Students use coloring books to alleviate stress

Shiloh Shelton coloring in the second floor of the GUC. She is a student who colors for relaxation.

Childhood: the carefree time when worries were few and living was easy. Children spend hours coloring pictures of princesses, cats and their favorite superheroes. Research shows that same activity can relieve stress associated

with adulthood.

The smell of crayons and coloring books takes students back to their childhood, said Carmen Richter, licensed Mental Health Counselor at Student Counseling Services.

“It does give you something to take your mind off other things,” junior Alex Kelley said. “I think with a lot of people, it relates back to their childhood, and to another time when things were simpler.”

College is a stressful time, Richter said, and Student Counseling Services can help make it less stressful by providing students with coping skills to use now and take with them

when they graduate.

As a behavioral therapist, Richter said she looks at a person’s patterns of behavior to see what can be done differently to deal with stress and gives him or her the tools needed to better cope. Those tools include relaxation techniques such as proper breathing, meditation, walking, exercise and

coloring, she said.

“I think it can be incorporated in many different ways,” she said. “I give students tools, and this can absolutely be used as a tool.”

Senior Shiloh Shelton said when she began college, she started dealing with anxiety issues and decided to try coloring after reading articles that suggested it as

a way to cope.

“Even when I’m not anxious — if I’m just overworked or in the middle of a paper and need a break — I pull out the coloring book and just color for a little bit,”

she said.

Mandalas are popular with adults now, Richter said. Mandalas are abstract pictures that require less thinking about what color something should be and let a person focus on the task of completing the picture.

“It gives your mind something else to focus on,” Shelton said.

Mandalas are great when someone is anxious or

stressed, she said.

“They are more therapeutic because there’s a sense of not having patterns,” Richter said.

Freshman Ambreia McDaniel said coloring mandalas allows people to relax and use

their own style.

“It makes you feel free,”

she said.

Coloring for 20 minutes helps clear the mind and leaves a student feeling mentally refreshed and ready to focus on studying and other tasks, Richter said. It also lowers blood pressure and anxiety, and improves creativity.

“I think it allows you to escape for just a moment and not use your brain,” she said. “You can clear your mind, which allows you to go back, refocus and

be more productive.”

Kelley said she has a book for coloring and doodling that she uses whenever she feels stressed.

“It’s all you can think about really at the moment,” she said. “It’s hard to think about other things when you’re focusing on completing something.”

Therapists often use coloring — as well as Play-doh, puzzles and other task-oriented activities — to help children, adolescents and geriatric patients regain focus, Richter said.

“Any kind of hands-on activity is basically active meditation,” she said.

Sophomore Benjamin Brown said it could help lower stress because the focus is on completing the picture.

“It could be useful to help you slow down your thoughts and take your mind off things and whatever’s getting to you,” he said. “I would do it.”