Channel Your Stress into Art with These Creative Therapy Activities

Work and family, social obligations and health problems all take their toll. You’re busy. We get it! It can be hard to start a new hobby or carve out some me time in your hectic schedule.

Personal growth and achievement are necessary, though, and nurturing your creativity can reduce the stress in your life.

Using art as personal therapy is an excellent outlet that has been practiced as a recognized therapeutic discipline for over 50 years. However, only recently has it emerged as a popular and well-known social option for stress relief.

Why Art?

Hospitals around the country now recognize the soothing benefits of art therapy. It has many proven effects on stress, anxiety and depression such as:

  • Deep satisfaction through completing a project
  • Joy from self-expression
  • Socialization when performed in a group setting
  • Peace and introspection when performed alone

Using the brain creatively releases endorphins, relaxes the body and calms the mind. Focusing on a creative project allows the mind, body and spirit to unwind as you become fully immersed in the activity, leaving you much less stressed when you are done.

You don’t have to be artistically talented to benefit from the soothing effects of art. Research shows that anyone can benefit, and studies show engaging in art lowers the stress hormone cortisol.

While art is an expression of life, it can also provide a pleasurable and healing haven from life’s challenges.

Creative Therapy Ideas

Painting, Sketching and Drawing

Adult coloring books have become a modern phenomenon — and for good reason. Coloring can invoke the happier times of childhood when we had fewer responsibilities, and it can be very cathartic. Coloring also enhances focus and concentration, so you are fully engaged in the activity.   

Paint parties in a group setting have become increasingly common. These take place in restaurants, studios and even home settings, and they’re a great opportunity for socialization and creative release. Painting is a source of relaxation and self-expression that provides a break from the daily grind.

Keep a diary sketchbook or an art journal. Whether you prefer doodling or drawing, a sketchbook diary offers a wonderful way to de-stress and sort through your complicated emotions by putting your thoughts on paper.    

Music, Dance and Drama

Expressive art of this type is a well-known therapeutic technique. Playing musical instruments, singing, dancing and acting are all creative outlets that release endorphins and reduce stress.

If you aren’t already skilled in one of these areas, you can find classes at your local community theater group, a local music store or consider online instruction for a private lesson.  

Music therapy is used widely in hospitals to complement the healing process. Physical activity such as dancing can diminish stress and depression.

Drama provides a theatrical platform to express your feelings and solve problems through role-playing, storytelling, puppetry and more. If acting isn’t your thing, you can help decorate stage sets, sew costumes or design programs as an outlet for your creativity and an avenue for involvement in this special community.    

Writing and Reading

Writing forces you to unplug and recharge. Organizing your thoughts helps to facilitate problem-solving and reduces stress — but most of all it is empowering. Writing about your daily life in a journal or a poem can help you gain perspective on your experiences.    

Studying the various poetry forms can be a great start to this creative outlet but remember that poetry doesn’t have to rhyme. Haiku and free verse are both non-rhyming types of poetry that allow you to express yourself easily.

If you aren’t quite ready to cut your teeth in writing, consider the art of reading. The traditional pleasures of reading involve solitude and contemplation but joining a book club can make it a social event. Barnes and Noble’s national book club can help get your creative juices flowing while you make some great new friends.  

Textiles

Knitting, cross stitch, sewing and other forms of needlework are popular art forms. These techniques have been used for centuries, both out of necessity and as expressions of art.

Pillows, clothing, blankets and accessories such as scarves or hats are fun, useful items to produce. Guidebooks, materials and instructional videos are all available online, and fabric stores offer classes throughout the year for all skill levels.

Another favorite type of textile art is pottery and the clay arts. Working with clay, mud and earthenware can be a messy and fun way to relieve stress. Like painting parties, pottery classes are a social way to engage with others, and your creations will make fabulous gifts!

Bead Work and Jewelry Making

Creating new things and watching beauty emerge from your efforts are fulfilling results you can achieve when working with beads. Jewelry making is one of the most popular stress-relieving art forms available. Projects can be small or large, simple or elaborate.

You can buy beads online or in stores. Many forms of beads are available, which means there’s something for every taste. Gemstone beads, precious metals, large, small or eccentric — beads can be fashioned into creative and artistic pieces that express who you are and how you’re feeling.

Thorough and creative tutorials can be found online for both those who are just getting started as well as seasoned pros who are looking for new ideas.

Photography

Photography as art is a way to focus on the beauty in every situation — and don’t forget that everyone defines beauty differently.

Landscapes, animals, water and sunsets are all popular photography forms. However, photographing whatever is beautiful to you is an excellent way to express yourself and release your creativity.

Gothic photography is growing in popularity, as is photographing people in real, everyday situations, no matter how heart-wrenching.

You don’t need an expensive camera to fulfill your photography urge. However, a few lessons on lighting, exposure and shutter speed can be found easily online and will help you improve your craft.

Final Thoughts

Channeling your stress into a creative outlet is a proven method of managing your anxiety and bringing balance into your life.

There’s a form of art to fulfill every need — be it solitude, expression, community or growth. Art benefits us all.

Author Bio: Olivia Parker is a holistic health student studying at the Maryland University of Integrative Health. She enjoys reading, practicing yoga, and finding the best plant-based restaurants in Baltimore.

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