The Stressed Paintbrush:How College Campuses are Dealing With Student Stress

College students are stressed. This is nothing new; check any twitter or iFunny feed and you’ll see thousands of students joking about their stress and anxiety as a way to cope. Some campuses push counselors, or their health center; others supply puppies, coloring books, self care guides, or even stress cleaning  o help students deal with stress, especially after the recent election.

Here at Poly Art Fart, art is what makes the world a calming, wonderful place. Coloring has recently become a mainstream way to combat stress, and coloring book creator Johanna Bamford’s work has topped bestseller lists in the past few years. No surprise to me: In high school, I remember all of us 16 year olds cheering at the mention of coloring for an assignment. It was a safe way to be a child again.

Art is nudging it’s way into mainstream, and coloring, as well as oil paint mixing, pottery videos, and an endless list of calming art mediums have been popular videos to watch for stressed students, regardless if they participate themselves.

In the past few years, scientists have been studying the way art, in all forms, can help combat stress. Art therapy has been used for years to help patients dealing with cancer, depression, anxiety, and PTSD. In late 2015, scientists began to study the effects of art on the ‘normal’ human’s psyche: that is, those with no diagnosed conditions.

According to a 2015 study published this year by the Health Technology Assessment in Southampton, U.K., art therapy is cost effective, has statistically more positive effects than control groups in a number of included studies, and while it may not be for everyone, had the best results in the trial, which consisted of 63 patients in a variety of situations.

” It is exciting to see the cumulative and emergent data that further the understanding of the impact of art making on stress. Perhaps the latest research in this area will inspire additional studies, identifying the distinct role of art making per se versus the practice of art therapy in facilitating health, including stress reduction and physiological measures of well-being.” — Cathy Malchiodi, PhD and surveyor of multiple art therapy studies, for Psychology Today


The way to take this concept to the higher level, in my opinion, is to look past all the talk and see how the arts are actually being practiced on college campuses. Here at Cal Poly, the Craft Center is usually a bustle of activity, and it markets itself as a “stress and grade free” environment. Many universities have similar centers, including NYU, SDSU, and Amherst.

How do you comabat stress? If you haven’t tried art, I suggest it, as I use art to cope every single day. Have a stress free week, and get creative!





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