Commentary: Art therapy, a not so new way to help cope with life’s stressors

Commentary: Art therapy, a not so new way to help cope with life’s stressors
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels.
A person painting. A person painting.

Times are scary right now. We are in a worldwide health pandemic impacting everyone globally, countries aren’t the friendliest to each other, and there seems to be no end in sight for any of it.

Every day is a stark reminder that the world is hurting, and if you are like me, you may feel helpless at times. I have ventured into art therapy to cope with the stress and negative emotions, hoping that it will give me some relief. It turns out, it works. Ever since I was young, I was always writing, taking photos, painting or doing other creative works. It helps me focus my emotions, and sometimes I ended up with a pretty decent result. But, I have discovered, it’s not the result is not what matters. What’s that saying “It’s not the destination but the journey that matters?” Well, whoever thought that up, you are right!

You might be asking what art therapy is. Merriam-Webster defines art therapy as “therapy based on engagement in artistic activities (such as painting or drawing) as a means of creative expression and symbolic communication.” Primarily, you use art to express your emotions and help you de-stress. I have to admit; I was skeptical at first. Until this pandemic hit, and I was forced to stay home, I didn’t realize that I hadn’t done any of that in a few years. Why? Because life gets in the way. I was travelling a lot for work. Several family members and pets had various health issues. I even had some scary health moments, and I was mentally drained and emotionally exhausted. When I’m like that, I feel like I can’t be creative. On the other hand, that’s when you need to push yourself to be creative because it will help you through it.

I have spent the last five months on a self-discovery, self-care journey, using art therapy to help me cope with life stressors, and the results are amazing. I started writing. Publishing my first paranormal romance novel called The Prophecy (now available at Bolen Books in Victoria, BC), I also published a kid’s picture book series about Vancouver Island called Let’s Explore (with more planned), started a website and have picked up my camera again. I have to say it feels good.

Writing a kid’s book, let alone four, wasn’t at the top of my list until my two cousins had babies, and I couldn’t spend time with them on the mainland, and they weren’t able to travel to the island for visits because of the pandemic. It inspired me to share the island with them, and when they can get out and explore, they will be excited to check out the places in the books. It also got my creative juices flowing but helped me immensely to reduce anxiety and stress.

I have always been a big fan of reading, specifically paper books. I love it, from the smell of the pages to holding the book in your hand. Reading is good for your mental health, and that alone is a worthy reason to fill up your bookshelves. The top benefits I have realized are:

  • Reading other people’s stories has helped put my own life into perspective.
  • Reading actively lowers my stress and promotes relaxation.
  • Reading allows me to escape into other worlds and cultivates my creativity.
  • Reading has improved my problem-solving skills and enhances my knowledge of the world.

Are my daily stressors gone? No. But, I spend my days ensuring I dedicate regular creative time to what makes me happy because, like Howard Thurman says, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.” My writing, photos, and other creative hobbies make me come alive. I challenge you to share what makes you come alive with the family, friends or the world, because we need more of that, especially right now.

Please stay safe out there. For more information check out my website

Jennifer Dowd is a writer, photographer, painter and author of the new novel ‘The Prophecy and the kid’s series called Let’s Explore.’ She has spent many years reading novels and now has written her own. She lives and works in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia, and spends her time on her artist’s pursuits, with her family and her two fur babies, Baylee and Willow.

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Jennifer DowdJennifer Dowd

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