Diddling stress through doodles

By Eka Tharudin

For most people, doodle is defined as the unconscious or unfocused drawings made that could have concrete representational meaning or just composed with random and abstract lines. However, people who have to deal with stress might consider doodling as an art of escaping, or rather, their very own natural prescriptions.

Whilst doodling might get a bad rep, especially among the students as it is considered a sign of spacing out, multiple researches have proved that doodling might hold more than it seems. According to Sunni Brown, the author of “The Doodle Revolution: Unlock the Power to Think Differently”, doodling is a thinking tool that can boost the ability for problem-solving. Who could have imagined that all the ridiculous and repetitive patterns could actually help us to process information better, right?

Having the chances to sit down and talk to Nusaibah Athirah, a fellow doodler of mine, is rather an eye-opening session for me. As I go through her notebook, little scribbles of flowery patterns can be seen spreading across her class notes. Nusaibah is rather a textbook model of a student. Her high grade and active participation in curriculum could easily blur out the fact that she needs to deal with stress almost daily. Although she still needs her prescribed medications, Nusaibah does not deny the good effects of doodling in her life.

“People rarely take my stress seriously just because I can perform well in my studies. When it is too hard to talk to a person, I always find myself doodling in my notebook instead,” she told me as she glided through her doodles.

Perhaps, for people like Nusaibah, the empty white sheets are more “interactive” in a sense where the papers let Nusaibah releases her inaudible and stressful thoughts. While a living person always choose to shut Nusaibah and wave her problems away, all the motionless papers are the only companion that she has.

“I don’t mind. Initiating a talk could be burdensome sometimes. So, I don’t mind having no people to talk to me, as long as I have a place to scribble on,” she continued, looking rather cheerful despite her gloomy tone.

As I go through further reading, I came across a fact that doodling can help a person to obtain concentration. Apparently, doodling helps us to multi-task and concentrate on our current activities. Doodlers mostly find it to be a great help for them to keep awake and attentive during long lectures or meetings. When the brain is on the verge of shutting down or fall asleep, doodling can help the brain to stay awake for a few more moments, by forcing it to engage in physical activities.

Nusaibah later shared her unforgettable experience trying to keep awake in boring classes. She also showed me a rather funny looking class notes, with undecipherable writings sprawled all over the pages. She could not understand her own writing, and I could barely try to guess the language of the notes. We both came to a consensus later that the notes were not written by her, but rather a demon that was trying to perform a ritual during class time.

An afternoon spent with her had allowed me to know a lot of untold problems faced by Nusaibah. I am glad that somehow she managed to find a solution that suits her personality best. However, it slightly affected me seeing how quiet she had become, compared to what I used to know her before. I am afraid come the moment when the white paper can no longer withhold all of her unspoken problems and intangible pains. Where would she resort to next? She has lost hope towards the people around her, and seeing her sunken eyes trying to convince me that she is okay, makes things worse.

Both of us are doodlers. However, we doodled for two completely different things. I doodled because it helps me to stay awake in class. Doodling also helps me to practise my bare minimum drawing skills. Yet, for Nusaibah who has to deal with daily pressure of stress, doodling is the only way she can escape from her unhelpful surrounding. She doodles because she almost lost the connections with people around her, and it pains me to know that I can offer little to no help at all.

So, do doodles actually help people to cope with their stress? Or is it simply a temporary escapade that could actually lead to deeper mental problems? I could only offer her a temporary companion, and stay connected as a fellow doodler. But deep down, I know that flowery pattern weaved with repetitive smiley faces cannot solve her problems. ***

Eka Tharudin

I read, write and draw to be happy.

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