Introducing the Stress Less Pencil

Your weekly guide to using creativity to manage the stress and emotional ups and downs of life.

When I was growing up, I thought being an adult meant you had it all figured out. Life poses no more big surprises, you know how to handle any situation. At 39, I think I can safely say that that’s a load of horse shit.

Tired, Stressed, and Anxious

Each one of us deals with our very own Himalayas of problems, challenges, worries, and stressors every single day. Some are big, like illness and grief, and some are small, like endless work emails or loads of dirty laundry. Or the fact that I keep stubbing my toe on that stupid chair.

We do the best we can, and even though we improvise half the time, most of us manage to hold things together quite well. And we can be very proud of that. But the ups and downs of life, the permanent stressors, and worries can also take a toll on our mental health. Many of us feel tired, stressed, and anxious.

If we are lucky, our parents do our best to prepare us. My father taught me to be creative, and to draw. My mother taught me to cook, do laundry, take care of my finances, and be a good mother. And (I think) they turned me into an overall decent human being. However, what nobody taught me growing up was how to take care of my mental health.

Beer or Pencils?

For most of my twenties and well into my thirties, I dealt with pretty high levels of anxiety. I had no idea. I thought how I felt was normal. Everyone is stressed out at work, right? And everyone always goes to the pub after to relax over a few pints, right?

It wasn’t until years later, that I really understood what was going on. I was stuck in a vicious cycle of anxiety and self-medication-through-party. Continuing on that route would have led me straight to self-harm or alcoholism or both. And I was sure as hell not going to end up there! So I pulled the plug. I quit drinking and smoking and turned to the arts to deal with my restless mind and hands.

As a kid, and even into my teens, I always did a lot of drawing and crafting. I could get totally lost in trying to build a television from cardboard boxes, or spending weeks working on a personalised book for a friend, complete with stories, drawings, and stickers. I love stickers. Over time, I gave up on these hobbies in favour of hanging out, drinking, and partying, and losing endless weekends to dealing with the emotional and physical fallout.

So I decided to turn beer back into drawing, cigarettes into crochet, and binge-watching TV into creating. The positive impact on my mental health, my resilience, my creativity, my energy, and my drive have been amazing.

Some of my creative outlets from over the years

How does the Stress Less Pencil work?

Based on my own experience, continued training, and research, I created this space to help you too to tap into your creativity and to deal with the emotional ups and downs we all face every day. Whether you think you can draw or not doesn’t matter! Let’s get over that pressure, give ourselves permission to make ugly art, and have fun!

Each week, we will use a prompt to draw, journal, paint, collage, or write. Through these prompts, we will get to know ourselves better, and unlock all the benefits that the process of creating can bring to our lives.

All you need is a pen and some paper. If you like, a journal or sketchbook is great to work in and to keep everything together in one place. Or, if you end up like me, you’re also welcome to bring out your entire arsenal of art supplies instead.

Whatever we create here doesn’t have to be good or innovative. It is not meant to be shared or Instagrammed. It is only for you. And I hope it helps you as much as it has helped me.

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