WELLNESS SPOTLIGHT: Health First Associates Find ‘Coloring Breaks’ Benefit Bedside Patient Care

By  //  August 20, 2022

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Adult coloring is a way to reduce stresses, bring a sense of accomplishment and a sense of relief

A 1960’S ERA MANDALA featuring a Volkswagen bus and the words “feelin’ groovy” and “Flower Power.” Adult coloring is a way to “reduce stresses, bring a sense of accomplishment and a sense of relief,” said Chaplin Derly Foerste, who directs Pastoral Care at Health First. (Health First image)

Front-line hospital associates – with leadership support – are stepping away to color-in large mandalas. It recharges those souls who are giving our patients their all.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – When it comes to self-care and well-being, one of the last things that may come to mind is coloring. What was once thought of as just a childhood pastime has become a trend that rapidly spread – and for good reason.

The old encouragements to ‘grind it out’ at work and ‘just get through it’ are not supported by the evidence. In hospitals strained by the pandemic, clinicians need regular time on shift but away from duties. But what’s the best way to recharge?

“It’s nice to get out of the work area for just a small break,” said Brandi Thompson, a Cytology Department tech at Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center.

“It’s something to take your mind off work,” but without leaving work, said Clarissa Mendez, a Microbiology Lab assistant. “And it doesn’t matter how long it takes to color it.”

COLORFUL: Clarissa Mendez, above, a Microbiology Lab assistant, said coloring is a quick way to give your mind a cognitive and emotional rest while still on duty. “And it doesn’t matter how long it takes to color it,” Mendez says. (Health First image)

The coloring projects are for adults, not children. They may more aptly be called mandalas – intricate, large patterns designed to induce soulful “escape” from the present surroundings – and are meant to take a bit of time and many hands to complete.

“Our doctors stand out there and color. Even security has come over and added a little,” Thompson said.

Today, “pop-up” adult coloring stations have been posted in several spots throughout Holmes Regional, all three hospitals and several Health First Medical Group offices. DeAnn Collins, Project Manager, Health First’s Behavioral Wellness, says the mental health benefits of art as a coping tool are evidence-based.

Today, “pop-up” adult coloring stations have been posted in several spots throughout Holmes Regional, all three hospitals and several Health First Medical Group offices.

COLORFUL: Brandi Thompson, above, a Cytology Department tech at Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center said coloring is a quick way to give your mind a cognitive and emotional rest while still on duty. (Health First image)

“There’s benefit to taking a moment, focusing on that color, focusing on that area they’re coloring,” Collins said. “They’re still in that stressful environment but they’re taking a break.”

Such breaks actually raise mental focus, resting the parts of the body and mind taxed while on duty. Collins explained the coloring has “increased productivity and increased retention” as a result. Not taking breaks generally “increases stress levels that result in increased irritability.”

The completed mandalas are expected to be photographed and made into postcards the associate artists can share with loved ones.

Similar art therapies are used clinically in Behavioral Wellness, Collins said, and it’s often met with skepticism initially, but these same patients end up surprised by how well they focus and how much anxiety and stress melts away.

A MANDALA AT HEALTH FIRST’s Holmes Regional Medical Center at two stages of the process. Associates have a choice of colors to complete the image. (Health First image)

Studies suggest adult coloring and similar art projects demonstrate the following benefits:

■ Relaxes your brain and improves brain function
■ Drives attention away from yourself and stressful thoughts
■ Improves focus and motor skills, and
■ Is easily enjoyable without feeling overly performative because coloring is low stakes.

Chaplin Derly Foerste directs Pastoral Care at Health First, and he says that the pop-up stations were introduced in January and “filling in an entire mandala was a February wellness goal.”

Adult coloring is a way to “reduce stresses, bring a sense of accomplishment and a sense of relief,” he says.

“It’s a mission of Health First to put associates’ wellness at the forefront,” Collins adds. “Self-compassion and associate wellness is one of the benefits of working at Health First. Anywhere you work you want to feel valued – and Health First is going above and beyond to draw that out.”

The coloring projects are for adults, not children. They may more aptly be called mandalas – intricate, large patterns designed to induce soulful “escape” from the present surroundings – and are meant to take a bit of time and many hands to complete. (Health First image)

Visit HF.org/news_and_events to find out what’s happening at Health First.

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