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Colleges turn to coloring books to de-stress students

In the age of safe spaces and trigger warnings comes another new trend to the college repertoire: coloring books. This fall, campuses nationwide are offering coloring books to students to help them de-stress.

At American University on Monday, its counseling center provided coloring sheets in honor of Healthy Campus Week, noting on its Facebook page that adult coloring books “can help with a number of emotional and mental health issues.” Conditions cited include obsessive-compulsive, eating, anxiety and depressive disorders, as well as anger management and substance abuse issues.

“The time and focus that adult coloring takes helps the individual remove the focus from the negative issues and habits, and focus them in a safe and productive way,” the AU center stated.

Likewise, the University of Wyoming offers an “Art-Well” program, designed to “color your stress away,” its website states, adding “Coloring pages and colors are provided. We offer scheduled Art-Well times, but if you can’t make those, come to the Wellness Center Zen Den any time on your own.”

On tap at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is “StressLess Days.” Held monthly on Wednesdays, the university will provide coloring in addition to other “crafts and games” to help students unwind.

According to Northcentral University Professor Mary Jill Blackwell, “Coloring is like meditation because it encourages engagement with the present moment. When we focus on the present moment, we do not worry about the future, ruminate about the past, or engage in negative self talk.”

Adult coloring books have taken off recently, becoming a trend outside campus first. An estimated 12 million were sold in 2015, up from the 1 million sold the previous year, The Washington Post reports.

Now several universities — which have also been known to offer napping rooms, opportunities to frolic with puppies, yoga, chair massages and other de-stressers — have added coloring books to the mix.

Brown University notoriously offered coloring books as part of its safe space room in 2015. But now coloring books are just another way to de-stress students.

Before finals last semester, UC San Diego offered “De-Stress Coloring Night.” All the materials were provided to students who sought “a night full of relaxation and coloring,” its Facebook page stated.

And “Color Me Calm: Adult Coloring in the University Library” at the University of Nebraska-Omaha during last school year saw a huge turnout, according to organizers.

“We went from 63 participants and no partnerships to 110 participants and collaborations with 10 other campus programs within the
academic year,” organizers reported. “Our future coloring events include participating in DeStress Fest at scheduled times as well as leaving the supplies out for people to use at the make-n-take stations during other library events.”

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