While Egypt continues to grapple with the past few years of political and social turmoil, for people affected by the ups and downs of conflict stress has become a norm affecting everyday life.
The number of people suffering from psychological disorders, mainly depression, in Egypt jumped recently, reaching 5 million according to the Health Ministry. Hesham Ramy, a psychology professor at Ain Shams University, says the number is as high as 16 million.
While it is normal to seek help from a psychiatrist, have you ever thought of diminishing your stress by using colors? If not, please roll up your sleeves, grab your colors and get started. Don't worry, this latest anti-stress trend isn't just for children.
Coloring books are no longer restricted to kids or a fun activity. The empty picture books are now being used as therapy tools for relaxation.
Adult coloring books recently became available in online and offline international bookstores that advocate for people to color and doodle for stress relief. After a short time on the market, these books started to become popular and ranked among the best selling adult books on Amazon.com in April 2015, according to a CNN report.
A few months ago, Egyptians started to recognize this popular worldwide trend being labeled as “anti-stress coloring books”. These adult coloring books are the latest form of art therapy that attempts to fight stress and depression.
These books soared in popularity among youth and are bestsellers at Al-Diwan bookstore, according to Tarek Sabry, the senior supervisor of Al-Diwan's Zamalek branch.
The books were introduced to Egypt through the popular Zen Mandalas doodle collections, along with "The Secret Garden", "The Enchanted Forest" and other books.
These coloring books are sold mainly at Al-Diwan bookstores, on some Facebook pages and at the AUC bookstore, with prices ranging between LE70 to LE200. There are also a number of offline bookstores selling copies with cheaper prices, but with fewer pages and modest paper quality.
Sabry said Al-Diwan bookstores carry six anti-stress coloring books, including "The Enchanted Forest" and "The Book of Joy". He said these books are sold as original copies.
“Our readers have argued with the bookstore persistently since April 2015 to bring these kinds of books to Egypt, and Al-Diwan finally got them in mid-September 2015,” said Sabry.
spoke to the owner of the Facebook page "Anti-Stress Coloring Books
", who emphasized that the youth’s interest in these books is increasingly “remarkable”.
Aya, a 24-year old client advisor who started the page two months ago, brings official copies of the famous coloring books from the Zen Mandalas collection and "The Secret Garden" from numerous online foreign bookstores to be sold on her Facebook page to youth in Egypt.
One of the pivotal reasons behind starting the project is Aya's passion for coloring these books on a daily basis, which she finds relaxes her after a long, tiring work day.
“It is crucial for my day, and it makes me more relaxed and comfortable so that I can be able to continue the day,” Aya said.
Aya said the feedback she has received has been “amazing”. People using the color books are coloring many patterns everyday and some of them used to send her their colored patterns to show her the harmony between the colors.
Aya was thinking about printing similar books in Egypt, but she has been unable to find good enough paper quality or designers for this kind of art.
Art therapy sessions
The trend for art therapy does not stop at coloring books on your own. There are also color therapy sessions guided by the supervision of professional spiritual healers for deep analysis of the colors and what they tell you about your personality.
Hannah Kamal, a holistic life coach and yoga teacher, told Egypt Independent that spiritual healing is proven in its efficiency and strongly beats both psychotherapy and psychology, especially the latter, which deals only with the brain and medicine with no consideration for the “soul” itself.
Kamal, who is also the owner of 35B: The Healing Space for Ladies Only,
said that she is the first to introduce the Mandala meditation in Egypt. She gives sessions where people can color the Mandalas books, then she analyzes the colors they use and provides them with advice on how to manage their life and stress.
“In my sessions I usually keep an eye on each lady’s coloring style, which tells a lot about her character, thoughts, fears and even troubles, so that I can let her manage them. I can help her to recover by changing the colors and substituting them with alternatives,” said Kamal.
Kamal said spiritual healing includes meditation, yoga and art therapy, which is common in foreign countries but recent to Egyptian culture.
“Unfortunately, people are coloring these books and that is it, which is a big fault because it can make you feel better temporarily, but after a while the stress will come back,” said Kamal, advocating for people to analyze how they are coloring these newly popular books.
Kamal advises people using art therapy to have a personal spiritual “mentor” to examine the colors they are using so that they can give advice and help manage stress and problems.
Kamal said the feedback she has received from her group about art therapy is incredibly good and many of her clients are starting to design doodles by themselves.
In the early 1900s, Psychiatrist Carl Jung was the first to introduce art therapy in a world proposing that art can be used to lessen fear and anxiety and also heal.
During his work with patients, Jung found that art expression and images in dreams might be helpful in teaching individuals how to recover from trauma and emotional stress.
American psychologist Ben Michaelis said that coloring doodles is a form of brain training and therapy. “Because it’s a centering activity, the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that is involved with our fear response, actually gets a bit, a little bit of a rest, and it ultimately has a really calming effect over time,” he said on his website
“Six months ago, I started to color some doodles from the Mandalas coloring books," said Passant Osama, a user of the coloring books. "It was really awesome and really made a change in my spirit every time I colored. I feel super relaxed, especially after work and when I'm facing stress and personal problems."
Every weekend, Osama makes sure she colors at least one pattern and sometimes she puts one of the colored patterns in her office.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Aya Shaheen bought the Mandalas coloring books only because she loves coloring in general. “I don’t think the books are anti-depression or anti-stress, but it can make you feel much better because while coloring you think of nothing but the colors.”