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How Art Can Help You Cope With Stress

Apr. 26, 2017
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People will always have those days when their muscles are tense, their mind is in overdrive, and they’re unable to function normally because they’re too busy overthinking your relationship with your partner or a project you’re working on. We know, we’ve all been there. 

Stress is considered a cause to a number of health issues, including elevated blood pressure, headaches, acne , and even mental issues such as anxiety and depression. As a creative individual, I’ve come up with ways art can help you manage this distress. Of course, there are other ways to cope with stress such as eating healthily, exercising, or meditation, but since I often hear people say “art is pointless”, I decided I wanted to turn that myth around with this article. 

Before continuing, I just want to say I am in no way a professional in psychology, and most of the content I’ve written is from research and from my own experience!

A form of art that is very beneficial when it comes to dealing with stress is coloring. It is a great way to not only relax but to also exercise your mind. It is also considered a form of meditation. Concentrating on carefully filling in the spaces with color, your mind will clear out the distractions and will simply focus on that moment. This will help you stop overthinking and keep you mindful for a while, therefore reducing your stress levels. Coloring will also benefit artistic people, as I believe it gives you a plentiful dose of creativity, with the different colors and endless combinations.

To implement this, you can buy a coloring book - I would recommend The Mindfulness Colouring Book by Emma Farrarons or The Art Therapy Colouring Book by Richard Merritt. Otherwise, you can always create your own patterns and drawings, or find something with a space to color in. During the exam season, I often colored in the insides of the letters on the front page of the paper to help relieve the pressure!

Another way art can help you control your stress levels is through the traditional method in art - drawing. By drawing a pattern or an object you see, you’re creating rhythmic and repetitive motions, which synchronizes your hand to your eye and your body to your mind. This triggers your relaxation response: a physical state of deep rest that changes a person’s physical and emotional reaction to stress, as identified by cardiologist Herbert Benson. This will decrease your blood pressure and pulse rate as well as symptoms associated with hypertension, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. 

A key feature in creating art is expression. Perhaps one of the purposes of art is to communicate a message expressed by the artist. This message can be discerned explicitly or in a metaphorical sense; either way the artist is conveying themselves and showing the viewers their feelings. So expressing yourself through the means of art not only releases your emotions, but relieves the tension, as if weights are lifted off your shoulders - similar to how you would write a diary entry. Expression through art is also a great way to enrich your creativity and artistic skills, and it would, of course, create beautiful masterpieces! Additionally, it would also give you a better understanding of yourself since your masterpiece is a visual interpretation of what goes on in your mind.

I’ve put together a few ideas to express yourself and release your creative beast:

  • Draw patterns, whether they’re a repetitive or henna design
  • Draw objects around you
  • Paint portraits or picturesque landscapes
  • Take some photographs in and around your area of things that you love or find appealing
  • Dance is a form of art - it can relieve and exercise your muscles
  • Writing is also a form of art - convey your ideas or feelings through poems or stories.

If you’d like to find out more ways to creatively express yourself, you can read our other article, Ways To Express Your Creativity.

A further way to deal with stress through art is by appreciating its beauty. Being grateful and embracing the beauty to which you’re surrounded in - since pretty much anything with a purpose is art - will give you a better and more positive outlook on life. This sense of gratification is a feature in meditation and immersing yourself in this positivity will have an exceptional impact on your immune system, productivity, happiness, and quality of life. With this level of optimism, stress couldn’t even begin to drag your day down.

Images by Emma Kaufman