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Ease Stress with this Art Journal Exercise

Art Journal Exercise with artist Katie Phillips

2020 has been just a liiiiiiitle bit stressful. Am I right? I don’t know about you, but when I’m

stressed, I eat more, drink more wine than I should, and I don’t get a good night’s sleep. I recently started working with a wellness coach, and by tracking different areas, I’ve seen how our emotional well being plays sort of a “domino effect” on the other areas of our lives. She encouraged me to come up with a de-stress activity to ease anxiety so I developed an art journal exercise. I have to say, I've noticed a tremendous difference since I started my art journal. I thought it could help others out there so I'm sharing the steps below. It doesn't require any art expertise or expensive supplies - matter of fact, you most likely already have these things on hand.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A small sketch book- I like the ones with the thicker, 90# paper

  • Something to write with (I prefer a sharpie)

  • Basic art supplies (i.e. paint, crayons, magic markers, color pencils, etc.)

This exercise has 4 steps. For steps 1-3, flip to the back of your page and jot down the following:

  1. List 3 things that you’re grateful for from that day. I read that the practice of being grateful changes the structure and chemistry of our brains. Plus, it just makes you feel better. It can be something small like, "the waffles I ate this morning," to something larger like, "my neighbor Jenny who's always there for me."

  2. Now, to find some encouragement. I find encouragement in scripture so I like to flip through my Bible and write down a verse to think about. However, I know the Bible isn’t everyone’s “cup of tea,” so this is where you should look for an inspirational quote or other sources of encouragement. The important thing is to write it down. I feel by writing the words the idea better connects with my brain.

  3. Write 3-4 sentences that sum up your day or how you feel. These don’t have to be complete sentences, or they can be very basic such as, “I feel sad.” If your feelings are hard to put into sentences, then simply free write the first words or emotions that pop into your head. Remember, you’re the only person that will see this so get those feels out!

Now, flip to the front of the page for Step 4 – Intuitive art expression.

Art Journal to Ease Stress

This is the fun part (for me at least). Of course, I like to use paint but feel free to use anything

“arty.” Grab some magic markers, color pencils or heck, raid your kids’ crayon box – anything that allows you make a mark will work. The “intuitive” part of this means that you should have no pre-planned picture in mind. You simply start making marks, smearing down colors, doodling, or whatever comes natural to you. This is not meant to be a pretty picture or make sense. It’s just a release of emotions. While I’m doing this, I often think about things I wrote or my day in general. After you feel satisfied, add a title to your picture. This helps me sum up my thoughts. If you'd like to learn more about intuitive painting, click here.

A few helpful tips:

  1. I picked a smaller-sized sketch book on purpose. I didn't like the pressure of having to fill a larger page so a smaller book felt better to me. But, if the large sketch books are calling your name, then by all means go for it!

  2. If you are using wet art supplies like paint then you’ll want a sketch book with at least 90lb paper so it can hold up. Thinner paper will buckle since it can't hold the water. If you are using dry mediums like markers or color pencils then sketch books with thinner paper will work fine.

  3. Another tip if you are using paint: Slip in a piece of scratch paper or cardboard under your current page to keep paint from slipping onto other pages. But, if it does slip through, then no big deal. That's just more character for your next intuitive painting.

  4. You may want to set a timer while you’re doing this exercise. I find this helps me stay focused.

So that’s it! I really think this exercise is a fun and unique way to journal and ease anxiety. This time next year, I hope to be looking through this book and thinking, “Yes, I made it!” Remember, all of the unique challenges from 2020 will make us stronger – we just gotta persevere! If you have any questions about the art journal exercise or you decide to try it for yourself, then please let me know. I would love to hear from you. And please spread the love - share this page with anyone else who might benefit. To share on social, simply click on one of the icons below.

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