August 25, 2020

Feeling stressed? The arts can help.

Let’s get real. This year has been tougher than most. We are all facing new challenges as a result of COVID-19. How many of us are navigating the complex role of being homeschool parents? How many of us canceled our vacation plans? How many of us are (still) working from home or have had financial impacts as a result of the health crisis? How many of us have had a morning where you just didn’t feel like leaving the bed? 

Yuna Horie | No Matter How We Are Different
Yuna Horie, No Matter How We Are Different, 2019, Collage

It’s OK. You aren’t alone. We are all allowed to feel these ups and downs, and what gets us through each day is our resilience. Resilience is the ability to adapt to stressful or challenging events. Those with greater resilience tend to bounce back more quickly than those who have less developed resilience. Times like this really test our resilience, so how do you build resilience? One way is through the arts.  

Numerous studies attribute the growth of resilience through the participation in the arts. From older adults  to youth living with developmental disabilities, experiencing and engaging in the arts can build the “Cs” of resilience, listed as confidence, competence, connection, character, contribution, coping, and control.  

Memory Lounge uses the arts to support the mental wellness of adults with mild to moderate dementia and their care partners. Photo: Scottsdale Arts.

Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation understands the importance of resilience in fostering a healthy community, and we strive to ensure all programs include opportunities for participants to build this important skill. But you don’t necessarily have to attend any of these programs to benefit yourself. Below are some tips to help you build your resilience during these challenging times.  

Express Yourself

In Poetry: Personal to Performance residencies, middle school students discover ways to express themselves through spoken word. As a result of this program, more than 90% of students say they feel more confident after participating in the workshop.  

A middle school student performs a piece of spoken word poetry she wrote through the Poetry: Personal to Performance program. Photo: Scottsdale Arts

Try it! Take 20 minutes and write what you are feeling. Don’t focus on it being a masterpiece; just get words down on paper. This study found that adults who participated in regular expressive writing activities not only showed immediate decreases in physical stress levels, but that decrease was felt as much as six weeks later. 

Set Goals for Yourself 

A key to building resilience is one’s ability to set and achieve goals. In Visions, students are not only asked to participate in workshops, but also create a new work to be exhibited in the Center Space gallery at the end of the year. Results indicate that students not only become stronger leaders back at school, but to date, 100% of these teens have graduated high school (the rate in Arizona is 78%). Graduation is one of the most crucial goals for any teen.   

Visions students use lighting to convey mood in portraits. Photo: Scottsdale Arts.

Try it! Set a small, personal goal for yourself this week—something you know you can achieve. Clean out your fridge or organize your closet. Better yet, push yourself creatively and accomplish one artful goal like writing or drawing.

Reward Yourself

You must allow yourself to take time FOR yourself. One way to do this is to look at something beautiful. When we look at or listen to things that are beautiful, our brain reacts and releases dopamine. It triggers the same feeling when you are in love or eat chocolate. Studies also show that just looking at art slows our heart rate and decreases stress.  

Gerard Curtis Delano (United States, 1890–1972) 
The Open Range 
Oil on board 
28 1/4  X 33 1/4 IN. 

Try it! Block a mindfulness moment in your calendar and look at a work of art from SMoCA’s collection, or join us for one of Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts’ Summer Streams and enjoy a live music event.

The arts are much more than a creative outlet. They improve the mental and social wellbeing for all ages. Photo: Betty Hum Photography.

For more tips on building resilience, check out the American Psychological Association’s tip sheet. Or just book a program with us. Your brain will thank you for it.

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