All of us experience stress at some level. There are varying degrees, yes, from the momentary rush of adrenaline we feel as we narrowly avoid being hit by a speeding cab to the more persistent and extreme stress that keeps us up night after night, but we all feel it. In fact, the Global Organization for Stress reports that 75% of American adults experience moderate to high levels of stress—a percentage that is increasing.
Part of the solution to this chronic issue? Avoiding situations that can cause additional pressure, prioritizing down time and by being mindful. Mindfulness—the current buzz word of the wellness world—is described as a “mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations”. Mindfulness can take many forms: yoga, meditation, reading or writing, taking a walk, anything, really, that allows you to switch off for awhile and just be quiet. To just be, period.
After recently attending a six-week well-being program, I discovered (or, should I say, re-discovered) a mindful practice to add to this list: Creative arts. That’s right. Drawing, coloring, painting—all the activities you did during your pre-school days are now the activities many adults are taking up with a goal of relaxing and just being.
The program I attended focused on different creative mediums during each hour-long weekly session, allowing me the opportunity to focus on which made me the most happy and relaxed.
One session was spent creating a floor collage as a group, another was spent compiling individual creative image journals. Each session I found myself totally absorbed with whatever we were doing—drawing, coloring, sticking and creating—and each time, the hour flew by, leaving me calm, relaxed and totally de-stressed.
As an overall mindfulness technique, this worked well. It allowed me to be engrossed in an activity which took concentration and imagination, but not in a taxing way. There was no time for worry or anxiety while cutting out images from a magazine to stick into my journal; there was no discomfort or pain from my fibromyalgia. I just relished in being. It turns out that the process of concentrating on a straightforward task allows for complete mental freedom in a way that, in turn, allows the body and mind to slow down and relax. And while picking up a pencil or paintbrush isn’t going to cure all of our symptoms, it will alleviate stress.
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