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Zentangling as a Way to Effectively Manage Anxiety

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC

Zentangling is a form of art therapy that involves drawing intricate patterns called tangles that are made up of repetitive lines and shapes. The goal of zentangling is to focus on the process of drawing rather than the finished product. The repetitive, calming motions of drawing zentangles can help to soothe the mind, promote relaxation and reduce stress. Zentangling is a creative form of mindfulness meditation that assists in bringing the focus on the present moment and reducing anxiety. The act of focusing on creating a beautiful, intricate design can also provide a sense of accomplishment and distraction from negative thoughts and worries. If you are struggling with anxiety, consider giving zentangling a try. It is a simple, inexpensive, and portable intervention that may be able to help you manage your anxiety symptoms.

The first step to creating a zentangle is to gather your drawing materials and prepare your space for creating. You can use a black micron or fine-tipped pen, pencil, oil pastel, or chalk pastel to draw your design. Choose a smaller sized paper if you are using fine tip pencils or markers, as these markings will take up less room than if you were working with wider tipped medium, such as chalk pastels or oil pastels. For larger markings, consider a larger sized paper to give yourself room to create different tangles.

The next step is to consider your pattern options and determine how you want to organize the patterns on the page. You may combine different patterns or maintain a particular style of pattern throughout your zentangle. Consider adding shapes to your paper as a starting point and build off of these shapes with more intricate details on the perimeter and inside the form. There are thousands of patterns to choose from! You can start with a simple pattern to get a feel for the process, which you can find templates for online. I recommend starting with simple line patterns, such as waves, zigzags or stripes and repeating these designs in an allotted space. You may also be inspired when looking at patterns from nature, such as vines, flowers and branches.

Once you have selected a pattern, you can think about what colors you want to use. The colors you choose may coordinate with your chosen pattern or they may be chosen at random as you go along. Allow yourself to go with the flow and respond to each line and design that is added to the image.

There are other benefits to engaging in a zentangle drawing. Rather than aiming for perfection, tangles teach users to recognize imperfections and learn how to incorporate them into the design. In everyday life, your choices are often limited, but how well you adapt to the circumstances (or lack thereof) is what really matters. Allow yourself to continuously move around the page and respond moment to moment to your design as it develops one mark at a time.

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