AnXieTy: Can Creating Art Really Help Me?


You have a test coming up and though you've studied, just the thought of it has your heart racing, your palms sweating and your mind going nonstop. You try breathing and that seems to work for only a few minutes; then you try a relaxing bath, but once you leave the tub, dry off and change clothes your thoughts resurface and you're faced with your racing thoughts again. You're convinced you can "fix" your anxiety yourself without medication. Your therapist tries cognitive therapy with you where you've tracked and challenged your irrational thoughts, but your cognitive brain just won't listen or take the bate. As an art therapist, I might suggest ways to manage your anxiety including the above ideas along with another too: the circle. I've written about creating mandalas a lot on my blog, because I believe in the healing power of them. More specifically, the calming effect they can have on our over-anxious minds.

I would introduce how creating mandalas, (Sacred Circle) can help promote calm during bouts of anxiety and worry. Drawing a circle can be done in almost any setting. I don't recommend it while you are driving. But, if you keep a pad with you, you can create a circle while waiting for a doctor's appointment, studying, before a test, waiting for a blind date to arrive or pretty much any situation that brings anxiety and/or worry on. I have made a few suggestions about approaching your circle below.

Promoting Calm Amidst Anxiety & Worry
  • Keep a journal or pad with you at all times.
  • BREATE

  • Keep a few colored pencils, markers or regular pencils with you

  • You might have the blank pages already traced with with a circle

  • The circle can be any size you wish

  • Begin in the center of the circle and draw outward

  • Leave perfection and judgements outside

  • Staying within the circle, allow your pencil to led the way

  • It might be helpful to choose calming colors

  • Focus on the circle

  • Breathe

  • Continue drawing until you feel you have reached a place of calm

  • Finish when you feel your mandala is complete

  • Bring this calm with you and return to the circle when you feel anxiety surfacing again

  • Move on to what tasks need your attention
What I am suggesting is the creation of the mandala circle to help you relax and focus your thoughts. The circle provides a safe and secure area to work. Doodling works too, but I recommend the circle because it provides a contained area in which to work.