a blog and resources for trans survivors and loved ones

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Did you know that recent studies have shown that when you spend at least forty-five minutes per day on an artistic or creative project, you reduce your cortisol levels and your stress? Whether you think of yourself as an artist or not doesn’t matter—people with no experience and lots of experience doing art both benefit.

How about that?

Survivors of sexual violence are sometimes triggered by reminders of the assault. Being triggered can result in a higher stress level, which raises cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone in your body that is affected by stress and is produced in higher quantities when a stressful event or situation happens.

It sometimes takes some help to get one’s body regulated after being triggered. Some great ways of doing that are exercise, spending time with friends, playing music, and—you guessed it—ART.

Collage is a super easy, accessible, and fun way to do art. The sky is the limit when it comes to what materials you use and how you choose to express yourself. Plus, it’s a great activity to reduce the effects of being triggered, because you can tailor your collage to any subject, feeling, or thought that you’re having at the moment. Or you can just make a collage of pretty and fun things, simply because that’s what feels right. It’s totally up to you!

Create your own collage

With just a few materials, you’ll be on your way. Here’s a guided example of a “journey of emotions collage” that you might find helpful.

Step 1: Gather up a few of these things (or others):

  • Construction paper, tissue paper, origami paper
  • Magazines, newspapers, old books, photos
  • Glue, glue stick, and/or hot glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Cardboard, canvas, or some heavy paper to glue your work to
  • Markers, colored pencils, pens
  • Trinkets like buttons, keys, beads, and shells
  • Other embellishments like fabric, glitter, sequins, ribbons, and feathers
  • Stamps and stamp pad
  • Paper towel or rags to help clean up any glue messes
  • Gloves (if your skin is sensitive to glue or newsprint)

Step 2: Select and arrange things.

Cut out pictures and words from the magazines, newspapers, old books, and so forth that express how you’re feeling at the moment. Then cut out images and words that represent how you’d like to feel. Arrange the images/words of your current feelings on one side of your cardboard or canvas. Then arrange the images/words of how you’d like to feel on the other side. In the middle, write or stamp the names of people, songs, actions, words, quotes, and so on that can help you move from your current feelings to your hoped-for feelings. If you want, you can find images and words that represent those helpful people or things.

Step 3: Glue it!

Once you have everything arranged how you want it, glue all the pieces down.

Step 4: Wait and display.

Depending on what you’ve glued and the sort of glue you’ve used, you may need to let your masterpiece sit overnight to fully dry. Once it’s dry, you can put your collage in a place that will help you remember your emotional journey and your path toward your desired future feelings.

Like these ideas?  Want some more?  Here you go!

  • The trinket board activity in FORGE’s “Artist’s Life Adventure Zine” is a space where you can do some simple collaging.
  • “How to Make a Collage” from WikiHow: A simple guide with great pictures.
  • Collaging for Beginners” from Rookie: A fantastic article with lots of ideas.
  • Making a Landscape Collage” by Rebecca Maloney: A very cool video of making a collage of a landscape using only paper scraps and colorful magazine cuttings.
  • Pinterest search for “collage”: Pinterest is literally loaded with ideas. Check it out! You can also add more search terms, like “transgender” or “abuse,” to find more inspiring imagery.
  • Self-Expression Therapy Ideas” from Expressive Art Inspirations: Not only does this article have 100 suggestions of art activities that encourage self-expression, but a lot of them are collage-based and specifically set up to help you work through a variety of feelings.