Colour me super fucking stressed out

The colouring craze

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]f you asked me a year ago how I felt about colouring, I would have said it’s a pastime for kids and nothing more. But a few months ago, I gave in to what I consider the biggest fad of 2015, and bought an adult colouring book. I was almost embarrassed, being a 21-year-old woman, walking up to the checkout at Indigo, and buying a colouring book from another grown woman.

Since then, however, I have been colouring my woes away, using bright blues and rich reds to fill in the lines of mandalas and intricate patterns. And I’m no trailblazer by any means. In fact, I joined this trend quite late. I wouldn’t be surprised if half the students in your early morning lecture have been going home after class, only to open up one of these books to a partially-coloured swirly cloud.

I worked at a bookstore over the holiday season, and I can attest to how fast these books flew off the shelf. There were multiple instances over the course of the holiday season where we nearly sold out entirely.

Art as therapy

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] love my colouring book, but it has helped me deny the fact that I am too tightly wound and that I need professional help to get my emotional health back on track. Colouring is, and has been, a way for me to temporarily subdue the tension that I carry day to day. But as soon as I put the pencil crayons away, I’m left to deal with the problems from which I’ve been hiding.

And I refuse to believe I am the only one that has had this experience. Some of the most popular titles of these books read Colour Me Calm and Colour Me Happy. One of the reasons these colouring books have become so popular is that they have branded themselves as a way for adults young and old to relax, and find some peace of mind. But this branding should raise some red flags for us.

Adult colouring books, while a fun pastime, are masking the real problem we should be talking about: an alarming amount of young adults are suffering from high levels of stress and anxiety.

 

I have used colouring to avoid confronting my growing stress and anxiety.

 

Colouring between the lines

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hile colouring may seem like nothing but a hobby, there is more to this fad than meets the eye. I couldn’t help to think to myself, one afternoon while I was shading some leaves green with quite a bit of force, that I colour when I feel anxious. And in a way, I have used colouring to avoid confronting my growing stress and anxiety.

If this were the case for me, I couldn’t help but think that there are others sharing my experience. Maybe there is a whole generation of people turning to soothing designs in order to avoid confronting the real problem: that we are all super fucking stressed out. A few years ago the Canadian Organization of University and College Health conducted a survey and found that 90 per cent of students felt overwhelmed and 50 per cent reported feeling hopeless within the past school year.

I wanted to be able to report more recent, SFU-centric numbers, but after having a short conversation with a woman from SFU Health and Counseling, I’ve discovered no such report exists. SFU students were last surveyed about their mental health in 2010, and were left out entirely in the 2013 national survey conducted by the Canadian Organization of University and College Health. Simply put, we have no idea just how stressed out SFU students are. But historically speaking, we’re a pretty stressed out campus. In 2010, nearly 84 per cent of students reported feeling overwhelmed.

The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) tried to gauge how comfortable SFU students were with accessing health and counseling services on campus, and if that we as students felt that SFU was creating a supportive environment in their 2014 survey. While a majority of students felt comfortable taking advantage of the services offered at SFU (63 per cent), only 46 per cent of students felt that SFU was creating a “supportive environment” to minimize stress.

Colour on, but don’t be afraid to seek help

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter my realization that I may have to actually confront my stress, rather than just hide from it, I was without direction. It was tough for me to ask myself what to do about my anxiety, even tougher than asking others.

I decided ending my relationship with my colouring book probably wasn’t the answer. It is, after all, a pastime I enjoy.

The advice I gave myself is what I want to relay to all you other extremely anxious colourers: don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is only so much these activity books can do for us. Take a step back and evaluate your stress level. Letting fads like adult colouring books mask this growing social crisis won’t do us any favors. Young adults today are way too stressed out. We should be able to enjoy our youth, and not live in a constant state of panic.

While SFU may not be able to provide us with the numbers, they have in recent years been trying to develop the services available to students. There are a variety of online tools that can help students learn about how sleep and diet would improve their mental health, and of course in-person service such as counseling, which are free for students.

There is nothing wrong with acknowledging you need help dealing with your anxieties. Don’t be afraid to speak up.