Experts recommend getting creative as a way to ease emotional distress caused by physical isolation during the continuing pandemic.

More than just a way to pass the time, research studies show that art and other creative outlets can help reduce anxiety for improved mental health. While travel continues to be restricted for essential services due to the coronavirus, and as stress increases in advance of end-of-semester finals, art may offer multiple benefits.

Struggling with mental health during this time is normal and no one should feel alone, said Sehresh Saleem, who recently completed a Ph.D. in genetics at Texas A&M.

“Isolation can be stressful and increases anxiety,” Saleem said.

Saleem said she encourages everyone to participate in creative activities no matter their mental health status because of the benefits it provides for everyone.

“Creative activities allow us to apply ourselves in a manner different than our normal activities,” Saleem said. “They ease stress, allow us to explore our imaginations and have the capacity to take our mind elsewhere, away from the stressful routine of our daily lives.”

Creativity and art help ease the mind when people are experiencing negative thought processes, said artist Bryn Beausoleil. A recent graduate from the University of Texas, Beausoleil explained how art has been positive for her mental health

“I think being creative has helped a lot with my mental health while in isolation,” Beausoleil said. “Being creative is emotional by nature, and addressing your emotions is key to making this time of crisis bearable. It’s comforting to know that I can entertain myself, but I’ve also appreciated having the time to just enjoy my creativity.”

Beausoleil added that creativity is different for everyone.

“I always recommend sketching!” Beausoleil said. “You don’t have to put any thought into it. Just mindlessly drawing for 10 minutes is a fun and stress-free exercise for warming up the creative muscles.”

For Annie Lafon, creative outlets benefit her mental health while an undergraduate at Liberty University, and it also produces income from selling her art.

“This creative outlet has helped my mental health by giving me something to do,” Lafon said. “It has allowed me to be productive while also doing something that I enjoy. I struggle with Major Depressive Disorder, so I was worried about how this pandemic would impact my symptoms.

“However, I have been managing my symptoms fairly well and I think art has really helped with that,” Lafon said. “The positive response to my artwork has also helped my mental health by encouraging me and affirming my talents.”

The Centers for Disease Control recommend that anyone who is experiencing emotional distress reach out to mental health resources. It’s also important to check up on others within the community during stressful times. At A&M, all students have access to a range of mental health resources through Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS).

CAPS encourages all students who are experiencing mental health challenges — including anxiety heading into finals — to visit caps.tamu.edu. In addition to a number of self-help options, any student can request an appointment for initial phone consultations and telecounseling, according to the website.

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