Art therapy is widely known to be an excellent tool in alleviating stress related to mental and physical illnesses. But for me it’s specifically coloring as an art form that seems to have a calming effect. This makes it a wonderful coping mechanism. The American Art Therapy Association says, “A goal in art therapy is to improve or restore a client’s functioning and his or her sense of personal well-being” (arttherapy.org). When I was in the hospital we used art as therapy in order to learn how to relax and smooth the prickly feelings of anxiety. We had guided lessons with the therapist, who used soothing music as an adjunct to our drawing/coloring sessions. I enjoyed those times in the art room. I learned to channel my energy into something beautiful, and the repetitive motion of coloring gave me something specific to focus on, instead of my symptoms.
The therapists advised us to keep a small notebook and a set of coloring pencils with us so that whenever we felt anxious, we could use coloring as a coping skill. However one of the challenges that I ran into early in my recovery was the fact that anxiety doesn’t appear on schedule, in a neat and timely fashion. It can be extremely unpredictable, especially when you’re out in public. So as an alternative, I began to use coloring apps on my phone to achieve similar goals. No, it isn’t the same as using real paper and pencils. There definitely is a difference between technology and traditional coloring utensils. However, I’ve found this to be a suitable alternative that I can live with, considering I’m often on the go when I start to feel anxious or a when a panic attack occurs. So these kinds of apps have truly been a life saver for me. In addition, I tend to obsess over minute details, such as the paper getting wrinkled, and if my pencils are sharp enough. Not to mention what happens if I color out of the lines or create something that’s flawed. Because of my OCD and anxiety, there are times when the nuances of coloring will leave me with more anxiety than I began with. And for this reason, the exact nature of coloring using a tech gadget comes in handy.
I’ve used my apps when traveling, in crowded spaces when I felt overwhelmed, and on the bus. It would have been difficult to pull out a pad and pencils in these settings. Yet my apps did the trick. I know that coloring is only one of the many ways in which a person living with an illness can de-stress. And I also know that people may prefer old school methods rather than the new ones we have today. For me, this is the perfect blend of therapy and current trends. And I plan to continue using these electronic tools to help manage my anxiety.