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Detecting, Processing and Managing Stress

DATE: 9/1/2017 | Articles

Sophia Koukourli, Art Psychotherapist

Short-term art therapy group

Stress is an emotional state known to all people. Everyday obligations and a fast pace of life increase stress, which is expressed by being uneasy, anxious, angry and/or experiencing physical pain. Thus, we associate stress with an unpleasant emotional state. Inevitably, we don’t almost recognize the functional aspect of stress, which helps us be alert so as to face difficulties.

By analyzing the dysfunctional aspect of stress we observe that it entails feelings of fear-tendency, making it useful to refer to fear first. Fear is the result of a real state of danger or threat, which causes mental and physical manifestations (acceleration of heartbeats or breathing pattern, perspiration, muscle shaking, gastrointestinal discomfort, etc.). These bodily alterations aim at the preparation of the person to either fight or flee. Stress, on the contrary, is caused to a great extent by an unknown or unidentified reason and manifests itself in similar ways.

Art therapy to detect, process and manage stress helped the participants in the presenting group express feelings and thoughts ‘outside’ their body by illustrating them on a piece of paper, giving them shape and color. They managed to distance themselves from their work of art ans see them in a different perspective. This helped hem process their feelings and led them to comprehend and accept them.

The creative activity gave the members of the group the strength to release and relieve the tension in a constructive way. The image helped the persons to share the feelings emerging from it more easily. The moment of creation they stayed focused on the creative process. Art made them associate with their work of art; define their strong and weak points, process problem-solving ways and leave the therapy session with a tactile reminder of all of that: their work of art.

The therapy started with the visual representation of stress so that the invisible becomes visible. The exploration of its nature even from the beginning sessions helped the members locate stress factors and their worries. Physical symptoms, personal defense mechanisms and the expression of the stress feelings were detected.

The thematic issues that followed were about personal beliefs, compulsive and traumatic incidents, which caused stress, family and social relationships and the ways of dealing with them. People experiencing stress often misconceive other people’s demands of them as their own. This results in anger, discomfort and guilt.

Art therapy helped the participants of the team to witness their progress in a tactile way through their works of art and acknowledge the effort they made and the course they had. They explored their inner self, the anger and the negative thoughts relating to stress. They found out ways to process stress and allowed themselves without any feeling of guilt to experience the power to say ‘no’, set the limits and negotiate. Through their work of art they communicated, so-operated and left space for intervention.

 

Bibliographical references:

  1. Manos Nikos, 1997, Basics of Clinical Psychiatry, University Studio Press Publications
  2. Yalom Irvin, 2006, The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy,  Agra Publications
  3. Chambala E. Amanda, 2008, Anxiety and Art Therapy:  Treatment in the Public Eye,  Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 25(4) pp. 187-189
  4. Curl Krista, (2008), Assessing Stress Reduction as a Function of Artistic Creation and Cognitive Focus, Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 25(4), pp. 164-169
  5. Grossman G. Frances, (1981), Creativity as a Means of Coping with Anxiety, The Arts in PsychotherapyVol. 8 pp. 185-192, Ankho International Inc., Printed in the U.S.A.

The images are subject to intellectual property laws and therefore cannot be reproduced.

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