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  • Writer's pictureLynn Cukaj

Autumn: A Time to Reboot

By Lynn Cukaj, ATR-BC

Art Therapy for Children, Teenagers and Adults

Take steps to keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year.

The transition of summer into fall is an ideal time for self-reflection. Perhaps with the change of seasons, an individual may feel a heightened level of emotions, sometimes negative, due to the shorter days and colder weather. This is common but in more severe cases, the decrease in sunlight may disrupt the body's internal clock or decrease serotonin and melatonin levels, which can lead to feelings of depression.

Also as we head into winter, we may experience bouts of stress and anxiety surrounding the holidays. That is why it is essential this time of year for us to take a step back, breathe, and reboot. When we refocus the mind, it helps us gain a better perspective and live a more mindful and healthy lifestyle. Practicing Art Therapy can help keep our mood and motivation steady throughout the year.

We can look to nature for guidance on how to reboot. In the spirit of Autumn, let’s focus on the transformation of a tree to learn about rejuvenation. A tree goes through the process of photosynthesis in order to save its energy through the winter months. The function of the leaves is to provide energy to the rest of the tree, which is the conversion of sunlight into glucose. During Fall, the trees begin to prepare for the winter months by shedding their leaves. During this time, the tree no longer needs to produce glucose through photosynthesis, deeming the chlorophyll useless. Since chlorophyll is responsible for the green we see in leaves, once that breaks down, the actual colors of the leaves begin to show, exposing the beautiful hues of orange, red, and yellow. The changing and shedding of leaves is not an overnight process, but rather, a gradual retention of energy.

So how can we apply this to our life?

We need to learn how to retain our energy and pace ourselves throughout life. There will be times in the day, month, or year that will require lots of energy from us and the sooner we prepare ourselves for this exertion of energy, the better equipped we will be to handle challenging situations. Life is a marathon, and in order to manage the demands, we need to set goals, work on self-care, practice mindfulness, and incorporate creativity into our lives. Practicing creativity is a great non-verbal way to handle stress and anxiety, for adults and for children. Children and adolescents can use forms of Art Therapy early on as a coping mechanism to use during times that invoke stress and anxiety.

Where do stressors in our life come from? Stress can be caused by internal factors as well as external factors. Leaves on a tree change their colors due to the change in weather and sunlight, an external factor. Similar to trees, external or environmental factors can impact our core and upset our inner balance.

But does a tree wither and die? No, it adapts to the environment and preserves its energy in order to be strong when their energy is needed during the warmer months and longer days. The external factor impacts the internal factor but it does not destroy it. Trees can provide an example to us; we can adapt and do things now to prepare ourselves for the future. We can strengthen our resiliency in order to adjust to the environmental factors that are happening around us. We can practice coping skills in order to better manage our thoughts, which impact our behaviors. We can be like the tree and naturally prepare ourselves despite stresses and external environmental factors. It is essential that we embrace our ability to be resilient and support others in their ability as well.

Art Activity: Embracing our Natural Colors

During this time of year, some leaves appear vibrant and bright and others are subtle and dull. Even the dull leaves offer us something to think about when given a second look. Look at the veins of a leaf and how detailed they are. Each leaf is different in how the colors are shown, and no two are alike.

If we think about our lives, how often are we impacted by the environment we are living in? How often are we subtle and dull due to those around us? How can we find our vivid and bright colors?Remember, as a leaf loses its green hue, the color that appears was there all along.

So what kind of leaf do you want to be?

1. Download and print the Leaf Template (below).

Creative Expressions Leaf Template
Download PDF • 1.03MB

a. Alternatively: Find a fallen leaf outside and trace it on a sheet of paper.

b. You can also do a “leaf rubbing” where you place a leaf under a piece of paper and turn a crayon on its side to carefully rub over the leaf with some pressure.

2. Once you have your trace ready, design the leaf using colors that you believe represent you and your life.

3. Once your leaf is completed you can write a word(s) inside or around the leaf that came up for you during the process of designing your leaf.

4. Use this process as a reminder that change is an opportunity to preserve energy, offer self-reflection, and provide stress-relief.


For more therapeutic activities and resources on how to incorporate Art Therapy into your life, read more from Lynn's Creative Expressions Blog.

Learn more about Art Therapy and Lynn Cukaj, Board Certified Art Therapist here:

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