Destressing for Finals: Art as Healing Praxis

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Katie Hebert, Staff Writer |

As we approach the end of the semester there is no doubt that every single person on campus is or will be stressed; finals week will consume our lives, some students are graduating or have different plans for next semester, and the holiday season is upon us­—okay, maybe stress is an understatement.

While many are overwhelmed by the end of a long, difficult semester, we’re usually bombarded with self-care tips just as much as we are overloaded with assignments. However, one way that has been proven to alleviate stress and help with healing in all forms is the practice of art. Art, in any form (visual, vocal, written, movement), has been proven time and time again to be a relieving, therapeutic act.

This is why art therapy is used as a practice. As Elizabeth Scott, MS, writes, this method of therapy is so beneficial as a way to reduce stress, as she breaks it down in three different ways:

“Distraction: Drawing and art can take your mind off of what’s stress ing you, at least for a few minutes. It’s difficult to keep ruminating on your problems when you’re focused on creating, and if your problems stay with you, you can incorporate them into your creations. And when you’re finished being engrossed in your sketches, you should have a clearer head with which to tackle your problems again.

Flow: There’s a certain quality of being called “flow” that experts say is very beneficial for us. This refers to a state of being completely engaged in something to the point of being in a near-meditative state. It carries many of the benefits of meditation, leaving you much less stressed when you’re done. You can experience ‘flow’ when you’re doing creative activities like writing and even gardening. You can also get it from drawing.

Self-Care: Just the act of having a hobby can make you feel more balanced in your lifestyle. Sometimes, with all of life’s responsibilities, we forget that we need and deserve ‘down time’ and self-care. Taking even a few minutes on a regular basis to devote to a hobby can give you more of what you need in this area. And, with drawing, you have the additional benefit of being left with something beautiful (or at least interesting) to show for it.”

Emmanuel Woolard, a senior here at SUNY Oneonta studying Africana and Latino Studies, says art is beneficial because “it takes attention away from reality…It suspends reality just for a moment to focus on what I’m creating. By default, I am an artist because I am a creative. As a creative, I pursue many forms of art: photography, poetry, with interests in sculpture in painting. Art is so beneficial. It provides an opportunity for people to decompress, escape, and be present in the moment.”

With themes of his art narrowing in on sexuality, race, queerness, and equality, art becomes a clear outlet to heal from the world and create something beautiful for Emmanuel, as many others can relate to. As we navigate a society that both gets a lot heavier to walk in everyday, and stigmatizes art, creating becomes a vital personal politic that empowers us and restores energy.

Even if you’re an art student who is struggling this finals week, try to find time to create for YOU! Whether it’s painting, writing, sculpting, dancing, acting, singing, or anything in between, it will help you find relaxation in the midst of a busy few weeks. There is no right or wrong way to create, besides doing it and not doing it!

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