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Creative Connection provides a unique way of handling stress in the work environment

At an office job, the day creeps along. You look at the clock thinking you’ve been there for three hours, only to discover that it’s only been 30 minutes. Trips to the water cooler are suddenly a necessary form of entertainment and you stare at a screen for so long that you’re practically typing emails in your sleep. Geva Salerno and Mary Ellen Saba are working to combat this typical work environment that is not only monotonous, but dangerous for your physical and mental health.

Creative Connection
Photo courtesy of Creative Connection

Creative Connection, the brainchild of Salerno and Saba, is a program that implements Creative Arts Therapy into the workplace – a tactic that incorporates creative activities such as music, yoga, painting and dance in order to relieve the stress of a day-to-day work environment.
They also put on creative arts events in the area that they invite the general public to in order to help build an enriching community.
The two main goals of Creative Connection are to help people cut down on toxic stress, and to encourage the reveal of one’s true self in order for them to build more authentic connections with one another.
The advantage isn’t only to have workers in better health and spirits, but to improve productivity and profitability in the work place, a pitch Creative Connection makes to the employers of these offices and to those people who are craving connections to themselves and the community.
Saba and Salerno are a powerhouse team of business women turned best friends. They’ve collaborated on a variety of projects over the last few years like workshops, retreats and seminars, all promoting overall wellness and a connected and creative community. Building their dream company didn’t happen overnight; it’s a vision that’s been years in the making.
“Mary Ellen is a mental health worker, I have an arts background and we both have non-profit management experience,” said Salerno. “All of that combined to inspire us to start. We were both looking for a way to enjoy our time and help other people enjoy the time in their lives. We decided to create a platform for that in society.”
But how do you pitch a program of relaxation when many working individuals run on an “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” mentality?
“We live in a world where people are committed to work 24/7,” said Saba. “Because we have a cellphone we’re expected to always answer it. It’s a whole different world with technology, where projects are often due at midnight.”
As modern business women, they’re no strangers to the “five-year plan.”
“The first step of the plan is to provide these programs in communities and for companies and private businesses,” Salerno said. “We want to build a Creative Arts Wellness Center to do retreats for people where they come and stay and get in touch with themselves for a week at a time.”
During these retreats they’ll focus on their same creative practices, but in a long-term sense.
“We’re developing programs to help people unplug and connect,” Saba said. “It’s important for people to do that for at least a week out of the year, it has huge benefits to creativity and productivity. It’s different than a vacation, it’s a time to just quiet themselves.”
With offers and requests coming in at a dizzying pace, Creative Connection doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon. Senior centers, nursing homes and assisted living facilities have all expressed interest as well as local businesses and organizations.
Recently they’ve made an agreement with the Multiple Sclerosis Center of southwest Florida to provide them with a memoir-writing workshop.
“Their clients have so many challenges, they really need to be able to tell their story,” Salerno said. “There’s a therapeutic value to that, and they also get to leave this legacy for their families in the future.”
They also plan on expanding their horizons to help cut back stress at Florida Gulf Coast University. A project that would be especially meaningful as Saba is an FGCU alumnus, from the first graduating class of students in 1999. Salerno has an FGCU background as well, as she taught Introduction to International Studies in 2004.
“The beauty is that we’re still evolving and developing new programs,” said Saba. “We can tailor the programs to the specific community to fit their needs. We both are open to change.”
The types of events are a wide variety too, all incorporating interactive, creative and relaxing methods.
One event is the Music Jam, Saba’s personal favorite.
Creative Connection
Photo courtesy of Creative Connection

“Through the Music Jam, I really see the value of music,” Saba said. “Music connects to memory, that’s why when you’re driving in your car and a song comes on and makes you feel an emotion, sometimes you don’t realize why but it’s connected to a memory. People express themselves through music and tell powerful stories.”
Douglas O’Connor, long-time drummer and member the Creative Connection team helps put on the Music Jam by instructing a drum circle, but personally favors the “Live Art Game,” an event Creative Connection puts on that collaborates artistic ventures.
“It’s a great game,” said O’Connor. “We all work on one piece of art together, and it’s a fun, social event. You watch how the painting changes by the end.”
With all the creativity going on, the day-to-day work environment is a bit different than your average business.
“That’s the fabulous part about it,” said Salerno. “We get to experience these things with people and it’s totally enriched our lives. I love being able to do yoga with people every week and yesterday I was teaching someone how to paint. Every single day is different.”
Salerno and Saba are living their impact. The connections they help build benefit both their lives and others.
“I really value the people I’ve met,” said Saba. “It is the kind of thing where you get to make new friends. The people we make connections with come back, and so it’s ongoing. You get used to seeing the same group and have that ongoing connection every day.”

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