Complete collapse of any creative spark.
Can anyone else relate?
This past year it feels as though stress and anxiety have turned into an elixir taken with our morning coffee. Schedules and plans and life seem to have come to a complete halt, throwing everything we once enjoyed in for a wild ride.
While navigating this past year, attempting to move through the new hurdles of living, I hear a common theme among so many: I feel so stressed, I feel so overwhelmed, I feel so. . . . meh. As if life didn’t have challenges of its own, let’s add stress to the top and watch what happens.
When stress strikes, it affects many things. The weight of the world seems to rest solely on your shoulders while your drive and joy for things you once loved melts into mud, creating this unscientific feeling of “meh.” So, for those who rely on their creative outlets, whether by trade or hobby, how do you combat the effects of stress when it comes to achieving your creative best?
Win Back Your Imagination
It’s not as difficult as you may think. Your overall health plays a vital role in this. Health meaning exercise, nutrition, mindfulness and/or sleep habits. Walking every day can impact your stress levels. The proper fuel for your body can improve stress and response and energy levels. Yes, those donuts you love don’t actually help give proper energy. Even taking the time for prayer or mindfulness activities are the building blocks for keeping the creative juices flowing.
Exercise, for instance, helps increase serotonin in your brain, which, in layman’s terms, helps your body and your brain feel good. Or, what runners know well, that experience they call the “runner’s high,” which is a burst of endorphins after a nice run.
You don’t have to be a runner to experience the same euphoric feeling and creative energy that often follows a long run.
There are five strategies I employ to help combat stress. Utilizing these healthy building blocks helps keep my creative being functioning at its best.
1 – Find an Exercise Routine.
Exercise has incredible benefits for the brain and body. But, perhaps you don’t consider yourself much of an athlete, or never really cared much for the stuff. Exercise doesn’t have to mean hopping on the treadmill at the gym for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Fitness can mean different things for different people.
The point of exercise is to simply get your body moving. For some, that may mean taking an easy walk around the block. For others, that might mean joining a gym or finding a running group.
Think outside of the box. Find an activity that brings you enjoyment and pursue it. Yes, exercise can be fun.
- Krav Maga
- Water aerobics
2 – Try Some Yoga
There’s a reason yoga began nearly 5,000 years ago and hasn’t lost any steam. This practice can offer incredible benefits, ranging from increased flexibility and mobility to improved respiration and breathing. Most importantly, yoga can help manage stress.
There are a number of different styles of yoga. The most popular forms in our culture are hatha yoga, vinyasa yoga and bikram yoga, all of which can easily be accessed through local yoga studios or online programs.
The best part of engaging in the practice of yoga is it doesn’t require any special equipment, only a willingness to give it your best shot.
3 – Release Tension By Stretching
Although stretching is a byproduct of yoga practice, there are excellent stress relieving benefits from taking time to stretch during the day. If you sit behind a computer or hunch over a sketchpad or canvas during the day, taking stretch breaks during your activities can release tension in the muscles and release a small flood of endorphins.
Plus, stretching doesn’t require much time commitment. Even five minutes once or twice a day can make all the difference.
4 – Boost Your Nutrition
Many people tend to overlook the fact that nutrition impacts our stress levels. Although researchers are still scratching the surface on exactly how our food affects us, we know that good, solid habits like eating enough vegetables, fruit and protein (whether that be traditional meat or plant source) does seem to have an effect on our mood. As I mentioned before, choosing to put down that donut and picking a more nutritionally-dense food directly impacts our energy levels. When properly fueling with whole foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains) it helps to regulate your blood sugar, giving you nice sustained energy throughout the day. Not that there is inherently wrong with a donut, or whatever your choice of treat is, but it can create a blood sugar spike and fall rather quickly, leaving us feeling sluggish and drained.
There are registered dieticians and nutritionists who specialize in this work, but there are also great online sources available for those wanting to learn more.
5 – Improve Your Sleep Habits
Oh, the precious and ever-elusive sleep!
In our modern world, sleep seems to be a chore that none of us have time for anymore. But to manage stress properly, quality sleep is an absolute must.
For most adults, the recommended hours of sleep per night falls between seven and eight hours. Adequate sleep can help fight stress by improving your overall mood and energy levels.
Ways to create a healthy sleep environment can be:
- Watching caffeine consumption later in the day
- Avoid late-night social media scrolling
- Avoid watching TV just before bed
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule
- Avoid napping during the day, if possible
As we break into the new year, leaving 2020 in our dust, and hopefully the stresses of that year in our past, let’s pursue 2021 with new, healthy habits to bring that spark back into our creative lives.