Take a Break for Art During Finals

Final exams. The dreadful words are enough to send college students everywhere into a state of distress. While in high school, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas often meant holiday decorations, festive food, and snow days. In college, however, this period of time is typically chaotic, with the end of classes yielding a pile of final essays, tests, and projects. With sleep deprivation and increasing stress, you may be left feeling overwhelmed. During a time that can be physically, emotionally, and mentally taxing, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself. One way to do so? Take a break for art. Here are a few ideas for managing college life pressures:

  1. Listen to some of your favorite music.

Music can have a huge impact on your mood and emotions. Upbeat music can set an energetic and positive tone, while music with a slower tempo can be calming and used for relaxation. Plan periodic breaks when studying and take a few moments to listen to your favorite tunes to destress.

  1. Write a thank you note.

Focusing on thoughts of gratitude can help put you in a positive mindset, and writing a card or letter is an excellent way to express appreciation for someone’s help. Thank a friend or parent for their support throughout the semester. Maybe even thank a professor who has had an impact on you (though consider the best time to give it to them).

  1. Draw or paint a picture.

Regardless of how “good” or “bad” you may be, drawing and painting can be good ways to reduce stress. Drawing and painting hold some of the benefits of meditation, and when you’re finished being engrossed in your art, you might have a more focused mindset to tackle your schoolwork or other problems.

  1. Jot down your thoughts, stresses, or ideas.

Consider taking a pen to paper in documenting goals, daily events, or feelings. If you feel guilty about taking time away from studying, make a list of what needs to be accomplished and use it as a to-do list.

  1. Color.

While the adult coloring book trend seems to have dwindled in the past few years, coloring is still a great relaxation activity. Coloring involves both logic and creativity. It can provide a distraction from stress and be a form of meditation for some people.

  1. Rearrange or clean your room.

Tired of your usual environment? Consider rearranging some furniture, getting rid of old things, or adding new decorations (with permission from your roommate, of course). Put up positive affirmations, photos, or artwork to contribute to a comfortable atmosphere. Cleaning can be a way take your mind off of schoolwork while still being productive, while rearranging can appeal to your more creative side.

  1. Play around with playdough.

Grab some clay from the store or make your own playdough for an emotional outlet. The squishy, malleable dough is a highly sensory medium that can be used for unleashing tension. For additional stress relief, you can add essential oils for some aromatherapy.

These are just some of many simple endeavors that could provide relaxation during a very stressful time. Whether it’s artistic or not, consider taking a break from studying once in awhile to recoup and destress.

Bold Folds: The Art of Origami

Autumn is in the air. In the tap-tapping of boots on pavement; in the crackle of falling leaves; in the rumbling roar of maize-wearing Wolverines. Trees hang heavy with apples, ripe for picking. Coffeehouses waft invitations of pumpkin spice and cinnamon out into the streets. And then, there’s the chill – a blessing and curse at the same time. Some days are energetic. Grab a scarf and a walking companion and the cold disappears. But other days are drizzly, gray, and frankly, a bit seasonally depressing. When days like those hit, why not grab some perfectly patterned square bits of paper and fold away the stress of classes and decorate your room at the same time?

This past summer, while at home rummaging around the craft closet for school supplies, I came across an old packet of Origami paper and felt my childhood flash back. The hours I could spend, practicing patience, dedicating a long-attention span to folding and unfolding paper, to licking and nursing the cuts on my fingers. The pleasure of creating a menagerie of cranes, penguins, dragons, rabbits, fish, foxes, elephants, (but mostly cranes), and set them up on the table before me. Made from my own hand.

I remembered reading the children’s book, “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” by Eleanor Coerr, for a first grade book report project. An inspirational book, indeed, that makes you want to go out and make something, do something, to put a smile on someone else’s face. My mom and I had toiled away to make a crane for each student in the class, and it was all worth the effort.

With such good memories folded neatly in my brain, I decided to bring the packet of multi-colored pre-cut squares with me to college this year. Every once in a while, I take out a sheet, put on a YouTube tutorial video, and focus on the folds – a great distraction from homework.

The word ‘origami’ comes from the Japanese ‘ori’ meaning folding and ‘kami’ which means paper. The art of paper folding is mostly credited to the sixth-century Japanese monks who created simple, religious designs for Shinto ceremonies. Paper folding spread around the world, to Spain, the Middle East, Britain and the US, and continues to be a flourishing art form today.

One of the great marvels of origami is that all it requires is one piece of square paper. Pre-cut squares, some plain-colored, some patterned, can be bought at craft and stationery shops for $1-4, depending on the paper count. Not too crippling an expense when you consider that no glue, scissors or tape are necessary! Ingenuity and patience is all that’s needed, that and some good, clear instructions.

Most origami packs come with some poorly drawn step-by-step instructions. But, we’re in the digital age and can and should take advantage of YouTube videos (it’s loaded with them!) and dedicated websites like origami-instructions.com and origami.me. The trick is to master a few basic folds (inside and outside reverse, the petal fold, the valley and mountain fold) and a couple of bases (bird base, diamond base, kite base) and then a world of paper folding will, dare I say it, unfold for you. Soon you will be surrounded by ninja stars, hopping frogs and lotus flowers.

The great thing is that origami can be as private as you want it to be. No one has to know if your rabbit looks more like an earless rat. The art is in the doing and the concentration, the manual labor, the effort. Frustration and mistakes may come, but that’s all part of the art process. Of course, once you’ve mastered the crane, you will always have a party trick up your sleeve. A paper napkin can, with a bit of dexterity, be transformed into a thing of wonder! Your friends’ jaws will drop as you crease and sculpt and reveal a creature whose wings flap when they tug its tail.

And who knows? One day, you could be like Florigami founder and origami artist, Floriane Toultou!

Floriane Toultou’s “Silver Unicorn” (via goodstuffhappenedtoday)

So let the scarves, the autumn days, and your stress unfold – and indulge yourself in a little bit of paper magic. You’ll be glad you did!