Stress and Creativity

I came across some interesting articles recently about the effect of stress on creativity.

This one, from the American Psychological association, pertains more to grad students, but many of us who work full time and try to fit in writing, family, and whatever else we do have a similar stress load. Even if you don’t, there could be other equally stressing factors.

Most days feel about like this, but I don’t look so graceful or poised.


One from Forbes talking about the effect on creativity and competitiveness at work.

There are quite a few more as it appears this is an area of study, many of which are scientific enough that I have to get out my Six Sigma stuff to understand the statistical analysis.

But this brings me to my point: the scientific community knows that stress kills creativity. While the brain is expending resources on the lower order functions in a fight or flight response to keep us alive, it’s not giving much of anything to higher order functions like creativity.

Makes sense. Your brain doesn’t really differentiate from the stress caused by a lion attack and the stress caused by an impractical deadline at work. So your brain is going to “save” you from the “lion”.

I have been on this fight or flight roller-coaster since early May.

At that time, we learned DD2 was developmentally delayed, and we’ve had to spend a lot of time and money to figure out why and then start her treatment. As part of her treatment, I learned quickly that the medical profession in my area expects you to either be a stay-at-home mom or miss lots of work as there’s no such thing as early morning, night, or weekend appointments. Not even Friday appointments in the summer, as it turns out.

We then got to experience first-hand the joys of insurance denying everything, even things they had told us previously they would cover. Lots of stress fighting them and mostly losing.

About 3 days after my daughter was diagnosed, I was asked to start a massive cost-benefit analysis of shutting down a plant that has been around since 1946. Had to be done completely in secret. So lots of sneaking around and asking weird questions with made-up reasons. The analysis confirmed what the executives expected, the announcement was made, and now I face the constant daily stress of working through the plant closure and reporting out on it.

So, yeah, no wonder my creativity dried up in May and hasn’t really returned.

I need to find a better way to deal with the stress than I have been, but I’ve yet to figure it out.




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10 thoughts on “Stress and Creativity

      1. Indeed, but it’s what you do when you’re not writing that’s important. (1) I read other poets; (2) I color and draw; (3) I take photos; (4) I look at nature and the world around me, people too; (5) I listen to music; (6) I cook different meals; (7) I keep a journal — this is most important — ; and (8) I believe — and all too soon and quite unexpectedly, one form of creativity slips into another and the writing (it never went away because of the journal) comes back.

      2. You have a good point. What do I do to de-stress? Between a full time job, 2 kids, a spouse, and everything else…very little. We try to take a family walk most nights, but whether or not it is de-stressing depends on the behavior on my children. Not much worse than a temper tantrum 20 minutes from the house.

        Other than that, not much!

  1. The last thing you need when under all these mountains of lions is to also get frustrated with yourself or your creativity. You can still try when you can, but if it doesn’t work? That’s ok. And I’d be willing to bet that part of it is your creativity that is there is going to other things. Problem solving, dealing with insurance and doctors and trying to find all the elements? These too are creative tasks. Maybe not light and fun creative. But they do require some creative thinking.
    Take care of yourself too.

    1. You’re right about the having to be creative in new ways! I never knew insurance could be so painful! Up until now, other than having kids, we’d only ever been to the doctors for things like annual check-ups and maybe a particularly nasty and persistent cold.

      1. Insurance dueling can be like a full time job. It is so hard and so much of it is near impossible to understand. Creativity is required! But I think it can be helpful to know that it isn’t gone, just redirected to something else.

  2. I definitely feel your pain, I can sympathize and empathize with you on this front. Both of my sons are special needs, with one diagnosed as classically autistic, albeit a mild case. My oldest has some severe emotional issues that cause him to lash out physically at us, his brother, other family members and the beleaguered staff at his elementary school. I definitely get that the doctors seem to think everyone should suddenly quite their jobs, but never wonder how we should pay for things…. and NONE of these doctors are offering to treat the boys for free. And insurance? Don’t get me started, and it got worse lately with the new ACA laws. Virginia USED to cover ABA therapy, but then stopped so they could comply with the bare minimum of the ACA…. What a political boondoggle. Typical politicians on both sides who know everything, fix nothing and generally make our lives harder. I get that there were issues to solve, but how do you do that without reading what you’re voting on? Or meeting with subject matter experts? Ugh, I feel your pain and it definitely slows me down too. Hope things get better, and just love that little girl through it all. Good luck.

    1. You have my deepest empathy. It is hard. And we are fortunate. While expensive, my husband’s employer has pretty good insurance as long as you’re in network. At least, if you have issues they’ll cover.

      Still don’t understand what they choose to cover or not. We were also fortunate we had savings to cover the treatments the insurance company wouldn’t. That way, we could focus on doing everything to get her caught up. We also now know she is very different from our other child. She must be pushed to do things, whereas our other child decided she needed to learn to read,count to 100 and learn basic addition and subtraction before she started 4K. Because she wanted to learn.

      And yes, battling them is time consuming and frustrating.

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