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Reducing stress with art, museums and other creative expressions

MissionBox co-founder and CEO Kathryn Engelhardt-Cronk tackles the issue of managing the stress and pressures that commonly come with working for a nonprofit in her new column How to Self Care: Tips for Managing Nonprofit Stress. We invite MissionBox readers to share their ideas and responses, which may be published here as well.

The opinions offered here are based on the author's personal nonprofit experience and may not reflect the opinions of MissionBox, Inc. These opinions should not be considered legal advice or used as a substitute for professional legal consultation.

Dear reader,

For a short time, I was the executive director of a local grief and loss support center. The center provided peer support groups, one-to-one counseling and a weekly communal dinner. The dinners were important to all our families coping with the grief of a lost child, partner or parent. Every family was invited and it was a night for children and adults to be with those who understood their deep sorrow.

One day, I found 10 boxes of plain, white coffee cups that were donated to the center. On a whim, I put the cups out on work tables scattered around the living and dining room and supplied plenty of colored markers. Later that evening, when families were sitting together and talking, they began picking up the cups and coloring while they talked. At the end of the evening, we lined the shelves with the finished cups, leaving untouched cups on the tables.

During the ensuing weeks, the cup coloring became part of our evening dinner ritual. Many told me that it helped them to open up and increased their willingness to share painful thoughts and feelings with others.

Watching the cup painting at the center brought home that art is more than about talent, training, cultural and historical reflection: it’s a transportive medium that allows our hearts and souls to open, be nourished and healed.

I’ve always been a lover of art (of all kinds) and during my fortunate life have visited literally hundreds of museums, all over the world. I myself, can’t draw a stick figure, but art has been a lifeline for me of restoration and sustenance.

Whenever work overload gets to me or I am deeply saddened by the social injustice all around us, I go to a museum. It can be big or small, famous or obscure. Regardless of the type of art, I know I will see something that restores my faith in humanity and uplifts my spirit.


CEO, MissionBox Inc.

What do our nonprofit readers think? We would love to hear about your own ways of handling nonprofit stress. Email us at



MissionBox editorial content is offered as guidance only, and is not meant, nor should it be construed as, a replacement for certified, professional expertise.




Co-founder and CEO of MissionBox, founder and president of MissionBox Philanthropic Fund, founder and past CEO of Community TechKnowledge