Using Art To Relieve Stress and Anxiety

Using Art To Relieve Stress and Anxiety

art to relieve stress

Your bills are piling up, your workload is pushing your limits and to top it off your relationship is experiencing a rough patch.

Sometimes stress hits us all at once and social media can make it feel like the whole world is happy except for you.

But what if there was a way to embrace stress in your life or better yet to relieve it quickly?

Everybody wants to be less stressed but unfortunately stress is just a normal part of our lives.

We can’t escape it forever so we may as well learn to deal with it. Here’s how you can use art to relieve stress in your daily life.

What is stress?

In simple terms, stress is your body’s reaction to outside stimuli that sets off the fight or flight response.

To help you survive difficult situations your body boosts its energy levels by releasing hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.

Surprisingly, in small doses, stress can actually be good for you.

Experiencing moderate and reasonable stress can help improve your brain connectivity and result in higher productivity, memory function and attention spans.

But the key here is that these moderate stressors are short-lived. When your body remains in stress mode for too long it can become detrimental to your health.

Side effects of chronic stress include anxiety, headaches, insomnia, stomachaches, tense muscles and high blood pressure.

So how do we keep ourselves in the desired stress zones?

Art and stress relief: the science

The links between art and stress relief are well researched. Creative activities from music to writing have been used successfully to reduce stress and anxiety and even as therapy for chronically ill patients and their caregivers.

A 2016 study conducted by researchers from Drexel University further solidified the links between art and stress relief for people in general.

Participants were given 45 minutes for creative expression and 75% of them experienced a reduction in their stress levels.

The good news is you don’t even have to be good at it! Participants with previous artistic experience did not experience any extra reduction in stress.

So whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned artist a short session is all it takes to stress less.

A prolonged art session can help to put your brain into a meditative state sometimes referred to as ‘flow’ or ‘the zone’ where the level of concentration on one activity pushes other thoughts out of your mind.

With all this in mind, here’s 5 types of art you can try when you’ve had a tough day.

1: Photography

Most of the time our mobiles are a source of stress in themselves. Constant phone calls, messages and emails keep us from shutting off from work or other drama occurring in our lives.

Turn the tables on your device by using it for some art instead. Anyone can try their hand at photography these days and all you need is a smartphone to snap and share your work.

Not sure where to start? We suggest trying your hand at #streetphotography with some urban landscapes and graffiti when you need a quick escape from the office.


Art to relieve stress

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

2: Adult colouring

Colouring is no longer the domain of kids and their crayons. In recent years a mass of adult colouring-in books have hit the market and it’s about time you found out what all the fuss is about.

There’s something very satisfying about filling in the lines with vibrant hues and watching the pictures come to life.

Settle in on your cushy headboard for a relaxing colouring session before bed to help relieve stress and avoid insomnia.

3: Journaling & Scrap Booking

Art that takes an organised format is no less of a masterpiece. For those with a detail-oriented brain try your hand at some scrap booking and journaling.

Bullet journaling is a great way to stress less because it combines productivity and art.

You can sort out your to-do list, weekly goals or calendar and add some artistic flair with coloured markers, stickers and doodles in the margins.


art to relieve stress

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Another neat and tidy art project is scrapbooking. Keep a record of your life with ticket stubs, brochures, travel documents and photos from events and activities you attend throughout the year.

Then when you need an artistic release simply gather your current scrapbooking stash and start cutting, pasting and reliving the good times.

4: Landscape and life drawing

Embrace your inner Van Gogh with a stint in the outdoors practising your sketching. You might not ace the impressionist style right away but neither did the famous artists.

Take a stroll to your local park to paint a landscape or practise some detailed work by sketching a fresh vase of flowers.

Even your own backyard can become an art studio with the right outdoor furniture and a drawing book.


art to relieve stress

Photo by Victoria Bilsborough on Unsplash

5: Collage making

If you’re really convinced your artistic skills won’t be up to scratch then try a creative pursuit that’s more about re-purposing than creating.

Gather all your old magazines, newspapers, brochures and a pair of scissors. Get chopping and build yourself a fun collage of things that catch your eye.

It doesn’t have to have a purpose or a message, it can simply be a canvas of interesting cutouts.

We could all use a little less stress in our lives and art may just be the answer.

It doesn’t matter if you try only one of these suggested methods or find the time for all five, everyone can benefit from practising more art.

There’s more to art than meets the eye so get crafty and feel the stress wash away.

art to relieve stress

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Julia Hammond is a Melbourne-based freelance writer who has worked with major brands and blogs from The Urban List to You can find her online at


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