The creative process can help individuals cope with anxiety and increase their ability to live in the present moment for a variety of reasons, but here is one really good rationale.
Engaging in artistic endeavors which are slightly challenging can provide relief from anxiety. You want the activity to be just challenging enough so that you have to put forth effort to focus on what you are doing and easy enough that you feel a sense of mastery over the activity. When the brain is focused on doing something intently, you have to be in the present moment. Anxiety is often experienced in the form of worrying about things in the future or dwelling on things from the past. When we are doing either, we are not living in the present. When we are living in the present moment, we can’t focus on the other stuff, and it provides a sense of relief.
It is important to consider that some activities, might increase someone’s anxiety. For example, people that don’t consider themselves to be creative, drawing might not be the right activity to reduce anxiety. Most people haven’t practiced drawing since middle school, where the focus was to draw a realistic picture. That takes a lot of skill and might unintentionally contribute to more overwhelm. Creating a collage that expresses the feeling of hope or joy; however, is likely to be less intimidating.
The collage might be the essential balance between challenge and skill mastery necessary to facilitate what is referred to as a “flow” state. Flow is a state, termed by positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, where the person is completely immersed and focused on what they are doing such that they lose track of space and time. If you are so invested in what you are doing, then you have no cares to give about what worries you. In fact, you might be so invested in the process of doing that you don’t realize your foot fell asleep or that you are hungry. It could be likened to being in a trance-like state- an ultimate state of contentment.
Those interested in learning more about how the Flow experience is created through engagement in the arts might be interested in listening to Csikszentmihalyi’s TED Talk https://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow?utm_campaign=tedspread&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare