There’s a new seat at the coloring table
A coloring book and crayons sit on Erin Maynard’s nightstand. They do not belong to a child and won’t be wrapped to give as a birthday present. The art supplies are part of Maynard’s elaborate pre-sleep ritual.
“Almost seven years ago, I was in a fatal car accident. It caused PTSD,” said Maynard, president of PTSD Survivors of America.
She noted that there is no face for PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
The mental health condition extends beyond war veterans to include domestic violence and accident victims, social workers, firefighters and anyone who has experienced trauma.
She gave an example of mandala coloring books. A mandala is a spiritual symbol.
“It almost looks like the stained-glass windows in churches, like rose windows, but they’re Hindu in origin. It’s a graphic representation of the universe.”
Adult coloring books are now leading sales on Amazon and topping bestseller lists.
According to the Associated Press, Dover Publications has sold more than 3 million adult coloring books, and Quarto Publishing will have 1.3 million in print this year, ranging from mandalas to fairies.
“Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt,” by illustrator Johanna Basford, also remains a top seller on Amazon even after two years of publication. On Sunday, Dover Publications celebrated National Coloring Book Day and PTSD Survivors of America, a charity that aims to educate, assist and help spread awareness of the condition, launched its first “Color Across America for PTSD Awareness” day.
Although there’s a difference between coloring and being guided by a therapist, Maynard said the activity helps regulate stress.
She added that coloring is especially useful to those who have PTSD since their amygdala — the brain’s integrated center of emotions, emotional behavior and motivation — is hyperactive.
“The problem with that is that it’s the part of the brain that controls the fear response. PTSD is a disorder of memory storage and recall, and you fixate on these terrifying memories and they become ever present for you.
“Coloring actually reduces the activity of the amygdala, so that’s part of the reason that it helps calm you down.”
Maynard said Dover Publications has a large selection of adult coloring books. She used Dover’s printables for the event.
After Maynard started reading articles about how coloring can act as a therapy, she went to a store to buy coloring books and stumbled upon fairies or sea creatures.
According to Maynard, PTSD can be a lifelong struggle for a lot of people. She feels stress slowly disappearing when she is immersed in a coloring book.
Maynard prefers to color while sitting at her dining room table, crawled up on the couch or in bed.
“For a while, I was coloring a little bit before I went to bed every night.”
She found a support group on Facebook before slowly taking on administrative roles with PTSD Survivors of America, and then joined the board. Maynard was elected the charity’s president in April 2014.
She started to seek help and now is able to help others as well.
Maynard said the coloring event allowed participants “to make a connection between something as serious and devastating as PTSD with something as simple as coloring.”
She added that it’s a great social activity and a start for people who may not be able to afford treatment or just want to de-stress.
It can be a positive outlet for parents with a mental health condition to spend time with their children, too.
“You would never imagine that something as simple as a crayon could have such a big impact, but when you’re talking about people who are feeling stressed and isolated and scared — it’s just a crayon but it’s kind of like a magic crayon.”