Anxiety, my “Covachita”, well-being for everybody
Anxiety, my “Covachita”, well-being for everybody
MCH. Mariana B. Alvarado, Associate Professor of Industrial Design at the University of Monterrey (UDEM) is sharing the current state of her study on how designing new products and services can help people living with metal diseases.
This project started from a personal motivation: I am an Industrial Design professor diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Panic Disorder thirteen years ago. Over the past two years, I have started thinking of environmental and human ways to bring a positive change to people living with mental diseases through design.
I used my personal experience as a case study in order to find insights and develop design concepts which could help people suffering from GAD to get responses from a person who knows what mental illness segregation is. I collected feedback from a small group of people with anxiety and we are still working on validating concepts. I want to generate new parameters to respond to the effect of mental health problems in our society. Eventually, the goal is to support new generations living with mental diseases by designing products and services that integrate mental diseases in society and in our cities.
The name of the study – “Covachita”? – comes from the Spanish word Covacha which means “small cave” or “housing or poor, uncomfortable, dark, small room”. It refers to the particular gesture in which we tend to do “Covachita” or “protect ourselves” with our hands. It is because we need to feel safe. Anxiety Disorder tends to have various symptoms, one of them is to feel exposed; that’s why the project tried to simulate the sensation of being safe and protected regardless if you are at home, outside the home, or in a large city.
“Covachita” a gesture to protect something
Today, anxiety is a normal part of our lives; everybody has experimented this sensation in their lives, when someone is too stressed at work, at school, in the traffic, with personal or professional problems among others. Anxiety is along with depression one of the mental disorders that afflicts more people in the world.
Technology plays an important part in generating anxiety. Technology breakthroughs throw us into confusion when trying to define what well-being really is. Products are designed to “facilitate” people’s daily lives through the elimination of activities, rather than products designed for helping keep our mental health.
México is a country that has the fourth most populous city in the world. Living in highly populated cities means more traffic, a poor diet, longer work journeys to be within the competitiveness and hence implied the appearance of more physical and mental disorders. One in four people in Mexico has had at least one mental disorder and one in three people have had a mental disease at age 65, according to the study Psychiatric Disorders in Mexico. Today it is imperative to pay attention to our lifestyle and find alternatives to this fast-paced world.
Common crowdy day at México City on Madero Street
Nowadays most of these disorders are treated with therapy and pharmacological treatment but there are many alternative therapies that offer help to calm the mind and help society to live a peaceful life.
My Covachita: The well-being at home
It is a cabinet that reflects harmony, lightness, simplicity and balance. These values are inspired by the simple lifestyle that exists in many communities and villages around Mexico and the world. It suggests to build furniture that has significance within the home and that denotes its impact on the physical and mental wellbeing through shapes and materials such as wood, textiles and mud.
The overall structure is made from pinewood, surrounded by four shades that give privacy; the space to rest is made from traditional textiles, and a large ceramic pot to contain aromatic flowers.
The simplicity of the furniture is the best feature because it avoids being a protagonist, and becomes a symbol promoting the simplification of the daily life of the person. It attempts to strengthen a person’s body, mind and spirit while in their home.
My Covachita: The well-being outside the home
Objects have always had a symbolic value as result of the experiences that people have of them. They are filled with memories and are able to function as a time machine that contains scents or sounds that activate the senses positively or negatively. Design, in general, is able to change the lifestyle of people, not to mention the change technological communication devices could produce; there are products such as the watch, which has led men to live always with an eye on the future, a time where anxiety is always present.
Jewelry as an area of intervention is a logical approach in this project thanks to its natural ability to be carried by men thus having direct and constant contact with their bodies and sensory attention. The second approach involved in this project is made by two pieces of jewelry, a ring and a necklace. This family of objects will be able to accompany the person in their transits through the city.
Both ring and necklace have storage space. The ring box can carry an emergency pill. Sometimes, like psychoanalysts have stated, carrying a pill works like an “amulet”; you usually won’t even need it, but just to know that it is there helps a lot. Necklaces will help with a natural way of relaxing which is the aromatherapy. It works by pressing it with your fingertips making a small capsule to be broken inside releasing odors that you know will calm you. The necklace will be the first help in a case of panic attack; and if the attack cannot be controlled by the natural therapy, the person will be able to take a medical preparation, in this case, the pill.
My Covachita: The well-being at the cities
Street furniture is designed to be part of large cities in México such as México City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey among others, and to be present when a person needs a break. Today it becomes imperative to look for new ways to develop our society. This Covachita seeks to be a “home” for people who suffer from an anxiety disorder at some point and panic disorder so they can be “isolated” temporally of visual noise. For example, you can almost lay or sit in a wide and comfortable structure that gives you a sensation of being resting, almost reclining; and then you can climb the stairs and lay down completely. These opportunities help people to be isolated and get some privacy before or after having a panic attack or a crisis in the public spaces of the city.
Today the future seems really scary to the people who suffer from these disorders so we must use design not only as a trigger of economic and environmental changes but as a new research element in the field of mental health and well-being.