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Increased Anxiety/ Sensory Overload At Adult Coloring Books?

Discussion in 'Anxiety, Panic & Hypervigilance' started by Junie-pie, Feb 6, 2017.

  1. Junie-pie

    Junie-pie Member

    I have 4 adult coloring books given to me over birthdays and holidays from the past few years. The only problem is I can NEVER bring myself to do anything more than stare at the pages and get overwhelmed. I start thinking about all the potential there is to mess up and I don't see these stupid books as relaxing at all. It makes me wonder if I'm broken or something. Every time I open one up I close it feeling more anxious than I did when I sat down.
    Does anyone else feel this too, or is it just me?
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  3. JoannaDoe

    JoannaDoe Policy Enforcement Banned

    Yes, and I understand. I just got a bunch of acrylic paints, and have always wanted to have art of any tyoe as a hobby, but I get overwhelmed, and can't sit still to do them. It is good for balancing the brain, and is an effective treatment for ptsd. But doing it is difficult as I never think I do anything good enough...
  4. Friday

    Friday Raise Hell Moderator

    Stay within the lines. The lines are our friends.

    Nope. Not really. Never been all that keen on staying within the lines. :sneaky:

    There's also the piece where I didn't draw them, so if I f*ck them up? I can't fix it. That's easily sorted, however, by making photocopies.

    Shrug. It's just a fine motor activity. Lots of other fine motor activities out there. If coloring stresses you out? Try whistling, calligraphy, drawing, lock picking, piano fingering exercises, model building, cleaning small fiddly bits (mechanics of just about anything; pistols to clocks), painting your nails, hair braiding, friendship-bracelets, macrame, knitting, cake decorating, pottery, etc.


    If EVERYTHING fine-motor is challenging? Then it's still not "broken" but you probably have a deficit (most likely the result of a different disorder, a head injury, or asynchronous development). Which is a paid-for-by-insurance neurological therapy thing, where one literally teaches the brain fine motor skills it missed out on and is compensating for in other ways. If it's not everything fine motor, but just fine motor related to eye-hand coordination? That's a different, but similar thing -unless- it's dysgraphia. Which is a whole different kettle of fish. (Closely related to dyslexia, as opposed to a motor or coordination deficit).
  5. Lauren Taylor

    Lauren Taylor Policy Enforcement Banned

    Definitely the same here!! Thanks for posting this
  6. Sideways

    Sideways I'm a VIP Premium Member

    One of the issues I constantly face with creative therapies is that I overthink it in all the wrong ways.

    My understanding with the adult colouring books is they're meant to bring about a state of mindfulness, by completing occupying your whole mind on the task of colouring in: picking colours, staying inside the lines, thinking about what you want the finished product to look like, the angle you're holding the pencil etc.

    My head looooves to go to town with "This looks stupid, I pick terrible colours, I should be doing something more productive, I can't believe that this is what my life has become...". Let it run free and my head has been known to get from mildly depressed to planning suicide with a fluro pink pen in my hand and a picture of butterflies before me.

    Step away from the colouring books Ragdoll!

    Definitely keep trying different activities. For me, getting out in the garden occupies my full mind, but it wasn't always thus, it was a "hobby" (hate that word - reminds me of 'enforced happiness'!) that I grew into. I had to be open minded about it when I started.

    But while you try new things, you also need to bear in mind that these activities aren't intended to "switch off" the internal dialogue. Internal dialogue happens. We actually have very little control over the voice in our head that's telling us "Hey Ragdoll, your colouring in sux!" That voice will ebb and flow, get louder and softer and louder again, mostly of its own accord. Colouring in and other "mindfulness" activities work when we allow that voice to do its thing, and rather shift our focus to the task at hand. We stop noticing the voice, rather than we successfully shut it up completely. It's still there in the background if you go looking, no matter what you're doing.

    In theory, a successful colouring session would have my internal voice telling me that my colouring sux, and me deciding that doesn't really matter what my critic is saying, I'm not looking to get it into the Louvre, and shift my focus back to the colours, lines, etc. Critic is still busy, I'm just not noticing it, so I get some relief from it.

    Shifting your focus takes practice (dang!), but personally, I find it easier with gardening because I know what I'm doing, I know I'm not crap at it, and it feels a bit more challenging and engaging to me personally than colouring in. I also work in other peoples gardens more than my own, which makes it more rewarding for me because it makes other people happy.

    All of those factors make my internal critic less savage when I'm in the garden than when I'm trying to colour in. So while some people might be itching to tell you that "You're doing it all wrong", IMHO the mindfulness activities are more enjoyable and successful if you find something that perhaps you're good at, find meaningful, or gives you a sense of achievement or growth. The internal critic has less fuel, and it makes it a whole lot easier to stop listening to it for a while and fully engage in the task at hand.
  7. barefoot

    barefoot I'm a VIP Premium Member Donated

    Yes, all those minute shapes and intricate designs you get in adult mindfulness colouring books leave me feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. I have never spent more than a few minutes attempting to colour one in before giving up.

    I have discovered that I do really enjoy colouring and that it can be very calming for me, enabling me to focus on that activity and reducing anxiety, rumination, intrusive thoughts etc in the moment. It's just that those adult colouring books full of tiny patterns aren't for me.

    I love kids colouring books - I much prefer colouring big pictures, preferably of animals. I sometimes feel embarrassed and give myself a hard time about liking kids colouring books - I'm pathetic, stupid, childish for liking it etc. Mostly, I got over that and just try to accept that I enjoy it and it helps so...so what? If it takes me too much to a place of shame and embarrassment though, I put the book away and do something else instead.

    Even better - because it removes much need for decision-making - colour by numbers books! And you can get colour by numbers adult colouring books too, which I've also enjoyed.

    So, if you want to give colouring another go I'd suggest maybe starting with simpler designs. Think about whether you'd prefer patterns or pictures. If pictures, pictures of what? Then find a book where the designs really appeal to you.

    And if you find knowing which colours to choose difficult/stressful or you tend to be self-critical about picking the wrong colours because they now look like they don't go together and you've now ruined the picture etc, I would recommend trying colour by numbers books. And, of course, just because the book suggests particular colours, you don't have to stick with them, but it can be a useful starting point. One of my books told me to colour a rabbit brown and grey, which I thought was crazy - I've never seen a brown and grey rabbit! So, I went for two different shades of brown and it looked good. Get me and my empowered creative choices! ;-)

    It may be that colouring isn't for you full stop, though. And that's totally ok!
  8. Junie-pie

    Junie-pie Member

    Thank you everyone for the replies!
    I'm only concerned about it b/c I'm an artist and I work with copic markers on an almost daily basis. I think I will stick to own drawings from now on!
  9. Tornadic Thoughts

    Tornadic Thoughts I'm a VIP

    I'm a creative artistic type who typically loves stuff like that. However, I bought a pack of postcards you can color with spirit animal designs and two other books with mandalas and psychadelic designs and holy crap, the lines are so small and so close together, it sent me over the edge. lol I managed to finish one of the postcards and one of the mandalas. I even bought a pack of special fine line, no bleed pens to color with, and while it made it a bit easier, and they're my new favorite coloring pens, it still plucked my nerves. Maybe I can try it again with a full-page magnifying glass or something. Hahahahaha! Otherwise, I'll seek out a more patient friend to share them with.
  10. erigby

    erigby Active Member

    Yes. I have found I get so overwhelmed with the simplest of tasks.
    The coloring books have way to many lines and trying to decide what colors to use is paralyzing.
    While not delighted to feel this way...your post has helped me to see I'm not the only one struggling with little things like this.
    I haven't been to the grocery store in months because it is so overwhelming having to make decisions.
    Is this sort of anxiety associated with PTSD or Major Depression?
    Right now all of my energy is put into keeping my job...doing what I can to make sure the priorities are taken care of.
    As long as I don't think beyond the next hour I am ok.
    If I start to think ahead of that...I freeze...and can't get anything accomplished...then I feel worthless...and the shame and inner critic kick in...and it's all down hill from there.
  11. erigby

    erigby Active Member

    this is very helpful to read...and so much of what you have said here resonates with me.
    How long have you been struggling with your inner critic on the little things like coloring?
    It is so helpful to hear I'm not alone.
    I always feel so foolish when it starts. Suicidal Ideation with an ink pen...I can totally relate.
    Ragdoll Circus likes this.
  12. Sideways

    Sideways I'm a VIP Premium Member

    The truth? All my life! In the sense that it's been there all my life. Stopped playing netball when I was 14 because my inner critic told me I'd never play really well. But actually, that makes me pretty normal. "Struggling" with it? I'd say my inner critic started to get the upper hand late in high school, definitely by the time I reached adulthood.

    Everyone makes judgements about how they're going with tasks that they're doing, things they've done, and things they're planning to do. And a lot of the time, the inner critic is helpful. Whenever there's something that we need to think through, the inner critic is just our thoughts.

    It's when that internal dialogue starts to cause us problems - stopping us from doing things we'd like to do, or need to do, and generally making our oife miserable, that it becomes a problem.

    There's good news though. The types of judgmental comments that our inner critic throws at us, like "I'm worthless/stupid/unloveable/unfixable" are definitely influenced by our trauma history, but struggling with the inner critic is by no means a "PTSD thing". Everyone who's ever gone hunting for a book in the self-help section has been sent there by their inner critic (among other things, like a T or a caring parnter). People with depression and anxiety usually have an inner critic that has gone completely berko, driving them to unmanageable panic attacks or planning suicide.

    And all of that is why mindfulness has taken off in such a big way across the globe - for people with mental health issues in particular, mindfulness strategies bring the mind away from the inner critic, which means they can start functioning and living again with constantly getting barraged by their inner critic. It's still there, but we can learn to pay less attention to it, which defuses a lot of its power over us.

    Who knew, hey!? We go from colouring in to talking about reaching a happy zen state in our whole experience of life, just like that!
  13. erigby

    erigby Active Member

    Yes...I learned only recently my berserk inner critic was slightly more intense (sarcasm) than say... my husbands. It was weird to realize others didn't necessarily think about themselves in that way. I also remember the day I realized not everybody goes around thinking about suicide all of the time either. Who knew?!
    But...through research and learning...and this forum...I am learning where the connections are for me in terms of PTSD, anxiety and major depression.
    It is helpful for me to grow in that understanding.
    I am lucky to have a good therapist and psychiatrist.
    We haven't broached any specific techniques yet...as I think we are still working on stabilizing.
    I haven't used any mindfulness techniques to ward off the inner critic...but am well versed in those practices for religious purposes.
    I am hoping soon some medication will be able to give me a leg up (so to speak) to offer some (mental) space to focus on such techniques.
    In the mean time...its all about survival.
    Thank you for your post.
    Ragdoll Circus likes this.
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