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Coping through art: how one captain combats stress with creativity

Capt. Lindsay Cordero and her painting on exhibit.

Capt. Lindsay Cordero, a member of the 608th Air Operations Center at Barksdale AFB, stands beside her artwork during the Beyond Duty Art Exhibit in Bossier City, La., Feb. 25, 2020. Cordero uses creative expression as a means to cope with the stresses of military life. The painting here, titled "This is what anxiety looks like," was Cordero's first self-portrait following a deployment.

The Beyond Duty Art Exhibit in Bossier City, La. showcases all-military (veteran and active duty) artists.

The Beyond Duty Art Exhibit in Bossier City, La. showcases all-military (veteran and active duty) artists. Capt. Lindsay Cordero from the Joint-Global Strike Operations Center at Barksdale, created the center painting, titled "This is what anxiety looks like." Cordero uses pop and figurative expressionism in her paintings as a way to cope with the stressors of military life.

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --

“This is what anxiety feels like” is the name of a painting currently on display in an all-military art exhibit in Bossier City, Louisiana. Its creator is an Air Force captain by the name of Lindsay Cordero who embraces artistic expression as a means to counter anxiety brought about by military life.

The painting hangs alongside other artwork, but possesses a human look like no other. Heavy black lines, bold facial features, amid an abstract array of red, pink and green colors, all give life to the work. 

“This was the first time I have ever attempted a self-portrait, and the results were entirely reflective of where I was emotionally at that time,” said Cordero. “I hope this painting motivates people to ask themselves the hard questions surrounding mental health.

“It still felt nerve-wracking to share something about my own mental health publically, but I think that uncertainty provided a bit of courage,” said the captain.

Cordero, like many military members, deals with work which can cause seasons of anxiety and depression. The period leading up to her last deployment was especially challenging.

“For a year and a half, I was in a role that was very demanding with a very high operations tempo,” said Cordero. “By the time I started my deployment, my mental and emotional energy was already spent. At the end of each day I had nothing else to give, which also contributed to feelings that I wasn’t good enough, done enough or given enough.”

It is important to note that behind all the men and women on the front line, there are whole communities behind them working hard to ensure they have what they need and are safe, said Cordero.

However, members who support those at the tip of the spear can suffer from mental health issues in a different way, continued the captain.

“If we don’t address our mental health needs, we are neglecting ourselves in a way that can affect every other area of our lives,” said Cordero. “We must invest in our mental health by deliberately doing things that enable us to express creativity and provide an outlet.”

For Cordero, her relief comes in the form of artistic expression which includes painting, journaling, CrossFit, cooking and playing piano. Her “pop expressionism” and “figurative expressionism” style artwork have been featured during the 2018 Shreveport Le Tour Des Jardins, in the first edition of J. Michael Photography Magazine, and at the 2020 Ark-La-Tex Critical Mass 8 Exhibition.

And the future continues to look bright for the young artist and Air Force captain.

Cordero was recently named the 2019 Outstanding Company Grade Officer within the Joint-Global Strike Operations Center at Barksdale AFB. Her future aspirations involve painting a series depicting her time with the U.S. Air Force Academy, working toward a solo exhibit and furthering her role within the nuclear command, control and communications field.

For those in the Bossier City or Shreveport, Louisiana area, Cordero’s artwork can be viewed at the Beyond Duty Exhibit at Bossier Parish Community College. Please contact the gallery for details as the recent COVID-19 health crisis may impact visitation.

Also, if you or someone you know struggles with mental health issues such as depression, stress or anxiety, reach out to the Dept. of Health and Human Services’ helpline (1-877-726-4727) to find treatment services in your area. For military members and their dependents, Military OneSource offers 24/7 confidential support (1-800-342-9647).