WEST LIBERTY, W.Va., Sept. 21, 2022 — As the semester stated to heat up, the Creative Arts Therapy (CAT) Club hosted an event aimed at addressing the unavoidable stress of being a college student. CAT club officers, Angelica Rogers (junior) and Erin Yakesh (senior), both Creative Arts Therapy Students, decided to offer the supplies and directions for students to create their own “Calm Down” or sensory jar.
“What is a calm down jar? Simply put, a calm down jar is a visual meditation, in a bottle. It is a clear container that holds a mixture of water, glue, glitter and food coloring to create bright swirling shapes. The jar is then a tool that students can use when they are experiencing moments of stress, anxiety, or having difficulty focusing,” explained Terri Giller, instructor for Creative Arts Therapy.
“Using a sensory jar requires two steps: First, shake the jar. This is a great way to physically release tension held within the body. Second, individuals will then focus on the swirling materials in the jar, watching the contents slowly fall to the bottom of the jar.
“Students are instructed to mindfully watch items float to the bottom of the jar, and begin to notice their breath, intentionally taking slow, deep breaths and exhaling fully. This process can de-activate the brain and body’s stress response, and activate the relaxation response,” according to Giller.
Angelica Rogers stated, “I think calming jars can be very meaningful. You can either think of it as the literal meaning…a calming jar…which is its intended purpose or I think it represents how quickly things can change and be shaken up and it all may look very hectic and you cannot see through it at that moment but as time goes on and you take a step back and breathe everything becomes a little clearer and you can start seeing the other side. It may still be cloudy and linger on but it’s calmer than in the beginning.”
The event drew approximately 50 students attending and creating their own calming jar. Participants represented a variety of majors, from incoming freshmen to seniors.
Students were excited to engage in a sensory- based art project, but also recognized how helpful these jars can be to manage stress. One student was overheard sharing that they struggle with an anxiety disorder, so when they heard this was being offered, it was important to come and participate.
“I was thrilled to see the success of this event. Students were very intentional about what they included in their sensory jars, and were even open to sharing how and when they might use this as a tool to manage stress. I think the group art making experience in itself was a way to normalize having a difficult time and a way for students to support one another,” Giller said.
The CAT Club meets every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m., in the Creative Arts Therapy Studio, on the second floor of the Union (S23). All students are welcome to attend. If interested in joining, please contact the CAT club at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact club advisor, Terri Giller: email@example.com.