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Painting as a Stress Reliever for Cancer Patients

Cancer is one of the most stressful diseases an individual may experience. Coping with this disease has significant challenges, especially if coupled with other life stressors, for instance, from work, finances, and family. Despite the body’s ability to fight the disease, chronic stress often weakens the immune system enhancing susceptibility to more health problems. In a bid to reduce the occurrence of stress while experiencing cancer, several patients engage in activities that relax the mind and body. Painting, for instance, has been proven to relieve stress while fighting cancer. Other than relaxation against treatment anxiety and fear, art promotes the understanding of emotions crucial during the treatment of cancer. This paper illuminates the various ways painting serves as a stress reliever for those experiencing cancer.

First, painting alleviates stress by acting as a distraction to its implementers. Painting takes a patient’s mind from the stressors. Stuckey and Nobel (2010) state that art, for instance, painting offers refuge to patients when cumbered with intense emotions and stress. Patients find it difficult to focus on both creating new objects through painting and also concentrating on their problems. The brain, therefore, opts to focus on art. Patients who struggle with focusing on either their issues and art often incorporate their concerns into their creations, which also clears their minds. Further, painting reduces stress by providing cancer patients with sufficient time and platform to reflect and better accept their diagnosis and develop coping strategies. Koolaee, Vazifehdar, and Bahari (2016), therefore, suggest painting as a therapeutic approach for cancer patients as it reduces aggression and anxiety associated with stress.

Art therapies have, for many years, been identified to provoke neurological changes linked with stress reduction (Martin et al., 2018). Painting initiates a sense of flow, which represents a state of total engagement in the art that leads to meditation. Once a patient meditates on his/her problems, he/she becomes less stressed after the activity. Further, Bilgin, Kirca, and Ozdogan (2018) indicate that painting influences the sections of the midbrain, limbic system, and cortex that contribute to psychological healing. The patients, therefore, establish better cognitive development towards coping with stress. Also, painting contributes to the development of problem-solving skills critical to the tackling of the stressors.

According to Bilgin et al. (2018), art is a kind of language that allows emotions to be better expressed. Painting offers a platform for expression for cancer patients where they manage to symbolize their thoughts and feelings for their kin and therapists to understand their issues better. The illustrations better realize a non-verbal communication that enhances the coping abilities of the patients to their stressors. Further, painting decreases negative emotions that arise from stress and replaces such with positive ones (Martin et al., 2018). Therefore, art initiates an optimistic attitude for patients improving their perception of their illness and life after diagnosis.

In conclusion, cancer and other chronic illness serve as an onset of stress. Coping with such disease diagnosis becomes challenging for patients decreasing the body’s ability to recover. Painting, among other therapy methods, serves as stress relievers for cancer patients. Art accomplishes such through mind relaxation, offering space and time for reflection and meditation, non-verbal communication of feelings and thoughts, and psychological healing. Therefore, therapists ought to recommend painting to their cancer patients for better stress management.

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