When I’m struggling in my day-to-day life and relationships, and stress is high, I find it difficult (if not impossible) to pursue creativity. Why is that? Why is it so hard to be creative when we are stressed out, fighting with a loved one, or trying to fix a problem that seems unsolvable?
Stress and Survival Mode
It’s because our bodies are limiting their resources in order to survive that we cannot initiate creativity. We go into fight or flight mode and everything else becomes unnecessary. We get tunnel vision and can only focus on that one thing. Unfortunately, we also start down the pattern of negative thoughts (I’m the worst at ________). We also tend to become fixated on re-working a solution. Instead of focusing on creating, we are stuck in a negative cycle of bad thinking and trying to control things we are unable to control.
Stress and Productivity
Forbes wrote an article about “Employee Brain” and this quote was worth repeating:
With more than forty percent of American workers reporting chronic workplace stress, the long-term impact of stress and its influence on the human creative condition and business can be detrimental..
In other words, stress kills creativity and productivity. Even a little bit of stress can make a huge impact. You might think, “Well that’s not news! I already knew that.” It’s true. A lot has already been said about the topic of stress and it’s effect on creatives. But what about the opposite position: How can creativity affect stress?
Stress and Creativity
Do you ever wonder why adult coloring books are all the rage? Or why people enjoy going to those painting classes that serve wine? Why are people addicted to Brush Lettering? The answer is because there is something very therapeutic about those activities that cause us to relax and de-stress.
As I mentioned earlier, stress will kill creativity so how do you push the reset button? Here are a few tips.
Take a break.
Instead of hyper-focusing on trying to fix something or remaining in a situation where you are re-thinking negative thoughts over and over and over, just walk away and take a breath. Even at work, this is possible. Walk down the hall. Go to the bathroom and take 5 minutes to meditate. Go out to your car. Take your lunch break and get out of the office. Whatever works for you to get away from the situation and the stress is going to help your brain and hormones reset.
Take a walk or hike, go for a run, get on an elliptical and you’ll find those stress hormones will soon dissipate. Stress is also extremely bad for our adrenals and increase our cortisol levels which cause us to gain weight and feel tired. Exercise will combat that, but don’t overdo exercise or you will deplete your adrenals too. Find the right balance for you to de-stress and relax.
Get more sleep.
Stress makes us tired so if you feel tired, go to sleep. Instead of staring at screens, researching how to fix your problems, or watching endless hours of TV, turn off the screens and get some rest. An interesting thing I’ve noticed is when I go to sleep, a lot of times I wake up with a good solution or a new creative idea that I hadn’t thought before. Overthinking seems like a legit thing to do when solving a problem, but it actually creates more problems. Sometimes you just need some zzz’s.
Learn ways to combat stress.
Maybe diffusing essential oils is relaxing to you, or listening to music, or taking a bath. Learn positive ways to combat stress and you will be well on your way to a more creative mind. Stress leaves us feeling very crabby, way too serious, and not very good. Learn to find things in your life that bring you joy, make you laugh, or encourage relaxation.
It’s also important to find a person to talk to if you can’t seem to get above water. Talk to a friend, a counselor, or your spouse. I’ve also found great benefits from journaling my feelings if I can’t talk to a person. Some people using what they call “Brain Dumps” where they take a pen and paper and write down everything they’ve been thinking about and create lists which they evaluate and then use to problem solve.
Focus on creativity.
If you can relax and then refocus on something creative, you can turn creativity into a habit. The more creativity becomes a habit, the less you will feel stress depleting you.
If you want to learn more about how to turn creativity into a habit, download the 10 Tips on Making Creativity a Habit.