Stress can be defined as “a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, school, relationships, etc.” When we experience anxious thoughts, our bodies respond by emitting stress hormones. A little stress is normal, however, when too much stress builds up in the body, this can lead to emotional and psychical problems. To stay healthy, we must learn to find ways to release the buildup of stress hormones. One way to experience an emotional release is through the creative process of art. Art provides a way to gain power and develop a sense of mastery over stressful situations and anxious thoughts that may feel overwhelming. Simply drawing, painting, collaging, sculpting, etc. can provide almost immediate relief from stress.
The following is a specific art activity to help with releasing and relieving stress, as well as becoming more aware of your anxiety triggers. (developed from 250 Brief, Creative, and Practical Art Therapy Techniques by Susan I. Buchalter.)
Think about this quote for a moment- “I will not allow myself to get tangled up in my thoughts.”
Since stress hormones are a result of anxious thoughts, it is important to gain awareness regarding anxious thoughts and triggers.
Create an image or design to represent your thoughts when they begin to spiral. You can represent this however you wish and use any materials you have available.
After completion, give your artwork a title and then spend some time processing and answering the following questions. You may choose to even journal your responses.
What anxious thoughts did you represent?
What colors and shapes did you utilize in your artwork?
Is there one main image everything seems to revolve around? This could represent a main anxious thought you experience. Are there images closer to the edges of your paper? These could represent thoughts you want to avoid or ignore.
What are your anxious triggers? What events, situations, people, things, etc. seem to trigger anxiety and stress for you?
What does it feel like when you become tangled in your thoughts?
What types of thoughts tend to dominate?
How do you detangle yourself?
Next, create a relaxation jar to keep ideas for how to detangle yourself and relieve stress in your life.
small pieces of paper and pen/pencil
a large empty jar with a lid
sheets of colored tissue paper or magazine pages
acrylic paint if you choose to paint the lid
Prepare your magazine pages or tissue paper by tearing or cutting into large and small strips and into rectangles and other shapes of various sizes. Starting at the top, use your paintbrush to spread glue on a small section of the jar. Place your magazine pages/tissue paper on the jar, one at a time. It is ok if they overlap and make sure and cover every bit of glass. Let it dry completely and you can also paint the lid if you choose. Use the small pieces of paper to write your ideas for detangling yourself and relieving stress. Fill up the jar with your ideas and keep it in a convenient place for you to utilize when needed.