Creativity and Stress
Hello reader! My name is Joe, and I’m a speculative fiction author. In my spare time, I also enjoy writing music and making videos. It’s safe to say I’m a man of creativity. I love to create things, be it stories or clever images, and creativity is a topic that deeply intrigues me. Personally, I believe that everyone uses creativity in some way, not just artists. Scientists and mathematicians need to be creative to solve complicated problems. Architects creatively find ways to erect buildings. Doctors find new, more efficient ways to treat patients. Even if you believe you have no creativity, you’re wrong. Parents, children, students, we all need to use creativity in some way, and I believe this topic is of use to all of us.
Specifically, I want to talk about creativity and stress. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find it hard to think and concentrate when I’m under stress, especially constant stress. Chronic stress hinders the mind’s ability to be imaginative. Prolonged stress disrupts neuronal connections and makes us anxious. It’s hard to focus when we’re stressed all the time and stress has a big impact on our overall health and wellbeing. We have entire blogs on the effects of and how to manage chronic stress that you can check out here. To reiterate what those blogs say, all stressful events and moments need to be reconciled in order to move on and live a healthier and happier life. From an artist’s point of view, this is significant in that our jobs and hobbies require us to use the mind constantly, so it’s important to know how to reconcile stress.
Stress can hinder imagination, but have you considered that an overuse of creativity by focusing our minds on only one area of our life can cause a great amount of stress? I’ve heard from numerous authors that the act of writing exercises certain groups of muscles in the brain. The same has been said about other forms of creativity, like composing music. However, these “muscles” are actually neurons. Hypothetical “muscles” (neurons) within the mind are being used whenever we come up with ideas; the same connections are used in problem-solving. I find it interesting that some compare the parts of the mind used to create ideas as muscles. The brain’s anatomy and biochemical activities store and retrieve new and existing information. New ideas create new neuronal connections and network of associations. Physically, we have muscles that allow us to move around and exert force. But can we move around and exert force without limitation? No. It’s similar with our minds. If we don’t keep a balanced lifestyle they become fatigued. It’s amazing what can be accomplished by the human body and the human mind, but both need balance.
For all of you artists and others out there, have you ever felt mentally exhausted? You may have heard an author say they caught a bit of writer’s block at some point or another. One time in an interview I watched popular fantasy author Patrick Rothfuss talk about this, and his take on “writer’s block” fascinated me. He compared writing to physical activity, like having a job where you dig ditches all day. When you have a job where you dig ditches all day, there are going to be times when you would really rather do anything but dig ditches. You’d get physically tired of it. It’s similar with writing, and I’ll say it’s similar to other forms of creativity that are performed on a regular basis. If your job involves creativity, there will be days that you just really don’t want to perform. Creativity, or using the brain to come up with ideas, without balancing your life, even if they are carried out in efficient ways, creates internal stress the same way digging ditches creates outward, physical stress.
I wanted to address writer’s block first because there’s a difference between not wanting to do something that you do all the time, and being completely spent mentally. It’s not surprising, if you think about it, that numerous studies have shown artists in general have a higher probability of contracting mental illness, and are more likely even to commit suicide. I say it’s not surprising because it’s much harder to measure mental limits than it is to measure physical limits. When you get physically tired, you slow down, you get sweaty, you get sleepy and hungry and all kinds of obvious symptoms. When you get mentally tired, you can still feel it inside but it’s not so obvious, especially to those around you. When you get physically injured, you feel the pain and can no longer use the injured part of your body to the same extent until it has healed. One the other hand, it’s hard to gauge when you’re overexerting yourself mentally.
How do we avoid overexerting our imaginations and causing unnecessary stress to ourselves? The key is that just like the body, the mind needs to take breaks and recharge itself. I can give you a few tips and methods of letting the mind recharge, but you may need to be creative in the ways you refresh your creative juices. These are a few things to get you started:
Go on regular walks. This is not just a great way to clear the mind, but is physically healthy as well. Do NOT skip meals, and get a balanced diet. I cannot say enough how critically important this is. When you don’t give your body the nutrition and energy it needs to function, the brain suffers. Stay hydrated. Also get enough sleep. While we sleep, the body and brain make many necessary repairs. It’s nearly impossible to think clearly when you have been neglecting sleep, and studies have even shown that a good amount of sleep helps you gain a better memory. This is because the mind stores information gathered during the day into long-term memory as we sleep. Adults need 7-8 hours every night. All in all, you want to keep yourself healthy so your brain can work at 100% capacity.
It’s good to take constant breaks from the task you’re doing, especially if you’re in front of the computer for long periods of time. Doing simple tasks like cleaning the dishes or sweeping the floor can help you relax the mind. Take some time away from the screen, be it movies, the internet, or your phone. These things are great and we use them for many useful purposes, but an overload of screen time can numb the brain in a way that makes being creative harder to do. This is because already-prepared visual and auditory stimuli are being fed into your head when you watch a video or movie, and it becomes harder to come up with your own ideas right after being fed someone else’s ideas. Screen time also tires the eyes and can lead to headaches in some cases, becoming a stumbling block to creativity.
Stress can drive us to accomplish hard tasks and tackle large projects, but when stress becomes chronic it impairs our ability to use our imaginations. The process of creation, I believe, is meant to be a joyful one. Studies show that creative actions can actually help relieve stress. However, it’s important for us all to be wary of our limits. Don’t be overtaxing on yourself mentally. Take breaks, resolve stress and keep your body healthy, and you’ll be amazed at how much more creative you can be.
Phytotherapi also has a solution to help relieve stress. For more information on it click here. These are just some of my thoughts and tips on creativity and how it relates to stress. I hope this information has been useful yo you, dear reader. Have a fantastic day and keep on creating!