RAF wife and business owner Grace Bull created the creative living website The Rainbow Tree after discovering that by combining creativity and mindfulness, she could help her four-year-old daughter manage anxiety, which was triggered by her husband’s deployments.
Realising this was a wonderful therapeutic tool, Grace started the website to help other young families use creative mindfulness techniques.
Recently, she has also launched a colourful pack of mindfulness cards for children.
Watching Her Daughter ‘Crumble’
Two years ago, Grace noticed her young daughter’s anxiety soar when her husband was deployed.
While he was away she became increasingly stressed - crying throughout the day. She was unable to be alone in a room, and nightmares kept her awake at night.
To try to calm the anxiety, Grace encouraged her daughter to focus on creative activities.
She said: “I also had a baby at the time, and doing creative tasks was a way of managing my eldest’s anxiety. We were a creative family anyway, so it was already part of our life.
"But it was the first time that I had realised how much of a difference it could make when using it as a tool of relief.”
Grace remembers it as an “incredibly difficult” time, as she watched her daughter “crumbling” under the weight of anxiety.
But during this distressing period, Grace began to recognise some of the behaviour – she slowly realised that she had been suffering with anxiety all of her life, but had never made the connection.
Not only that, but Grace had long been using creativity to help manage stress.
Previously, Grace had posted various creative projects on Facebook, attracting interest from other military mums and friends.
When she realised her creative mindfulness tasks worked wonders for her daughter, she decided to turn her skills into a business.
Creative Mindfulness For Anxiety
The Rainbow Tree is a website offering creative mindfulness ideas to other young families – both in and outside of the military.
Grace purposefully keeps activities cheap and easy for parents to do with their children, and each task includes a list of materials, and where to buy them if families do not already have them at home.
Grace said: “It’s really just the process that is allowing your child to take brain breaks.
"Just allowing them to have that cathartic time to switch off and be present, which is another thing when your child is so anxious and worried, they're constantly in their head.
"So, this is a time for them to be really engaged in what's happening right now.”
Recently, she launched her first product: a creative mindful deck of cards for children between five and 11 to help them manage stress and express themselves.
Grace said: “The cards that I designed were specifically because I saw such positive effects in using creativity as a tool to lower my daughter’s stress and anxiety, and being able to talk to her about how she was feeling when she was so calm and in the zone of using her hands creatively.”
With the lockdown imposed after the COVID-19 pandemic and homeschooling creating additional stress for children and parents, Grace’s techniques and cards are helping families all over the country.
In fact, Grace and both her daughters have been using them throughout lockdown, to everyone’s benefit.
Grace also credits her daughter’s school for helping her to manage anxiety, as they have the resources to support military children with deployed parents.
A Much Happier Daughter
During the last deployment, Grace’s daughter would colour quietly by herself in the mornings, and when Grace noticed her stress levels rising, she would encourage her to do more creative tasks so she’d settle down.
As time goes by, and her daughter grow older, Grace expects the anxiety to be less of an issue during future deployments.
This article features as part of Mind Kind - a week-long series of interviews, videos, case studies, and practical tips and information on mental health and forces families, across BFBS platforms.
The week will culminate in an interactive panel session on BFBS Radio Facebook on Friday, July 3 at 1pm (UK time) to bring together families, mental health experts and welfare champions to help support forces families with the mental health challenges they face.
If you have a question you would like our panel to discuss on July 3, please email [email protected]