An art therapist shares her favorite anxiety-reducing activities.

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young woman arm-knitting a blanket
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If you aren't already hip to the benefits of art therapy, then now's the time to smarten up. Along with giving you something to focus your mental energy on, a relaxing craft project also has the power to reduce stress and quell anxiety—especially when you're stuck indoors practicing social distancing. "In a time of crisis, where the response to anxiety often can't or shouldn't be an action, we need a safe place for some of that anxious energy to go," says Nora Dankner, an art therapist and psychotherapist at Tribeca Therapy. "Art is a fantastic way to do something creative that gives back to ourselves, and gives the anxious energy a productive place to go."

Searching for a project to help keep you calm and cool throughout the quarantine? We asked Dankner what art and craft activities can instantly soothe your nerves and here's what she had to say.

Consider crochet or knitting.

If you haven't already taken up knitting as a hobby, Dankner says now's the time to start. "Crochet or knitting are excellent projects to take on during periods of 'waiting,'" she explains. "Both are very repetitive in motion, so it's easy to multitask while knitting or crocheting, and when you have a lot of time to transform, there's a comforting and healing way that they become a productive record of that time. Soft materials also have a way of providing comfort during a stressful time."

Make a mixed media-style collage.

A little collage project goes a long way in reducing stress and anxiety. "If you're someone who doesn't feel so confident in their drawing, painting, or art ability, collage is really accessible," Dankner says. "You can make creative use of whatever you have on hand at home (materials can be as simple as catalogues you receive in the mail plus paper, glue, and scissors), and it's kind of like putting together a puzzle where you don't know what the final picture is supposed to be."

Work on a puzzle.

Looking for an entertaining way to keep your mind busy and your anxiety levels low? Dankner suggests working a puzzle. "Putting together puzzles during quarantine is a simple way to feel productive, while keeping your hands occupied—and away from the news on your phone," she says. "I especially recommend puzzles because they're something great to do alone or with others, and are really containing for anxiety because they are in a way a 'problem' that gets solved."

Make your own music.

Make no mistake about it: Playing musical instruments, of any kind, is bound to boost your mood. "At 7 p.m., when frontline health workers change shifts, people are standing in their doorways to cheer, and even that has turned into music in the last week with people using pots and pans with wooden spoons as makeshift instruments," says Dankner. "This creative expression has turned into a moment for people to feel connected with their neighbors and cheer on hope for our healthcare workers. Making something for someone you love and sending it to them is a beautiful way to recharge yourself, and give a boost of love and morale to them too."

Revisit crafts you enjoyed as a kid.

If there's a craft or an art medium you loved as a child, Dankner says to consider picking it up again for a relaxing project. "Overall, I think now is likely not the time to try to take on an ambitious new craft or art skill," she says. "Instead, set yourself up to succeed by returning to familiar materials. Do you have memories of enjoying crafts like paint-by-numbers, latch hook, or Sculpey when you were a kid? It's a great time to restock those things and connect with those materials again."

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