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I overcome depression through art. Seven years ago, my girlfriend of eight years confessed she had been cheating on me with my best friend. I was battling severe depression and dealing with massive doubts about my self-worth. The stress kept building. I was left with two options: let it swallow me or reclaim my life. I decided on the latter. I knew that to do so would mean a lot of work, and so I laid the groundwork. I sought out therapy and medication to help treat my depression. From there, I made a list. The list included all the things that made me happy – friends, family, singing in the car, writing, good food, the list went on, and then something surprising came up: acting.

I hadn’t acted in 8 years. It was something I missed – a love that I wanted to rediscover. I started with voice lessons. My voice teacher connected me with Meredith College. This group needed another tenor for its chorus in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. I jumped at the chance. This decision helped me pull myself out of my depression. I haven’t stopped acting since.

And my breakup wasn’t the last hardship acting would help me through. When my father died, I joined the cast of Hamlet and worked through the baggage left from that relationship. The play left me exhausted, but fulfilled.

This is what the Arts is capable of – no matter what form it takes.  And this is why I’m so grateful that Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) supports so many amazing organizations in the state.

But you don’t have to take my word that making art – from painting to acting – can help your mental and emotional state. Girija Kaimal, assistant professor of creative arts therapies at Drexel University, agrees too. In June, Kaimal released the results from a study that examined how creating art affects your stress-related hormones.

The results, published in Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, titled “Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants’ Responses Following Art Making,” found that 45 minutes of creative activity significantly lessens stress in the body, regardless of artistic experience or talent.

This tells us something that many people in the Arts have been saying for decades: Sometimes it’s more about creating and participating than being a genius. So pick up a paintbrush, audition for a play, grab some jewelry making supplies, or take a class in pottery. But no matter what you do, get out there and make some art.

About Nick Popio

Nick Popio is a social media communications specialist at BCBSNC. He is passionate about helping others connect and engage in meaningful conversation and striving to make healthcare more transparent for everyone.