I know, I know. There are a thousand and one blog posts, articles, and tweets about how coloring is the latest and greatest way to alleviate stress and distract yourself from your worry.
But I can’t NOT write this post. I knew ten years ago that “someday” when I had an anxiety blog, I was going to write a post on coloring. And I am not going to let the fact that everybody has since figured out for themselves how amazing coloring is, stop me from putting this post out. Coloring is just too much a part of my story.
About ten years ago, I was pregnant with my second child – my son Cooper – and I was terrified. I had been through many, many pregnancy losses in the 10 years before I conceived him and his older sister who was born two years earlier. My pregnancy with my daughter had been a miserable time for me. It was one of the happiest times of my life of course, because I was finally carrying a pregnancy long-term, but it wasn’t “happy happy”. It was “Scared…..this is going to turn south any day now.” happy. I was sick with worry every single day and the further along I got, the more scared I became.
As any parent who has suffered a pregnancy loss knows, once you have felt that pain you can never fully trust in another pregnancy again and every day I just waited for the rug to be ripped out from under me. My daughter Ily was born perfectly healthy and wonderful, but once I became pregnant with Cooper, I knew what lay ahead of me: nine more months of intense fear and anxiety.
I was right. I started worrying and obsessing about the health of my pregnancy from the moment I realized I was pregnant. It was ever-present. Every move I made, I analyzed and obsessed about, concerned I had caused another miscarriage.
About 4 months into my pregnancy, I was mentally exhausted and I realized that I couldn’t go on like that anymore. I was ruining this pregnancy just like I had done my first. I wasn’t allowing myself to enjoy any of it. I knew I had to find a way to relax and appreciate this time in my life. So I set out to find my “thing” – a hobby of some kind that I would fall in love with and use to distract myself from my worry.
I tried knitting. Huge mistake.
It looked so easy when I saw my grandmother do it. She was so graceful and always had a nice rhythm going. But me – I never could seem to find that same rhythm and I just kept ending up with little balls of loose knots. I lost patience with that pretty quickly. I give major props to anybody who has the patience and talent to take that hobby up.
I tried throwing myself into books because I love reading, but I was so exhausted from my pregnancy that I would fall asleep after about two pages every single time.
I had a jigsaw that I got out and started working on, but my two-year old daughter kept wiping all the pieces off of the table so I figured out early on that wasn’t going to work. (I am a jigsaw lover though and once I moved and got a higher table, they became a part of my life again.)
Painting and drawing were definitely out. My hands and my brain just don’t communicate in that way. I’ve tried. The results are truly sad.
Then one day I went to the store and bought my daughter her first coloring books and crayons.
We came home and I sat down with her and started showing her how to color. It’s amazing how it felt so natural to me. I hadn’t colored in thirty years but it was as if I had never stopped: trace the outline of the figures with firm color, then fill them in with a softer hand.
It was so relaxing, almost hypnotic, listening to the crayon sweep back and forth across the paper. That wonderful smell of crayons was in the air……it took me back in time. It was innocent introversion, not the toxic introversion that had consumed my life for so long, and I loved every second of it.
Before I knew it, an hour had passed and it had felt only like a few minutes. I felt good. I felt light. I realized I had been at peace for that entire hour and it was a great feeling. I had spent all that time just being a mom hanging out with her daughter, enjoying herself.
I knew I wanted more of that. Coloring was going to be my “thing”.
They didn’t have a huge section of adult coloring books at Barnes and Noble the way they do now.
So, despite the eye rolling of my family, I went to Toys R Us and bought my own pretty children’s coloring book – it was a Precious Moment’s coloring book – and my own box of crayons.
I still have that first coloring book, and to me, it is one of the most special things I own. The pages are very close to falling out now, but I very carefully open it up sometimes and look through all of the pictures I colored and I think about how that book saved me.
I don’t have the words to express how much coloring those pictures eased my constant worry and helped me through that pregnancy. It was my mental escape. It was my creative outlet. It was my time filler…oh how it helped me pass those long days. And it helped ease my overall level of anxiety. Giving my brain that break from the constant worry I had been putting it through for so long, was exactly what it needed. The calmer I became…..the calmer my brain became.
I colored my way through that pregnancy and I colored my way through my twin pregnancy after that one.
And to this day, coloring is still a part of my life and always will be because it is one of the few things in this world that makes me feel content.
It suits me and who I am – it’s as simple as that.
It has been such a joy having my oldest daughter grow and share in my love of coloring.
We have “color parties” where we sit at our little table and create lovely pictures with rainbow themes. There is no pressure to talk, although sometimes we do. But mostly we just sit quietly together and color. Its our special time and I feel really lucky that we were able to find something that lets us connect in that way .
I have seen people on social media who mock those of us adults who color, and those of us who decide to share our pictures on-line.
I always think “They just don’t get it. Coloring is the greatest thing!” I could look at people’s pictures all day. But you know, I guess not everybody is made to “get it”. And that’s okay. I kind of like it that way.
Not every adult who loves to color has an anxiety disorder.
However, I do think that those of us with anxiety all have a special place inside our minds that we like to retreat to and hide away from the real world for a while.
It is where we most feel our most free and comfortable…..and coloring takes us there. Coloring lets us be who we are, and gives us that mental escape without drugs or alcohol or guilt or regret.
In this very complicated world, coloring is very UNcomplicated and that can feel really good.
Anxiety professionals are on board with coloring as well. Dr. Stan Rodski is a neuropsychologist who thinks so much of coloring as a therapeutic tool that he created his own line of coloring books for adults. According to a fantastic article on adult coloring at MedicalDaily.com, Dr. Rodski says that “coloring elicits a relaxing mindset, similar to what you would achieve through meditation. Like meditation, coloring allows us to switch off our brains from other thoughts and focus on the moment. ” Rodski was even able to see the positive physical effects coloring has on our bodies by using advanced technology.
If you haven’t colored since you were a child, I recommend you give it a try.
Coloring books for adults are everywhere.
You can find them at almost any bookstore. Barnes and Noble has an AMAZING adult coloring book section, some with pictures and some with geographic patterns or Mandalas, and you can also find them on Amazon.
Don’t feel like you are stuck in the world of patterns, butterflies and flowers though. There are also therapeutic coloring books and themed coloring books. There are even “venting ” coloring books full of swear words, to help you “turn your stress into success” that I am not going to lie, feel SO GOOD to color.
You can also pick up some children’s coloring books at any toy store or grocery store. I still use those from time to time because the patterns are not so complex and intricate and I just love the feel of crayons to coloring book paper….so much better than colored pencils, in my opinion. But either way, the experience is just as relaxing and good for the soul.
Do you have a love of coloring? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below and I love seeing people’s pictures so tweet them to me if you’d like to share at @TheWorryGames.