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How to self-motivate and regenerate during times of stress using art therapy.

Updated on April 14, 2012
Lizam1 profile image

Liza is a passionate self taught creative vegetarian, vegan & gluten free cook/baker. A wine enthusiast, watercolour artist & optimist.

Reflect empathy back to the roots where the pain started
Reflect empathy back to the roots where the pain started | Source

Dealing with the situation

Whether you are dealing with a major crisis such as a recent job loss, found your partner was cheating on you or are simply having "one of those days" stress and feeling de-motivated seem to go hand in hand.

Self-Pep talks can become self critical dialogues which spiral the negativity further downwards. We can feel lost, angry, sad, and unable to cope.

If this occurs on a regular basis it is time to deal with the root causes. They can range from physical to psychological and, in most cases, are linked to an event. Seeing a naturopathic doctor, counsellor or medical doctor who has time to properly examine and talk to you should help you access services and resources that will help you with the root causes.

We can also help ourselves using techniques and methods based in meditation and mindfulness that will stimulate our right brain and provide comfort and empathy to the root causes of the pain. Sadness, frustration, disappointment are not things to "get over and pull your socks up", they are real and need to heal over time.

As an art therapist I have found one of the most effective ways to help myself and help others is the act of non verbal communication and expressive painting. Dreamwork, meditations using imagery and motivational concepts and quotes also stimulate recovery and hope.

The time to practice these skills is not when we are in crisis but when we are on an even keel - that way when the "down day" hits, or a crisis occurs we are familiar with how and what to do to.

The following exercises are simple to do and I have included a physical one for those less inclined towards a mediational approach.

If you would like more information about motivational techniques using art therapy please contact me at or at

Exercise 1

"Come to the edge, he said. They said:  We are afraid. Come to the edge, he  said. They came. He pushed them,  And they flew..."  - Guillaume Apollinaire
"Come to the edge, he said. They said: We are afraid. Come to the edge, he said. They came. He pushed them, And they flew..." - Guillaume Apollinaire | Source

Find a comfortable place to sit and reflect on the words and image of the eagle flying. Closing your eyes take a breath in and slowly exhale. Repeat until you feel your body relax. If your mind starts to get busy just concentrate on the breathing.

Open your eyes again to reflect on the picture. What do you notice about the eagle in flight and the sky? Close your eyes again and become the eagle, feel the rush of the air as you soar and swoop, feel the power of the wings as they flap. Enjoy the sensation of the freedom of flying and the power and strength in your body. Flap your arms gracefully up and down as you take on the body and persona of the eagle.

When you are ready relax, breathe and come back to being yourself - with your eyes closed tell yourself how powerful and free you are, that you can soar with the eagles.

Open your eyes. Write down your feelings and thoughts and keep them. Make a copy of the eagle picture and quote and place it somehwre you can have it to hand.

Use this exercise whenever you feel overwhelmed, powerless or stuck about a decision that you have to make.

Exercise 2

"You have to believe in yourself  when no one else does.  That's what makes you a winner."  - Venus Williams
"You have to believe in yourself when no one else does. That's what makes you a winner." - Venus Williams | Source

Think of a place of natural beauty that you like to visit. What is it about that place, the essence ot the place that you enjoy? Does it bring you joy - peace, what are the feelings and thoughts you have when you visit or think about this place?

Take a sheet of paper and with whatever paints, pastels, crayons or markers you have to hand capture the essence of the place that you like. That doesn't mean trying to re-create a landscape - it is simply using colours, shapes and lines to reflect the meaning of the place to you. Take time to do this. Let the paints, crayons et al tell you where and how to put them. Do not strive to make a drawing, just let go and connect with the essence of the beauty.

Alternatively, cut out images and pictures from magazines and calendars that capture the essence of beauty and peace etc. and create a collage. (see

When you have finished the picture or collage copy down the quote by Venus Williams somehwere on the picture. Change the wording to:" I believe in myself, even if no-one else does, that's what makes me a winner" and then your name.

When you have completed your artwork write down on the back what feelings and thoughts come to mind.

Use this picture to remind yourself of possibilities when hopes are dashed or you feel depressed. This image depicts what you can and do feel . Re-do the exercise using collage or another place of meaning for you.

Exercise 3

"Do what you can, with what you have,  where you are."  - Theodore Roosevelt
"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." - Theodore Roosevelt | Source

Use the images above, ones from your own collection, or from magazines that depict movement and an activity which makes you happy. Engage in an on the spot rowing, dancing or running session. With your eyes closed take yourself to the place you would like to be and physically represent the activity you enjoy doing - skiing on the spot - rock climbing - dancing - the world is your oyster as they say.

When you are energized by the physical part of this exercise take a sheet of paper and some markers or paints and make bold splashes, line and shapes of coulour - spirals are good for this too - let the shapes and colours merge and create a picture - the essence of your energy.

Write down what you can do and what you have done. Write down your dreams and plans for the future engaging in exercise or sports or playing with family and friends. Wrie down what it is you enjoy about the activity and how it makes you think and feel.

Use this exercise when you think or feel deflated, unmotivated or depressed by what you don't have any more.

More exercises

If you like these exercises or would like to do more you can purchase The Gift Project from The Gift Project offers seven exercises which can be used by individuals, teachers and group facilirttators to self empower, heal and motivate.


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    • Lizam1 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Victoria BC glad you had a positive experience.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 

      6 years ago from Illinois

      Many years ago while in a personal crisis, someone suggested I try art therapy. Since it is nonverbal, it taps into a deeper part of us. It was a totally different experience and one that ended up being very beneficial for my healing. I highly recommend it to anyone who might be struggling with a an issue that doesn't seem to be getting anywhere with regular talk therapy.

    • Lizam1 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Victoria BC

      Absolutely:-) Thanks for stopping by.

    • WD Curry 111 profile image

      WD Curry 111 

      6 years ago from Space Coast

      This should be our routine!

    • Lizam1 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Victoria BC

      Thanks pamela 99.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      6 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I think your suggestions are excellent also. I never thought much about art therapy so I have enjoyed reading your interesting hub. Voted up.

    • Lizam1 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Victoria BC

      Thank you Docmo. Appreciate your comments and voting up.

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 

      6 years ago from UK

      This is a brilliant suggestion Lizam1- I have recommended similar therapies for mild to moderate reactive stresses and people have found them very beneficial during the acute phases as well as for longer term recovery. It is nice to see a hub full of wonderful suggestions and practical exercises. voted up/awesome.

    • Lizam1 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Victoria BC

      Thanks prarieprincess art therapy is effective in all types of settings with all types of people - the profession hasn't however had as much recognition as I think it deserves.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 

      6 years ago from Canada

      The idea of art a therapy is interesting, and I agree with it. I think art, and creativity in general, can be excellent healing tools. I have read case studies where psychologists used art to reach their child patients. It can very powerful. Thanks for the interesting read.


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