Art for Wellbeing: Finding Calm when Things are Overwhelming

Feeling stressed and overwhelmed? You could try painting through your feelings! For centuries, people have relied on art to communicate and heal. Art can be used to explore emotions, develop empathy and cope with stress – it’s been a method of therapy since the 1940s.

A few weeks ago, I attended one of UQ Life’s weekly Art Therapy classes. On a stressed-out whim, after a night of coffee fuelled cramming, I stumbled upon the link to UQ Life’s weekly art therapy classes. Deciding that I needed something to repair my broken soul after handing in three consecutive assignments, I booked in. 

Art can be used to explore emotions, develop empathy and cope with stress. 

I had absolutely no idea what to expect – I turned up at the old UQ childcare centre after one of my classes and prayed that someone else would turn up. Thankfully, tucked away in the art room, ten or so students were sitting around a long table, waiting to start.

Nghi Vuong, the UQ councillor who runs the sessions, welcomed me in. One of the things you notice about the room when you first walk in is how far away it feels. You can’t hear any of the students rushing between classes outside. There’s meditation music playing, so it’s like being in a spa. The room has a long table, covered in scores of art supplies, from paints to pastels to poms poms. When we started, we were given an art directive – an instruction on what to paint. The theme that week was ‘party’. We closed our eyes and imagined our ideal party – who was invited? Where are we? What are we doing? In a meditation-like exercise, we explored these ideas in our heads and fleshed out the scene. When we opened our eyes, we were given free reign of the table. Having no idea what to draw initially, I grabbed a yellow pastel and started filling in the page. From there, it was so easy to get lost in the process. The feeling of the pastels in your hands and the calming music was strangely serene. In what felt like ten minutes, an hour had gone by. 

A great way to relax and destress and check in during a busy semester 

At the end of the session, we were asked to share what we had created with the group. Although I hadn’t expected this part, it was so lovely to hear everyone’s stories and what their works represented. Everyone had created something personal, unique and different from the art directive – there was a warm campfire scene, a solitary sky gazer, a field party and a disco. Listening to everyone’s stories and hearing what these scenes meant to them was a lovely, open experience. More than anything, it was a great way to relax and destress, and to check in with yourself in a busy period of the semester. You don’t need any experience or natural creative talent. You can just sit there and play with the paints – it’s the process that matters more. So, if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed or just feeling like playing with some paint for an hour, I would highly recommend signing up to a session! 

Art for Wellbeing

Aimed at providing a safe space for students to improve coping skills and promote well-being through the use of art and the process of creative output. All materials are provided free of charge and include paints, pastels, felt markers, watercolour pencils, material for collage and various papers.

You can sign up for the last Art of Wellbeing Session this Tuesday 22 June 2021 from 2:00pm-4:00pm here or check out the other wellbeing events held over the winter break here