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Coping with difficult feelings through artAnger that feels like it will explode out of you.  Fear so strong you can’t breathe.  Sadness that feels like it has no end. Strong emotions are challenging even for the most well-adjusted adult to handle.  So much more so for kids!  But we can help.  We can teach our children coping techniques while they are young that will assist them throughout their lives.

One of my very favorite techniques for dealing with strong emotions – those for which words fail – is art.  I don’t mean the kind of art that finds its way on to the refrigerator or gallery wall.  I mean the kind that has no rules; that is not intended to “be pretty.”  Now, don’t get me wrong.  A lot of the world’s greatest artwork was created as an expression of emotions the artist could find no other way through.  But the point of the artwork is NOT  visual appeal but rather emotional catharsis.  

So here are some ideas for using art to cope with strong emotions. Use them yourselves and teach them to your children!

1. Start an art journal.  No big deal.  Just a notebook of some sort in which you record thoughts, feelings, etc. through pictures rather than words.  For a more detailed description of how to get started, check out this article.  You can also find some ideas on the pinterest board I have dedicated to just this topic.

2. Try out a Mandala. Mandalas have been used since ancient times.  They are terrific for soothing a turbulent mind.  Again, there are no rules.  Just allow yourself to become consumed with the task of filling in the circle. Here are some printable mandalas to get you started.

3. Feelings Picture.  This is an activity I use often in the office to help clients who are having difficulty expressing their emotions with words.  Just sit yourself down with a big piece of blank paper and whatever art supplies you have on hand. No thinking allowed.  Just start.  Scribble. Splash. Scrub.  Whatever.  Allow the emotion to flow right out through your fingers.  

4. Doodle.  Doodling is a great way to deal with anxiety.  It has also been shown to increase memory and creativity.  Give it a try.  Pick up a pen the next time your mind is racing and doodle as you did in middle school history class.  If you would like a bit more structure to your doodling efforts, maybe zentangles are for you.  This relatively new technique allows you to create complicated looking doodles using soothing repetitive patterns.  Find out more about it at this terrific tangle site.

Give some of these a try and let me know how it goes.  Also, let me know about your own favorite emotional art techniques.

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