Illustration courtesy: Katie Swyers

Studies find colouring books increase adult stress levels

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By Skyler Ash

Were you one of many adults to get a “stress-reducing” colouring book this holiday season? Think twice before you sharpen your pencils, experts warn. Studies have found adult colouring books that promise to lower your stress levels are actually doing the opposite.

In a clinical study run over the course of three days, it was found that participants’ stress levels increased by 40 per cent while they were colouring.

“Colouring just isn’t healthy for adults. That’s why most adults aren’t artists, it’s a risky lifestyle full of unknowns and stressors,” said Dr. Renee Lynch, the leading researcher for the study.

The study revealed that all participants experienced a significant increase in their production of adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine, the three major stress hormones.

Dr. Lynch said that the stress increases she saw in the participants of the study were unhealthy. “When the body releases these hormones, it can be harmful, especially when you’re trying to relax,” she said.

“I can’t justify sitting down for three hours to colour a tiger,” said Matthew Razzle, a 27-year-old accountant. Razzle said that the thought of even picking up a coloured pencil puts him in a cold sweat.

“When I colour, I just get nervous. All the lines on the page seem so small and I get the shakes,” said Razzle. “Colouring doesn’t de-stress me. The thought of even looking at a picture makes me sick.”

“My kids love colouring, but I don’t,” said Evie Stacks, a 36-year-old mother of two who participated in the study. Stacks said that she can no longer bear to sit at a craft table when her kids are drawing. Stacks said her heart rate “soars” at the thought of having to sit and colour with her children.

Dr. Lynch said that the symptoms displayed by Razzle and Stacks — sweating, shaking, nausea and increased heart rate -— are all indicators of stress brought on by colouring.

Elizabeth Tyre, a 39-year-old lawyer, said that she was given a Paris-themed colouring book to complete during the study. “I still lie awake at night thinking about those stupid little cobblestone streets,” said Stacks.

Elliot Lightlake, a 25-year-old student in the business management program at Ryerson University had to leave the retreat suddenly when he collapsed while colouring a butterfly. Police say he suffered an art attack.

“They were taking him out on the stretcher and he just kept screaming that the butterflies were getting him,” said Tyre. “It was scary. It made me realize what colouring can do to people and how bad it can get.”

“We ended up burning all of the colouring books on the third day,” said Dr. Lynch. “They just couldn’t handle it anymore. It had to be done.”

Tyre said she was the first to throw her book in the fire. “[I] just sent that thing right back to hell where it came from,” said Tyre.

Dr. Lynch recommends that adults who own colouring books also purge them in a burning pit of hellfire. By doing so, “the stress will burn away too.”

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