside AJ in constructing the evening and the pieces that were performed to reflect accurately the choir’s stance by selecting lyrics and pieces of poetry to contribute to this narrative:

There was a suggestion by a member of the choir to have the struggle piece ‘Senzenina’ alongside ‘Ukuthula’, which means ‘peace’, because a few members of the choir are actually survivors of sexual violence, and some of the pieces came from their experiences, some of them were suggested by members of the choir, so it wasn’t only survivors speaking but there were survivors in the group. So we were trying to create a space where they could feel safe as well.

On the night where the protests at Rhodes reached their peak, Megan explained that she was a part of a choir that was “on the verge of falling apart”. With so many conflicting opinions about the role of the choir and how visible it should be during such a tumultuous time, they decided to take action. This led to the creation of a workshop that was geared towards the final product of their ‘Light from Darkness’ performances. Megan said that:

There were a lot of dissenting opinions, people who felt that the choir should have been more visible in the protests themselves, and they personally couldn’t do that for their own reasons, that being in the protests would have been too upsetting for them, and others that felt that violence and intimidation wasn’t the way to go. So there was a lot of tension. And I give AJ full credit for diffusing that tension. We managed to create a safe space where we could all be heard instead of tearing each other down.

Not only did the chamber choir achieve full awareness of what music can do when integrated with these protests, they managed to create a sense of strength amongst one another as they grew through this process. Megan explained that “Going to the protests with people screaming and shouting can be traumatic in and of itself. But being in a very healing space, having a discussion with AJ leading us, we were feeling much closer to one another … There was so much hurt and anger and we managed to come through that much stronger as a result. The value of that cannot be underestimated.”

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Words of poetry in ‘Senzenina/Ukuthula’

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To view their performance of their adaptation of ‘Senzenina/Ukuthula’, click on the YouTube link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6IPKhsk8fo (please note that I did not have a tripod so my recording is not as good as it should be, but I hope it still does the performance justice and moves you as much as it moved me.)

 

Photos and words by Gabi Bellairs-Lombard 

Rhyming and reasoning with Shakespeare

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Learners and Rhodes Students collaborate to recite lines from Shakespeare’s plays as part of an exercise. Photo: Nereesha Patel

William Shakespeare is not everybody’s cup of tea. Most of us have had to study one or two of the bard’s works in high school, learning – or at least trying to learn – the intricacies of the Middle English language that he used to put his plays and sonnets together.

With five schools in Grahamstown already participating in workshops as part of the second annual Shakespeare Schools Festival, Tumi Motsisi, a Drama student at Rhodes University and the co-ordinator for the festival, put together an extra workshop featuring Shakespeare’s plays as part of Trading Live for Mandela Day. 13 Grade 11 learners from Nathaniel Nyaluza Secondary Senior School, which was not part of the festival, attended this event at the Oppidan Reading Room. 

With fellow festival performers also volunteering in running the workshop, Motsisi’s main goal was to help make Shakespeare more accessible and easier to understand. 

“As soon as a child realises that they can speak the Shakespearean language, almost every other performance endeavour is a little bit easier,” she said. 

Motsisi also aimed to help these learners, whose school curriculum does not cover Shakespeare, gain confidence in themselves as performers, as well as students of the English language. 

“A lot of the time, you’re told that you can’t do Shakespeare because English isn’t your first language, but as soon as they understand what’s being said, it’s a really magical thing. As soon as it happens, it’s like, ‘I can do anything’.”

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Shakespeare drama workshop co-ordinator, Tumi Motsisi (right), talks to the students during an exercise. Photo: Nereesha Patel

The learners went through a series of warm-up exercises that concentrated on spontaneity, improvisation skills, trust-building and teamwork before getting into the Shakespearean section of the workshop. One such exercise saw the learners pairing up and “sculpting” each other into their own unique interpretations of Lady Macbeth and the mischievous Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Through this exercise, Motsisi emphasised that the character archetypes, the plots and the themes seen within Shakespeare’s plays can be relatable.

The last exercise had the learners reciting lines from Twelfth Night and Much Ado About Nothing. When they were gathered together, each learner was able to speak their lines with conviction and enthusiasm.

It is hoped that the school will officially become part of the Shakespeare Schools Festival next year. With the students having enjoyed the workshop and engaged with the material, this seems like a strong possibility. All the world’s a stage, and there’s always room for more performers.

 

The many faces of childhood

With a painted face, a child has the confidence to take on their own little world and adopt an entirely new persona. This often embodies the bravery of their favourite superhero, the fierceness of their most feared animal or the beauty of the princess they dream of becoming. As we grow older, we expose ourselves to the harsh realities of the world and often forget how a simple layer of paint over our faces could change our outlook. On Tuesday 26 July, student volunteers from Rhodes University used their weekly slot devoted to St Mary’s Development and Care Centre (DCC) to add to the children’s daily routine and include more excitement to their week by organising a session of face painting.  The children beamed with exhilaration as they transformed into their favourite characters and animals.

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After school the children play in the backyard, awaiting lunch time.
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Lunch time has ended and the children are ready to make their way upstairs to get their faces painted.
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A volunteer begins the face painting as the other children patiently await their turn.
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Faces painted and ready to conquer, the girls flip through a book featuring their favourite Barbies.
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“Ready to fight Superman”, he says.
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With the sweetest smile and her face adorned in flowers.

 

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“How can you be scared of tigers if they are so pretty?
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The Queen of Hearts sits as still as a statue, trying to restrict herself from giggling.

Words and photos by Khinali Bagwandeen

The summit of serenity

In the Amatola district, a wise old mountain thrusts its beauteous self out of the Earth and gazes into the vastness of its surroundings. Dense, green jungle encircles and embosoms this entire colossal mountain, like a mother embraces her child with her whole body weight and soul. Standing at the foot of the mountain, this blanket of forestry allows you the pleasurable honor of sighting a few waterfalls peering out and their nourishment flowing through the vegetation.The three hogs Continue reading “The summit of serenity”

All that jazz, and more

It is an open space where the soul is crawling with specks of luminosity and the eyes burst like a mirage between the setting sun and serene sea.  The wooden floor trembles with the rhythm from the dancer’s feet, following their instructor, step by step, hand in hand. Their heartbeats drumming within their ears as each stentorian moment passes. Droplets of sweat heavily invading their unsullied eyes are a welcomed addition to the fusion of emotions.
Their faces light up with exhilaration as they are praised for their hard work.  After hours of taking in what felt like music transformed into fluid adrenaline, a class full of teenagers runs towards their water bottles in an attempt to revitalize, and the room fills with invigorated voices. The dance instructor sits at the edge of the stage as he gapes at his masterpiece come together; no, this is not the success of the elegantly choreographed movements. This masterpiece is the rhapsodies of delight that the dance brings to his students; the untainted enthusiasm in their faces together with bonds created through the inception of what might become a lifelong passion. This is the masterpiece delicately forged by Iqraam Rahim.

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Iqraam Rahim having an expressive moment with his dance class. Photo sourced from: Joe Khan

Self-expression can manifest through many channels, but one that many are accustomed to is dance.  Dance has played a culminating role in the moulding of human beings over the years, be it professional, recreational or even religious; it is an eminent and favored avenue for self-expression.  Iqraam Rahim, a master of movement, has been submerged in the art of dance for 22 years.  A familiar face to the city of Durban, Rahim began reinforcing his passion for the rhythm of movement based on his natural impulsion to music but, as he grew older, this passion emerged as a positive reinforcement in his life.

Dance radiates passion and passion is food for the soul. We flourish through our passion, so how serendipitous is it to live in a world where our passion can merge into our occupation and better yet, our expression?

“Self expression is the ability to be true to one’s unique self”, explains Rahim. To him, dance as his personal expression, is an unconscious materialisation of euphoria that is grounded on a state of comfort and familiarity.

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Rahim with a fellow dancer in what he considers his happy place. Photo sourced from: Facebook

Anyone can learn the  art of dance, but there are only a few who can devote their heart to the steps they take.  It is this that we call giving voice to what we know. Expression can be unintentional; there are ventures that we devote ourselves to which could have no ardent meaning until we give it a voice, a piece of our soul.

Rahim is the sole owner of Rampage, a company and school that has flourished through his adoration for dance. It aims to empower those with a regard for dance and opens its doors for those old and young, in search of a swing in their step.  “Being a teacher of dance also falls within the way I choose to express myself because I feel an instant compulsion to encourage the individual growth of my students”, says Rahim.  Sharing knowledge with another person is a sacred relationship. He continued to explain that when his students have reached their rightful state of growth, the pride he feels is much like the gratification a father feels towards his child.

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Rahim sharing the stage with his students.  Photo sourced from: Joe Khan

Expression in dance is intertwined in our lives even in light hearted ways. Have you ever heard someone say “There’s no need to make a song and dance about it”? This is an informal phrase that reflects the expression one stimulates through dance. It might not be literal dance it is used to articulate a meaning of expression through a witty metaphor.

Rahim agrees that dance is central to the way numerous individual choose to express themselves, whether it is at a club on a Saturday night or your version of a 9-5 occupation; dance is movement with meaning.

Written by: Khinali Bagwandeen

 

Nereesha – Roses are red, but so are violets

Patel.

It’s a surname that denotes many things. It means “headman” or “village chief”, describing a caste of village leaders. It commonly originates from Gujarati, or Indian, meaning that whoever happens to have Patel as a surname must definitely be Indian, no questions asked. It’s a popular surname that’s synonymous with goodness knows how many doctors, shop-keepers and wealthy hotel-owners that live in this world – probably more than the population of South Africa, I’d bet. Continue reading “Nereesha – Roses are red, but so are violets”

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