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Releasing stress with every brushstroke

October 4, 2017

KOKOMO, Ind. —  Midterms. Just the mention of the word can send shivers down the spine of any student.

To help students learn to combat and mitigate stress in productive ways, Indiana University Kokomo has crafted a full week of activities called the Midterm Meltdown. On Tuesday, October 3, 71 students took a purposeful break out of their day to attend Cookies and Canvas, an event blending art therapy with a sweet treat. 

“I thought it would be fun to come and take a break from classes, especially as it gets stressful with midterms,” said Jordan Asher, a sophomore majoring in English.

To begin, Brooke Komar, registered art therapist and visiting lecturer of psychology, asked students to lay down on the ground and close their eyes while she led them through a guided relaxation. As students got comfortable lying beside their chairs on top of the fallen leaves, they were encouraged to turn their attention to their body, scanning it mentally from the top of their heads to the tip of their toes in search of any place holding stress or tension.

As they connected their mind and body, Komar encouraged students to consider the source of their stress. After some time to meditate, Komar asked them to take the tension and mentally transform it into a color and a shape. Their musing from this exercise then became the muse of their painting.

“Most of us don’t take the time to just rest and notice things,” said Komar.

Beth Barnett, director of Counseling and Psychological Serivces (CAPS), wasn’t surprised at the number of students who participated. 

“It gives students another means of communication so they can express themselves,” Barnett said. “All students are different and unique, so there are students that maybe don’t express themselves as well verbally as they might through something like art.”

As the students moved on to the painting portion, colorful explosions came to life on the blank canvases. Some had mixtures of bright, vibrant colors spilling all over each other while others had subtle mixtures of tints of blues and greys, all different visual representations of some kind of tension in their lives.

Midterm Meltdown coincides with a national movement.

“We chose this week because it’s Mental Health Awareness Week and we wanted to share how important we think it is for everyone to focus on their mental health,” Kate Aguilar, coordinator of student life and campus diversity and one of the minds behind Midterm Meltdown.

For Nicolas Huff, a freshman majoring in marketing and management, this event tied in perfectly with his personal interests and the things he was learning in class.

“We’ve actually been looking at different learning methods in class, and the group I’m in is called ‘Expressive Therapies’ where we learn other ways to relieve stress. I’ve always been intrigued with music therapy and I wanted to explore different ways to alleviate stress.”

The students walked away from the event perhaps a little lighter and with a painting to remind them that stress can be dealt with in all kinds of productive ways.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 10/04/2017