Artwork-ing Off Stress


Celine Park

Art allows students to escape from the responsibilities of school

For Mimi Offor ’21, working on art portfolios or setting up a photoshoot in Feldman-Horn allows her to focus on what she loves, while also taking her mind off of the many responsibilities school brings. Offor said painting liberates her, and acts as a form of therapy and a source of escape.

“I’m glad that I’ve found a passion for art,” Offor said. “Whenever I take time off my school work and I’m able to work on something—especially if it’s a project outside of class—there is no pressure, guidelines or due date. It’s just me and my art, and there are no limitations, which is so freeing to me.”

Alex Poe ’20 said that filmmaking is a way to showcase her emotions in a creative light, and that using art as an outlet for stress is a more active approach to dealing with individual issues.

“Sometimes I’ll write short films about things [in] my everyday life,” Poe said. “I’ll do films about struggles, about social anxiety of teenage girls. [Producing films] is a creative way of dealing with [my stress], rather than just watching television.”

The main purpose for art should be personal enjoyment

Olivia Gubel ’21, who sings, paints and acts, said she believes art can alleviate stress if practiced solely for personal enjoyment.

“The process of creating anything can relieve stress,” Gubel said. “It’s not stress-relieving if you create art because you need to finish it for a class, or act because you’re in the play, or play piano because you’re practicing. However, if you’re doing [art] for yourself, to make yourself happy, it can really relax you.”

A sense of accomplishment when doing art releases stress

Melissa VanderKaay Tomasulo, an Associate Professor of Psychology at St. Michaels University, said art, specifically painting and sculpture, provides an outlet for releasing stress because it gives the artist a sense of accomplishment.

“I think [the way art relieves stress] comes from the pride from what you’re producing, and stopping your busy life to do one thing at a time,” Tomasulo said. “When you’re talking about artwork, like a painting, you have something tangible to look at in front of you, to show that you’ve created something, and you can see your effort paying off.”

According to 37 studies from the United States National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, practicing art led to a reduction in stress levels. In four of the studies, when participants engaged in more activities related to art, they experienced decreases in levels of cortisol, a hormone which corresponds with stress. Three of the studies indicated positive mood changes, and two discovered better sleeping habits.

The physical and creative sense of art is proven to reduce stress

Gubel said she thinks that art is relaxing because it engages the five senses.
“There is something about using your hands for art or your voice for singing that makes you connect to yourself in a different way,” Gubel said. “And that is whether you’re singing, painting or playing the piano or guitar.”

There is a direct correlation between physicality of art and reduction of stress, Tomasulo said.

“Anything that you’re doing in life that causes you to be mindful has been found to relieve stress, [whether] you’re playing an instrument or creating a sculpture,” Tomasulo said. “There is research that shows that just creating something leads to changes in your frontal lobe, which increases connectivity, reduction in negative emotions and reduction in what we call the stress response, which includes hormones.”

Similarly, Sean Duffy, an Associate Professor and Psychologist at Rutgers University, said that art can be a beneficial coping mechanism, especially during the struggles of high school.

“Teenage years are tumultuous [and] full of stress and uncertainty,” Duffy said. “Art provides a venue for making and identity formation. Not every teenage photographer or potter is going to [pursue an art career], but it does provide them with a positive activity that allows growth in creativity and meaning, which are important for the next decade in life.”

Art is a great outlet for relieving stress for all ages

Head of Peer Support and Psychology Teacher Tina McGraw ’01 said she believes art is a beneficial outlet for releasing stress for all ages.

“[Art] naturally activates different parts of our brain that puts us into the present moment and relieve us of stress,” McGraw said. “Many people see art as a meditative practice because we often transcend our distracted minds and become fully aware of the present when we experience the flow of creativity.”

Art allows students to connect with people who have similar interests

Whenever Alon Moradi ’21 steps onto the stage during rehearsal, he said that he feels a positive shift in his mood and a burst of passion not only because he is doing what he loves, but also because he gets to enjoy his craft with people that share his interests.

Moradi said he believes the arts are a great outlet for cooling down after a stressful day at school.

“[Art is] a really good way to think about your feelings,” Moradi said. “If something is bothering me, I can always turn to my work, whether that’s in choir, or in a show or any other artistic endeavor. The last thing that comes to mind is my quiz later that week. Sometimes I can get lost in my [performing arts] and prioritize it over my school because it is something valuable to me, in terms of being able to get a better understanding of myself. Having this shared experience with other peers also makes all the more difference.”

Taylor Dees ’21 said acting is a good way to relieve her stress because portraying another character can separate students from their personal problems.

“Art is a good escape if I have stress or drama; to get on stage, perform and to live in someone else’s world for a day or for a rehearsal definitely relieves the rest of my world,” Dees said. “I also think performing brings a lot of clarity; living in the psyche of another person or another thing really helps me put a lot of things into perspective.”

There is something about using your hands for art or your voice for singing that makes you connect to yourself in a different way,”
Gubel said.