Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Art and Stress

stressed out, morguefile

Our internet service was down for 4 days less than a week before my 30 Pears in 30 Days project was due to start. I had a long list of things I needed to take care of for my website, Etsy store, the new blog, etc. I was feeling a little stressed and overwhelmed, to say the least.

Life is stressful enough as it is, but being self-employed or an entrepreneur in a creative field has its own special set of stressors. We need to be focused and energized to accomplish all we have to do, as well as relaxed enough to allow creativity and new ideas to flow, and unmanaged stress can zap our ability to do any of that. Top that with the surprising number of artists who are full-time caregivers, or live with chronic pain, or any other added long-term stressor, and it’s amazing anyone can finish a piece of art.

cat, relaxing, sleeping cat,
If only we could relax like this!
Spending time with animals is a good stress reliever.

Dr. Eric Maisel is an author and creativity coach who writes a column for Professional Artist Magazine. In a blog post last year, he discussed stress and the artist:

            “An artist needs to honor the reality of stress and make plans
              for dealing with it...

            Take some time, have a fruitful conversation with yourself and
             answer the following four questions:
            1. What are my current stressors?
            2. What unhealthy strategies am I currently employing to deal
                with these stressors?
            3. What healthy strategies am I currently employing to deal with
                these stressors?
            4. What new stress management strategies would I like to learn?”

We’ve all heard the “eat right, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly” recipe for stress-busting, but honestly, when I’m stressed out, that doesn’t help much. Through trial and error, I’ve had to figure out what works for me. I hope you find something here that’s helpful to you.

chocolate, photo, morguefile

Chocolate has always been my go-to quick relief for stress, and there's scientific proof to back me up. Eating dark chocolate (in moderation!) actually helps reduce stress hormones in the body. Hurrah!

I’ve had an on-again, off-again meditation practice for 5 years now. When I meditate regularly, I feel much more clear-headed and better able to deal with Life’s little surprises. However, there are times when my mind is just too active or distracted by something to be able to meditate on my own, so I also use guided meditations, or guided visualizations to help me relax. I just pop on the headphones and let someone talk me into relaxation.

One of my favorite guided meditation/relaxation collections is from Joanne D'Amico and her "Relax for A While" channel on YouTube. She has the most amazingly soothing voice, and many of her guided meditations are short enough to use as a quick break during a busy day. Some of her videos include relaxing sounds such as rain or a babbling mountain stream. (My apologies - try as I might with YouTube's Share/Embed settings, I could not get the YouTube related videos at the end of this video to go away. According to the HTML, they shouldn't be there, but they are. At least I managed to eliminate the ads at the beginning!)

Okay, so maybe this sounds a little crazy, but I find doing the dishes relaxing. I kind of get into a zone in my head and the sound of water probably helps. Weeding the garden helps me de-stress as well. It's so satisfying to pull out stubborn weeds!

Many people find putting on upbeat music helps to clear their head and get them in a better mood. You can burn off the stress (and maybe some of that chocolate) by dancing to the music or playing air guitar. Even just a few minutes can make you feel better.

waterfall, forest, Glacier National Park, photo
Nature is a natural stress relief

Getting outside in the fresh air, whether to a local park, your own backyard, or out in the wilderness is a wonderful stress reliever. Throw a ball around, play with your dog, go hiking. If you've been holed up in your studio for too long, maybe it's time to see what that bright thing in the sky is.

We've now come full circle: just the act of creating art has been scientifically shown to decrease stress in the body, regardless of whether you're "talented" or not. So perhaps when we are feeling stressed, we just need to drop everything and make more art.

Please leave a comment and share what you do to combat stress.

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