Can Art Therapy Help Reduce Burnout?

Neil Kiggen shares how art can help you manage your stress and reduce your chances of experiencing burnout.

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Burnout is a massive problem in today’s society. Up to 40 percent of the US workforce believes they are experiencing some symptoms of burnout. Art therapy is an inexpensive, accessible treatment, but does it work to reduce the likelihood of burnout? Let’s explore!

What is burnout? 

Burnout is officially recognized as an occupational phenomenon and is defined as a syndrome resulting from chronic stress. There are many different symptoms of burnout, including lack of focus, reduced efficiency, irritability, trouble sleeping, utter exhaustion, as well as a myriad of other physical symptoms.

What exactly is art therapy?

Art therapy is a type of psychotherapy that involves the application of the visual arts. Art therapy can be done with a licensed therapist in an individual or group setting, or by oneself. Types of art therapy include sketching, journaling, painting, sculpting, making collages, among many others. 

Can art therapy help reduce the likelihood of burnout?

Since burnout is the result of chronic stress, to discover if art therapy can reduce the likelihood of burnout, we must know if art therapy is effective at reducing stress levels. 

A study published in 2016 by Drexel University found that art is effective at reducing stress hormones, regardless of one’s artistic ability. About 75 percent of the participants in the study showed a reduction in cortisol after just 45 minutes of making art. There was no correlation between the reduction of stress and the participant’s level of artistic experience. Several other studies have reported similar findings. 

If art therapy can reduce stress (which it has been proven to), then it follows that art therapy can effectively reduce the likelihood of burnout. 

How can art therapy help you?

While it may be beneficial to work with a licensed therapist, taking advantage of the many benefits of art therapy is as easy is creating art at home. If you don’t consider yourself artistic or don’t have much experience, start by exploring various mediums to find what is most enjoyable to you. It doesn’t matter which route you choose or whether or not you perceive your art to be “good” — the process is the only thing that matters. 

If you make an art practice a regular part of your routine, you will feel better, be less stressed, and you will be less likely to experience the many unpleasant symptoms of burnout. 

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