Ease Stress with this Art Journal Exercise


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 that I can work into my week to ease the anxiety that may slowly creep in. I finally came up with an art journal exercise - well, my version of it anyway. I've noticed a tremendous difference since I started my art journal and so I thought it could help some others out there too. It doesn't require any art expertise or expensive supplies - matter of fact, you most likely already have most of these things.

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, jot down the following on the backside of your page:

  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 Sally 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 religious teachings that give you encouragement. The important thing is to write it down - I feel the words better connect with my brain when I do this.

  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.

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 what I wrote or things from my day. After you feel satisfied, add a title to your picture. I find 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 don't like the pressure of having to fill up 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 a thinner paper should be fine.

  3. Also, if you are using paint, you may want to slip in a piece of scratch paper or cardboard under your current page to keep paint from slipping onto your other pages. If it does slip through then no big deal.

  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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