Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Color away the stress April 5, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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ONE EVENING LAST WEEK, I was seriously stressed.

When I’m deeply worried, time seems to pause and hover. I can’t focus enough to read a book or even a magazine. I can’t follow the storyline of a TV show. Any conversation seems rather meaningless and trivial.

But I had to manage. I needed something to busy my hands. Something to do while I waited for a text or phone call. The solution was only a couch cushion away. Inserted in my local daily newspaper was a 15-page coloring book for adults. That would do.


Coloring book, 24 pencils and page


I headed upstairs to dig out a box of colored pencils. And then I settled onto the end of the couch, box splayed open next to my cell phone.


Coloring book, 26 close-up


As I chose colors and began methodically coloring petals on a page imprinted with florals, I felt the tension ease. There’s something soothing about the rhythm of coloring. It’s effect is akin to watching flames dance in a campfire, listening to water gurgle or rocking back-and-forth in a chair. All are comforting. Repetitive.


Coloring book, 28 floral close-up


Adult coloring books are all the rage right now as folks discover their calming value. But I wonder, if I remembered how to crochet, would the results be the same?

TELL ME, WHAT HANDS-ON activity works to calm you? And what are your thoughts on the adult coloring book phenomenon?

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


42 Responses to “Color away the stress”

  1. Marneymae Says:

    It’s such a simple, kind, wise action to offer oneself.
    May it continue to offer you a sense of ease through times.
    (I wish my dad would give this a try)

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    I have several coloring books and my favorite one is a small one that is easily carried around from place to place. For me the most relaxing project is making cards—sometimes I even color on them if the design deems it. I love the adult coloring craze—there is nothing like being transported back into childhood with the colored pencils and crayons and markers to a simpler and less stressful time.

    • That’s part of it, too, I think, the transporting back to a simpler time. Do kids still color?

      Having been the recipient of your cards, I know how beautiful they are. I never thought of them as being a way to relax. But that makes sense.

      • Beth Ann Says:

        Yep. Kids still color. At least my great niece does. And anything that you love to do can be a relaxer, I think. So maybe photography even?

      • Dan (see comments) noted photography in his comments. I would say photography certainly is for me. But it’s not something I can always do, like at 8 p.m. in March in Minnesota.

  3. Marilyn Says:

    The adult coloring-in craze reminds me of how eating spinach became popular in our school when I was a kid. A new girl moved into the area, a beautiful blonde with a lovely ‘different’ name. Every girl envied her and the boys flocked around. She loved spinach and ate several helpings -splashed with a dose of vinegar – every time it was served in the school cafeteria. We all got the notion that eating spinach was ‘in.’ And it really was ‘in,’ too! My favourite way to eat spinach is with vinegar, naturally. Someone started the coloring-in craze and now it’s ‘in.’

  4. Dan Traun Says:

    I pick up a camera, slow down and see what comes into frame.

  5. Littlesundog Says:

    I know these coloring books are popular. I’m just too practical and work oriented to take the time to indulge in coloring. What would I do with my coloring book if I ever completed it? I would feel more productive taking off to the woods or wherever with my camera and find artistry and relaxation in nature. We all find our niche in finding a way to de-stress. I say, whatever works is great!! 🙂

    • I, too, use my camera to relax. It’s just that at 8 p.m. in March in Minnesota, this was not an option. I don’t foresee myself getting into the coloring craze. I have not picked up the coloring sheet and colored pencils since that evening last week when I used them. The picture is not anywhere near finished.

  6. rita waters Says:

    i too recently discovered coloring again.very relaxing.I also recently rediscovered crocheting again,thanks to a elderly women i cared for(my job)..she was a crocheter and taught me some things I had forgotten..I read your blog posts every day.Love them.My daughter lives in Redwing,Mn

    • Rita, welcome to the comments section of Minnesota Prairie Roots. I’m happy to have you here. How wonderful that you’ve rediscovered coloring and crocheting. I think I need to rediscover some of these hobbies I engaged in before children and the busyness of life.

  7. treadlemusic Says:

    Welcome to my quilty world!!!! I have several of these for inspiration for quilting motifs!! They’re awesome and (shameless plug) Walmart has jumped on the bandwagon with some that are less than $5!!! These have so many uses/benefits………..one being the stress-reliever that you engaged in!! Hugs and prayers always…………………………

    • Time to check out the Walmart aisles. Thanks for that tip. I just ordered a Christian-themed coloring book for a teenage girl who will be getting confirmed in a month. She’s artsy and creative and I thought this would make a great gift, along with a few other faith-based items I purchased.

      I love the idea of coloring books inspiring your quilting.

  8. Kirk Griebel Says:

    A few days ago at a restaurant with my perfect grandchildren, I somehow ended up coloring most of the coloring page that the waiter had brought to help keep the kids occupied. Then when he brought stickers for the great job the children had done with their coloring I got one too!

  9. Jackie Says:

    I have several adult coloring books up at the cabin! Since it is an electronics-free cabin at this time I decided we had to have something fun for the rainy days. It seems to spur on conversation as those who choose to, sit and color while they visit. I’ve also gathered an array of coloring media, i.e. gel pens, fine-tipped markers and colored pencils. You asked what activity calms me, well I love photo editing…I could probably sit for hours just doing that, also I have been collecting patterns on “pinterest” so hopefully start up Crocheting again, I’m thinking it would be another fun activity for the cabin!

    • Coloring sounds like a great cabin activity. And you’re right, lots of visiting can happen while coloring.

      Oh, I understand the fun of photo editing. I wish I knew more about it. I just kind of play around. What photo editing program do you use?

      I need someone to teach me to crochet again. I think it would come back rather quickly.

  10. I think the coloring book fad is a nice way to remind ourselves that things we loved in childhood still can work some magic. I’m reminded of this when I sit and color with my granddaughter. And I come from a family of doodlers, so this burst of coloring books in all the bookstores makes me wonder what took people so long to figure this out! Do I seek out adult coloring books? Nope. But I also have all kinds of ways to destress, including brewing tea, watching a mindless t.v. show, doing yoga stretches, getting out my camera and wandering around outside, taking a walk, cooking……and sometimes playing word games on my iPad. It depends on what kind of stress I’m trying to calm.

  11. Don Says:

    Coloring is a great way to distract the mind and it can be done with multiple people at the same time.

    I have recently found again (through my grandchildren) that LEGO blocks can keep my mind occupied for hours at a time. As a child I played with them making airplanes, trains, trucks, etc. not like the new ones that give you instructions for making a specific item but rather using my imagination and building items of my own design. Now when the grandkids are over we spend hours designing new things. Beats the heck out of video games and teaches them shapes, mathematics, and building principals to boot!

    • LEGOS, in my opinion, are one of the best toys ever invented. I never had any. But my son spent hours with his tub of LEGOS, most all of which I purchased at garage sales. While he had some kits, he built primarily from his imagination. They are great for all of the reasons you list.

      I’m looking forward to being a grandma (soon!) and participating in so many fun childhood activities. You sound like a “fun” grandpa, getting right in there with the grandkids and playing. How many grandchildren and what ages?

  12. We were in a Barnes and Noble a couple of weeks ago, and I couldn’t believe the number of adult coloring books. I bought one of flowers. I hope to trace some of the images onto watercolor paper and begin to learn to watercolor. I can’t draw very well, so I thought I’d cheat a bit while I’m learning about how the colors blend on the page. And, yes, crocheting works! Hope whatever you were worried about turned out all right.

    • That’s another great use for adult coloring books–developing your watercolor painting skills. My second daughter took watercolor painting lessons from an elderly woman while in high school. It was wonderful to see how much she learned while under Elda’s mentorship.

      Thank you for asking about my worries. Yes, for now, everything is OK with that particular concern.

  13. Don Says:

    Audrey, reference your question, 3 grandkids all boys ages 8, 6, and 2. Legos are expensive and I too had many from various garage sales, presents etc. Good thing is they are almost indestructible. I can imagine the hours your son must have spent building legos. Tub of blocks was the way I stored mine too.

    Grandkids will make you feel younger, you wait and see!!!!

  14. DeLores Johnson Says:

    I love to color. I have several color books and I forget everything when Iam working on a picture. I am glad it has come back for adults.

  15. Great thoughts, Audry! I like to get outside and can walk through my trees in nearly all weather. At least long enough to clear and redirect my thoughts. I never tire of the challenge to find something I can bring inside to rest in a bowl or next to a vase. Some dried black walnuts, a piece of bark, handful of cones, a small board or branch, a nest that has fallen….. Also, I can fall in love with the bright colors of the crayons just by peering into the box. All best for you!

    • Wandering in the woods searching for treasures sounds like an ideal way to destress. And to have the talent to create something with your nature finds is a bonus benefit.

      I’m with you on peering into a box of crayons, especially a new box with the pointy tips and that heady waxy scent.

  16. I have one that I pull out before bed some days. You should try watching some crochet videos on YouTube.

  17. Last November I picked up a coloring book and some water color pencils while I was on a short getaway in Colorado with my fiancé. I loved sitting by the window, listening to birds sing and the squirrels scavenge while I colored. I have colored in the book since then but my favorite way to relax is to jump right into whatever stained glass project I am working on…or perhaps begin another one that suits my mood at the time. Thanks for sharing your thoughts again.

  18. Aaron Says:

    I do all kinds of things because I can’t just sit still for some reason. I like coloring when everything’s crazy, and my kids love it too, I let them work in my books sometimes. I’ve tried crochet and it works, I’ve tried knitting too. Drawing, sewing by hand, friendship bracelets, do it all!

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