Coloring Therapy Helps Ease Patients’ Stress

Image courtesy of UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.

To treat her leukemia, Sandy Gantt receives infusions of chemotherapy for hours on end, day after day. But she’s found one thing that transports her from that reality to a less stressful place.

“Coloring is a nice, soothing distraction from treatment,” she said. “I get lost in it, and it gets me away from my worries.”

Gantt is participating in the University of California UC) Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center’s initiative to help patients manage stress during cancer treatment. In addition to movies and card games to help pass time, patients can now pick up coloring supplies and pages from adult coloring books.

Coloring books are among the latest anti-stress trends and, according to experts, help people in many settings.

Coloring reduces stress by activating the brain’s right hemisphere, said Kathleen Lorain, an art therapist who facilitates creative projects at the UC Davis Medical Center to help pediatric patients, their siblings, and their parents cope with stress.

“When we are stressed or worried, we activate the left side of our brain, which is responsible for analytical and cognitive processes,” she explained. “But when we color, we switch gears and access the right side of the brain—the creative, artistic region,” which quiets the left part, allows creativity to take over, and blocks out worries.

Lorain added that the process of creating something helps return control to the patient, which is critical in the clinical setting where patients can feel powerless and unproductive.

This article was adapted from information provided by UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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