Advice for the floundering first-year (5/3/19)

I talk a lot about stress and dealing with stress in this column. This is for a reason: stress is a pretty common feeling among college students, especially as we creep closer and closer to finals week. But one thing that really bothers me is that the ‘stress management’ tips students are often given (from many different sources) are all the same: do yoga, take a break, etc. It’s boring, and we’ve heard it all before. So this week I want to talk about a stress management technique that’s not commonly talked about, but is so easy to engage in: art therapy.

I’ve been doing extensive research in one of my psychology courses on how art affects mood, and much of the reading I’ve been doing has talked about how creating art positively impacts your mental health. The best part about this practice is that you don’t necessarily have to go to a certified therapist to experience the benefits: you simply have to get some art supplies, and be open to the process that art therapy takes you through.

Some simple methods you can try for stress reduction include: sketching, painting, making collages, sculpting, and even bullet journaling. It doesn’t matter which media you choose to engage in, you just have to enjoy the process. Just making something with your hands can reduce your stress immensely.

One important thing to note, though, is that art therapy can stir up some upsetting emotions. Studies have shown that it can be just as revealing and painful to create art as it is to talk about your emotions. Be aware of this and educate yourself about art therapy if you choose to engage in it more seriously. It has been shown that this field tremendously improves the lives of people struggling with addictions, depression, anxiety, grief, trauma, eating disorders, physical illness, PTSD, attention disorders, relationship problems, and more. I would advise you, though, to seek out a licensed art therapist if you are looking for benefits beyond stress relief.

Art therapy is an important field of work with so many benefits. As we approach finals season, I encourage you to find stress management techniques that work for you, and that might mean creating some art.

Best of luck with your classes,