How drawing helps with stress

Sometimes, when feeling stressed, the last thing you want is someone handing you a set of coloured pencils and a notebook, urging you to channel your stress in a creative manner.

Yet creative pursuits are generally seen to be a helpful antidote to feelings of stress and anxiety.

Recently I started to do some digging into the connection between creativity (drawing in particular) and the alleviation of stress.

Research led by Jennifer Drake, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at Brooklyn College explored whether drawing reduces stress levels because it helps us to process emotions or because it helps us to escape from the thoughts and events that are contributing to our stress levels.

The answer? It's all about the escape.

Yes, we can sit and sketch out the pain of 2020, the argument we just had with our partner, our worries about the future and this may help us to process our emotions.

However, the true value is in the escape drawing provides. It takes us out of ourselves, out of our head where stressful thoughts lie.

The act of drawing something requires us to concentrate on what we are doing, to focus on what is emerging on the page. It is this level of concentration that provides the escape from stressful thoughts.

Start with a blank page and draw an item that is in your eye line. A cup, a biro, a piece of paper. Keep going, keep drawing until you feel calmer.

It's important to pick an emotionally neutral object (so if the cup sitting in front of you is a gift from your partner whom you're currently furious with, perhaps pick something else..)

I would love to know how this works for you. Give it a go and let me know how you get on in the comments below.

Author: Emer OLeary
Emer O'Leary is a visual facilitator, trainer and coach.

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