Adult coloring can help students manage stress

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BYU student Sarah Pierce shows one of her finished coloring book designs. (Natalie Bothwell)

Coloring books are beginning to relive their glory days as many college students have picked up their childhood hobby to help deal with the pressure and stress of daily life.

The adult coloring book renaissance started for Adrianna Samudio, a BYU junior majoring in family and consumer science education, when she was 14 years old.

“One day I saw one and thought it looked really cool so I picked it up and my love for them has not stopped,” Samudio said. “I think I own at least five books.”

Unlike Samudio, Sarah Pierce, an economics student, bought her first adult coloring book during her study abroad in China in 2015.

“They had this really popular book there called ‘The Secret Garden.’ Apparently it has been around for years so I bought it,” Pierce said. “It was the only one they had and it looked fun.”

Samudio said she uses coloring books because they help her relax.

“When I am stressed and want to escape I will put on an audiobook, music or movie and listen while I color,” Samudio said. “While I color, I feel so absorbed in what I am doing and so it gives me some great time to reflect and think about things.”

It makes sense to use coloring books as a form of relaxation according to Rebecca Watkins, a paraprofessional working at BYU’s Career & Academic Success Center. Watkins said coloring books are an example of a short-term stress management tactic.

“Sometimes short-term fixes are what you need just to get out of the moment, so you can clear your head and then you can go on with your day,” Watkins said.

Coloring books can also be a way to deal with minor health issues for some. When Watkins was on her LDS mission to New Mexico from 2014 to 2015, she met a woman in one of her wards who had bad migraines.

“She had this beautiful coloring book,” Watkins said. “When she had migraines or she would be sick, that is what she would work on.”

Pierce said she can see the benefits of using coloring books as well.

“It helps with stress for sure,” Pierce said. “Especially as a college student, it is good to have de-stressors, and coloring is definitely one of them for me.”

BYU psychology professor Brock Kirwan explained why coloring could be a good de-stressor.

“Coloring might help you relax and reach a state of ‘flow’ where you’re able to focus on just this one activity and block out other distracting thoughts and stimuli,” Kirwan said.

Coloring books for adults are available in a variety of designs. They appeal to many interests, as they are available in floral, mandalas, animal, fantasy and art designs. Harry Potter or Star Wars fans can find coloring books dedicated to the stories.

Samudio said her favorites are the mandalas, Celtic or other intricate designs.

“I like them because there is so much more freedom in coloring them because random designs are just random shapes and swirls and so there is not a ‘traditional’ color that I need to use,” Samudio said.

Although using adult coloring books has become popular over the past several months, some people still find it odd to see a grown-up coloring.

“Sometimes I feel people look at me a little weird for being an adult and coloring, but I don’t mind,” Samudio said. “How I feel — more relaxed and happier while and after I do it — makes it worth all the stares.”