Art: Suzan Colon

We’ve shared a lot of studies with you about how drawing can benefit your brain and help you relax. But recently, Sketchbook Skool blog editor Suzan Colón went from posting statistics to first-hand experience when she drew her way through an anxious time. Here’s her story:

During SuperStorm Sandy, our neighborhood was flooded with four feet of water coursing through the streets. We’d been through heavy storms before, but none like this. The wind was screaming, car alarms were shrieking as the floodwaters jostled each vehicle. Then the power went out. We were prepared with flashlights and enough candles to last the day or two we thought we’d be in the dark. We didn’t know we wouldn’t have power again for 19 days.

We fared a lot better than people in other areas, but there were some rough moments. We lost a lot of photos, keepsakes, and journals we’d kept in a basement storage area. Between throwing away our family memories and being in the dark, it was a very stressful time.

Since then, during a storm or a power outage, that stress comes back to me. Even though I know the power will be on again soon, I become anxious. My breathing gets shallow. Intellectually I know that nothing’s really wrong, but the panicky feelings still rise up, just like those floodwaters.

A week ago, my husband and I were having dinner and poof! The lights went out. The apartment building across the street was also in the dark, along with some others down the way. “It’s just a power outage,” Nathan said. We lit the candles. We got out the special torch flashlights and our headlamps. And I started to get anxious. I tried unsuccessfully to talk myself out of it. Then I decided to do an experiment.

After writing so many times in the Sketchbook Skool blog about how drawing relaxes people, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to do my own independent study. I’d already watched Veronica Lawlor’s lesson from A Drawing A Day earlier, when the power was still on, so I knew the assignment was about drawing different textures. I picked difficult subjects—a hairbrush and a knitted hat. I set up a flashlight nearby and got out my pens and sketchbook.

I got lost in sketching the stitches of the hat. Part of me was just drawing, and part of me was aware that my breathing was steady and calm. I wasn’t thinking about the power being out, or remembering anything from Sandy. I was completely immersed in the drawing, making the marks that would represent the stitches and repeating them, noting the variations, and starting the next row.

I was almost finished when the apartment was suddenly flooded with light. My first thought was surprise at how far I’d gotten in the drawing. Then came relief about the power being back on. I wasn’t thrilled about having to feel anxious during another power outage, but I’m happy to be able to say that what we write about here is true: Learning to draw really can change your life, one beautiful moment at a time.

You might also like: Study Shows That Drawing Is Good for Your Brain

5 Reasons Your Brain Wants You to Draw

Drawing and Meditation

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Featured image: Suzan Colón

Filed under categories: Inspiration