example of painting a scribble pattern

4 Simple Art Exercises To Help You Manage Stress and Find Calm

After a particularly stressful day, sometimes we want a healthy way to unwind and calm your mind. Here are several easy art exercises to help you manage stress or anxiety. Any of these can help you find calm and you’ll quickly find yourself in a better state of mind. They’re all very simple. The goal here isn’t to create something incredible, the goal is to calm your mind. Just remember to take it slow.

If you find yourself speeding up, put down your pen or brush, stretch and take a couple of deep breaths and try again. (*Note the GIFs on this post are showing at 6x the normal rate (in fast-forward), so you want to move much slower than these.)

Slow doodle

This can be done using a simple pen and any piece of paper. You might consider putting this in some sort of journal or sketchbook. You can repeat this practice time and again whenever you’re experiencing heavy stress. I think you’ll find it very calming and fairly immediate.

Doodle a simple shape. Just one small shape in the corner of the page. Now repeat it. Slowly, again and again. Fill the page or create a design of your shapes.  

Be intentional about your shape and size. I can change up my size to fill in the gaps but try my best to keep the same shape.

Paint a scribble

Take a smudge-proof / waterproof pen (a Sharpie works great!) and scribble a random design on some mixed media paper. Then, take some watercolors or 2-5 different colors of acrylics and a small paintbrush and slowly fill in each smaller shape in your design. The small brush will force you to go slow and take your time filling up the spaces.

The key here is to go slow. Try to stay in the lines (if you go out, that’s ok). I like to use more calming colors, but you can use whichever colors speak to you (and don’t worry whether or not they “go together”).


Grab 4-6 of some favorite paint colors. Use them alternately to paint different sizes of squares and rectangles on your page. Fill the entire page. Challenge yourself not to have many of the same colors next to each other. Keep trying to fill in all the gaps with smaller squares until you feel like you’re finished. Be sure to take deep breaths between each square!

Draw in the dark

This sounds really weird, I know. But, if you sketch something and you can’t see what you’re sketching, it helps you remove any expectation of perfection. It’s quite liberating!

Pick an object (whether you’re looking at it or just pick something in your imagination). Think about it for a minute. Now grab a pencil and a piece of paper (this is good to keep in your art journal too!) and draw it. Whether it’s an outline or you want to go all out with every detail, draw it… in the dark so you can’t see the paper.

Use these simple art exercises to help you manage stress or anxiety after a tiring day. You’ll find yourself in a much calmer state of mind. Let me know if this helps you!

Check out the full course of stress-relieving art exercises! Calm the Mind is a simple, but powerful collection of instructional videos that will help you forget about external pressures and relax. What makes it even more appealing? It requires minimal supplies and each exercise is less than 20 minutes.

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