Combating stress is one of my mainstay goals for 2015. I enjoy painting (I’m not good at it, but I enjoy it). So, it’s no surprise that the first workshop I attended this year is a Stress Relief Art Therapy workshop conducted by the Family Matters in my son’s school!

What is Art Therapy?

According to Art Therapy Blog, art therapy is a “form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.”

Art Therapy is not confine to people with mental conditions like autism or depressions, it is suitable for anyone — overworked executives, busy moms, even young kids.  Initially, I was sceptical about my drawing abilities, but Jeanette Chan, our facilitator assures us that this was not a drawing workshop and our drawing capabilities are not weighted here. Rather, it is about exploring our inner emotions and expressing them on canvas.

Stress Relief Art Therapy Workshop
All materials were provided by the facilitator

Our first exercise was to think of a food that best describes us, then draw it on a piece of paper. That was easy enough. It was interesting how we perceived ourselves through the food we drew. One participant drew a pizza base because she identifies herself as the foundation (hence the base) for her family. Her children were the toppings and her husband was the spice. I thought that was such a lovely description.

Me?

On this particular day, durian came to mind. I am not sure why really. I figured that because durians are prickly on the outside but tasty on the inside, and it has different flavours — bitter, sweet, salty. Also, durians do not appeal to everyone, but those who like them really enjoy them. I have been told that my “stern” demeanour sometimes deter others from approaching me. However, close friends and those who know me know that I am actually very friendly.

A fellow participant who also drew a durian (a much more sophisticated drawing than mine I might add) shared that I had a open section which indicated that I was open to share. That was so nice of her to share!

Art Therapy Workshop Stress Relief
Haha… a little embarrassed by my drawing prowess (not!), but in the spirit of sharing…

Try asking your kids what food best represented them, and you may be enlightened by their answers. Here are my kids’ responses.

My 10-year-old son: “A banana because it is not straight. I may take detours along the way, but I always get to where I need to go.”

My 8-year-old daughter (with a cheeky grin): “A sugar roll. That’s why I am so hyper and sweet.” 

“Doodling is a good exercise to do with your children to help them de-stress and to initiate a conversation,” says Jeanette.

She suggests buying some mah-jong paper and doodling with our kids. Pick a theme and allow them to draw anything they like. For example, ask your children to draw their favourite superheroes and ask them what strengths their superheroes possess. Then check if your kids resonate with these strengths or not. You can continue your conversation from there. Do follow their cue and move the thread of the conversation as you see fit.  Jeanette cautions to use washable paints and to allow the kids to enjoy the process so that we do not add further stress to our lives.

Here are some other de-stressing things you can do with your kids:

  • Play games and exercise with your kids. Bring out their scooters and bikes for some fresh air. Or head to one of Singapore’s many outdoor parks or playgrounds.
  • Eat fruits or foods that are easy to digest
  • Laughter is a good de-stress tool for everybody.
  • Breathe

She also highlighted that we should identify what causes our stress and be aware of our stress triggers in order to manage it better. When we feel stressed, here are some immediate stress-relief actions we can take:

  1. breathe
  2. give yourself a time out
  3. visualize calm and soothing images
  4. listen to soothing music
  5. draw strength from inspiring quotes

Visualize & Breathing Exercise 

She took us through a breathing exercise very similar to the ones held at the end of yoga sessions. We were led to a space where we visualize our “calm and safe haven”. After bringing us out of our breathing trance, we were to paint the images that most resonate with us on the canvas.

Here is my painted interpretation of my “calm and safe haven”.  I am hanging it where I can eyeball it each time I feel stress.

Art Therapy Workshop
My safe haven has lots of blue and green – sky, sea and trees, with chipping birds in the background.

Here are some samples from the other participants at the workshop. Despite our initial misgivings, everyone’s paintings turned out really well. And it was fun hearing every individual’s version of their paintings.

Art Therapy Workshop
A peaceful umbrella tree with rabbits frolicking in its shade.
Art Therapy Workshop
A comfy bed is a safe space for one participant.
Art Therapy Workshop
A playground that her son plays in is a safe haven for a mom.
Art Therapy Stress-relief
I love this happy abstract rendition – it is so open to interpretation.

Overall, we had a lot of fun. It was stress-free, and we had a nice, personal painting to bring home.

For more information on Jeanette’s services, check out her FaceBook page at Thru Arts. She is a registered member with Art Therapists’ Association Singapore (ATAS) & Australian and New Zealand Arts Therapy Association (ANZATA).

For more information about Art Therapy for adults or kids, check out these places:

Art Therapists Association Singapore 

Art Therapy International Centre

Rainbow Centre

Uniqarts

Joanna Tan

If you find this post helpful, please share your thoughts or experiences  with me. I will love hear hear from you and for you to connect with US on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter.

Till our next post, love yourself, love one another.

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