Art therapy has potential benefits for us all. According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy exercises help “foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, [and] reduce and resolve conflicts and distress.” However, this particular treatment has also been studied and proven to specifically help those who deal with anxiety disorders.
Especially when used in combination with other treatment methods, research shows that art therapy:
- It calms the nervous system.
- Art therapy activities are meditative, quiet, and calming, which helps soothe symptoms of stress, nervousness, and irritability. A calm mind is better able to process difficult emotions and experiences. Mental health professionals have found that art therapy is helpful for resolving deep inner conflicts through meaningful moments of calm. Over time, these experiences help individuals to feel more peaceful in general throughout their daily lives.
- It Encourages self-expression.
- Many of us struggle with anxiety surrounding thoughts, feelings, or events that we cannot or don’t want to speak about out loud. Art therapy helps us express ourselves in a safe manner. Through thoughtful exercises and with the guidance of a compassionate and experienced therapist, individuals with anxiety can learn how to express how they’re feeling in a creative, constructive manner. Creative self-expression helps each of us connect with experiences and emotions in a healthy, rewarding way.
- It Increases self-awareness.
- When we engage in creative pursuits, we often discover new aspects of ourselves that we weren’t aware of before. This phenomenon is especially clear when experienced in the context of an art therapy session. Through meditative, expressive, and idiosyncratic exercises (such as drawing with the non-dominant hand), individuals gain an increased sense of self-awareness. It’s much easier to understand and identify with feelings and experiences that exist below the surface of our conscious minds when we focus on a creative activity.
What Anxiety Looks Like
For this exercise use any materials or art-making techniques you like. You might paint or draw your responses. Or you might create a collage. Meister suggested considering these questions:
- If anxiety had a body [and] personality, how would it look? How would it talk? What would it say? What does it care about?
- What does your body [or] life look like under the grip of anxiety? How would it look if anxiety was no longer present?
It can sometimes seem like anxiety is the ultimate enemy. It just feels so uncomfortable, maybe even terrifying. Plus, it might prevent us from doing things we really want to do. Art therapy can help us get curious about our anxiety and better understand its motives. It can help us access calm, reminding us that ease is actually within us.