Stress Reduction is a Work of Art at the Mass Rehab Commission

The WellMASS Stress Less Challenge is currently being rolled out at agencies across the state, so what better time to share an example of what one agency is doing to help its employees de-stress during their lunch hour? 

Several weeks ago, I was having a conversation with Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission Wellness Champion Joy McMahon about onsite programs.  Joy was very excited to share news about a lunchtime watercolor class that the MRC Wellness Committee was about to begin offering to employees.  Amy Walba, a friend of both Joy and Lora Brugnaro, a participant in the class, graciously volunteered to lead the six-week class, free of charge.  In order to keep the class size manageable, space was limited to the first six employees to sign up.  Unlike other wellness events the MRC Wellness Committee has sponsored, participation was not an issue – interest was so high that many employees had to be put on a wait list for future classes!

Sitting in on last Thursday’s class, it was obvious why so many employees were interested in participating.  Amy had a very calm, friendly demeanor as she talked to her students about still lifes and offered suggestions on how to enhance their own paintings.  She also showcased examples of professional artwork and discussed multiple creative painting techniques.  Her excellence as an instructor was confirmed by the professional-quality paintings participants worked on throughout the class, as well as by the pieces from weeks past that were displayed on a board for the entire class to appreciate.  Every artist had her own style of painting, and it was really evident that each had put a little bit of herself into her work.  

The masterpieces.

The masterpieces.

Throughout the hour-long class, the room was virtually silent except for the occasional words of encouragement or praise coming from Amy and the participants.  It was obvious that each student was thoroughly enjoying this quiet, relaxing time away from her desk – and she was de-stressing in the process.  Although I didn’t paint anything myself, I certainly was more relaxed as I left the class.  I was also eager to get back into painting – a hobby that I just haven’t seemed to have the time to do lately.  I used to paint as a way to re-channel my stress and negative feelings into something positive, and I would encourage anyone else who needs to do the same to pick up a brush and start painting.  Although it may not be as obvious of a wellness activity as yoga or running, painting is as good for your personal well-being as is working up a sweat – and it provides a visual reminder of who you are and all of which you are capable.

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