A migraine-friendly hobby

My husband is a bargain hunter, especially when it comes to crafting supplies. His volunteer activities with Boy Scouts has given him a lot of opportunities to explore Native American hand crafts such a loom beading and hand-crafting fancy dance attire. Most of the time he shops the specialty catalog suppliers. Occasionally he does find bargains at hobby stores, too. Quite a while ago he signed up for the Michael's email list. Although he complains that they are over-priced, he still begs me to go shopping with him at least once a month when he has a 50% off coupon.

We have an unspoken understanding about these shopping trips. I help him find whatever he is looking for. Then I help myself to whatever treasures I find. Most of the time it's more paper, embellishments, stickers, or sometimes a new scrapbook album. During our last visit, I discovered a new reason to tag along.

Coloring Books

These are not your run-of-the-mill cartoon character coloring books. They are made for adults. The books are thick and each page is an intricate design. Books are themed, too. You can even download and print coloring pages online for free. That's what I've been doing for months, mostly because I have been too sick to go shopping.

During that last shopping trip, I was headed for the checkout counter with a box of acrylic paint when an end cap display caught my eye. There among the bargain coloring books was a lone copy of Johanna Basford's The Secret Garden. I snatched it up, not caring what the price might be, and got in line. When it was my turn, I sat the items on the counter with one of my husband's 50% off coupons.

"That coupon can't be used for coloring books, ma'am," the cashier explain.

That didn't surprise me. Michael's never has coupons for the really good stuff. "The coupon is for the paint. I want the book no matter what", I assured her. I've never spent $15 on a coloring book before and likely won't again. Yet in that moment, it felt right. It still does.

It's good self-care.

It's a growing trend to color as a means of relaxation and mindfulness. Some people even claim that it is a form of art therapy, yet many prominent art therapists are dismissing the idea. So I decided to reach out to a former colleague who is a Registered Art Therapist. She couldn't point me to any research on the subject because it's really too new. However, she did say that she recommends coloring and finds it a useful stress management tool. Her opinion supports many others I have received over the years.

My first experience with coloring as an adult starting during my first job after earning my Bachelor's degree. I worked as a Shelter Advocate for a local domestic violence shelter. During a staff in-service, the guest speaker shared a lot of creative ways to manage stress. After all, it wasn't exactly a stress-free work environment! I remembered how much I loved to color as a child. With a little encouragement, I embraced my inner child and went shopping for crayons and coloring books.

Getting lost in the moment

The first thing I discovered was that the sensations of coloring brought back pleasant childhood memories of bonding with favorite aunts and my grandmother. It was a full sensory experience. The smell of colored wax, the texture of the pages, even the sound a crayon makes when it breaks – all of it evoked a sense of wonder. Time stood still when I colored a page. It was a beautiful, nourishing way to let go of all the hassles of life.

Building a legacy

It also motivated me to ensure that my daughter would have opportunities for creative expression. A few years later we bonded over crayons, too. 22 years later, she is now an artist and hairstylist with a specialty in corrective color. She grew up with art as a stress management tool and I hope she never loses it. It won't be much longer before my granddaughter will be ready for coloring time. Spending a lazy afternoon creating beautiful art with her is a pleasure I look forward to.

A mindfulness tool

Have you ever watched a child who is coloring? Typically they get lost in the moment. The child might hum or whistle a tune, swing their feet, or talk to themselves. They choose their colors carefully. Nothing else matters except creating their masterpiece. Have you ever tried to interrupt a coloring child? Instinctively they protect that time. Coloring time has a sacred quality. It's a beautiful way to shut out the world.

I can get lost in the intricate details of adult coloring pages and forget all my troubles. It's a great way to get that much-needed break from the daily hassles of life. Whenever I find myself worrying about things I can't control or I struggle to stay focused, I take some time to pull out my colored pencils, markers, or crayons and get lost in the world of coloring.

Migraine robs us of so many pleasures. Coloring is one hobby that won't set off a raging attack. It's not like sewing, where I risk the very real possibility of several unfinished projects. There are no loud noises, strong smells, bright lights, or forbidden foods. I can start and stop whenever my brain allows. There is no deadline, no goal, and nobody checking to see if I finished. I can enjoy coloring alone or in the presence of loved ones. It's even better when they join in the fun.

Have you tried coloring?

How did affect your ability to cope with stress?

Is it something you would do again?

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