3 Anxiety-Reducing Art Exercises


Did you know that 18% of adults in the US are affected by an anxiety disorder?

Whether you have been formally diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, or simply identify with some of the symptoms, as humans, we all have moments where we feel anxious, nervous, overwhelmed, and stressed. Anxiety disrupts your life and can leave you feeling ungrounded. My intention with this post is to provide a brief list of short art directives you can do at home to lower your stress level and reduce your anxiety, so you can return to the demands of your life, feeling a little more clear-headed and present.

These examples are done in black and white media, so the focus is on the task, rather than on choosing colors to make a pretty picture. To step things up a notch, you could play some soft background music, light a candle, and/or dab some lavender aromatherapy oil on your temples.

1. The Dot Method

The Dot Method Example

Jessica Jane Lynch, an art therapist in Southern California developed The Dot Method following research for her Master’s Thesis. She found that repetitive dot-making decreased anxiety and promoted a relaxation response in her clients by lowering their heart rates, lowering their blood pressure, and stabilizing their breathing.


Time: 10 Minutes


Art Experience Needed: Ability to hold and move a pencil

The Dot Method Example #2



The eraser end of a #2 pencil

A black stamp pad

A blank sheet of paper


Directions: Check in with yourself. On a scale of when to ten (with ten being the highest), how stressed or anxious are you feeling in this moment?

Set a timer for 10 minutes. During this time, create an artwork using the eraser end of your pencil to make dots on your paper, whichever way you choose.

At the end of the ten minutes, check in with yourself again. Has your number decreased? Did the pace or pressure at which you applied your dots affect how relaxed you felt during the activity? If you enjoyed this activity, make note of what worked and what didn’t for future reference.


2. Concentric Circle Drawings

Mandalas (circular drawings) are well-known to promote relaxation and healing, and have been used a form of mediation for centuries. The circle, in and of itself, is a powerful symbol of wholeness, connection, continuity, cycles and unity. Within a circle, there is no beginning and no ending. Drawing concentric circles, or circles within circles, is another way to lower your anxiety levels, in a similar fashion to creating a mandala.

Time: 10-20 Minutes

Art Experience Needed: Ability to hold and move a pencil, and the ability to draw a circle.


A black sharpie marker (a ballpoint or gel pen or a pencil will also work)

A blank sheet of paper

Directions: Set a timer for at least ten minutes. Using a sharpie or other writing tool, draw a small circle on your paper. Draw a circle around that circle. Draw another circle around those two circles. Continue until you run out of space. Choose another place on your paper and repeat. Don’t stop until you run out of time.

Concentric Circle Drawings

As you can see, your circles don’t have to be perfect. Keep going.

Your circles can be as big or as small as you would like. They can overlap, or be in their own space. Your art does not have to look like my art. There is no wrong or right way to make your art, just draw circles within other circles until your time is up. Notice how you feel before and after the exercise–and remember to breathe!

3. Continuous Line Drawings

Drawing is not something that is typically regarded as relaxing, especially if you are just getting the hang of this art stuff. But what if you could draw without every really making anything, where the purpose is just to make a mark on the page?

A continuous line drawing is drawing without lifting your pen. In this exercise, we do not have an end goal–or final picture– in mind.

Time: 10 Minutes

Art Experience Needed: Ability to hold and move a pencil


A writing tool (a ballpoint or gel pen or a pencil)

A blank sheet of paper

Directions: Take a deep breath. Set your timer for ten minutes. Place your pen on the paper and draw. Do not stop or lift up your pen until your timer goes off. It’s okay if what you have on your page is nothing more than a scribble. How do you feel? Take deep breath before resuming your day.

Here’s a 2 minute video to demonstrate the process.

I hope you find these techniques helpful. I’m interested in hearing about your experiences–what worked, what didn’t, any alterations you made to the directions, etc. Send me an email, if you would like to share: kgilmore@mountaincreativearts.com