We know stress kills creativity. And, given what most of experience in modern life, stress isn’t going anywhere.
So, what can we do about it? How do we tame the stress and let our muse come back from vacation to help inspire us once again?
First, I think it’s important to know what stress is. In a nutshell, stress is a physical response. Your body thinks it’s under attack and goes into fight or flight mode. Your body releases a whole bunch of hormones preparing you for physical action.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. During our hunter-gatherer days, this helped us escape from predators or defend ourselves and our tribes.
Where the issue comes is that our bodies haven’t adapted to modern life. A boss with an impossible deadline triggers the same fight or flight mode, instead of a focused calm so we can at least try to make the deadline.
What this means is that we don’t have the opportunity to burn off those stress hormones. This is what causes the jittery feelings and racing heartbeat.
So, how do we deal with it?
I’ve read a bit on this, and here is what the “experts” say:
- Get enough sleep – because it’s so easy to sleep when you’re already stressed
- Eat Well-Balance meals – Already doing this. It hasn’t helped, but I suppose it doesn’t hurt.
- Limit Alcohol and Caffeine – Gave up both when I was pregnant, never took up either since. Very liberating to not need that cup of coffee in the morning.
- Count to 10 (or 20) – This has helped me when dealing with my children, but not for the bigger things like when those children are ill.
- Take deep breaths – Okay…
- Take a time-out. Practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, get a massage, or learn relaxation techniques. Stepping back from the problem helps clear your head. Because I totally have time for this!
- Learn what triggers your anxiety. – Impossible goals like trying to balance work, children, a spouse and writing.
- Maintain a positive attitude.
- Get involved. Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community, which creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress. – Which gets back to my time issue . . .
- Welcome humor. A good laugh goes a long way. – Clearly what some of these coping strategies are. For me, anyway.
I could go on, but the one thing that’s helped me the most is learning that it’s a hormonal response. These hormones need to burned off, and I’ve started doing that by walking. I try for at least a 30 minute walk at lunch, and this has helped tremendously. I burn off all my pent up stress hormones and come back to the afternoon more focused.
Sometimes, this isn’t enough, and I take a brisk walk through the halls. Other times I’ll walk out to the shop floor and back. Something to get me up, get me moving, and burn those stress hormones.
Now that I know stress is physiological in nature, it helps me deal with it.
My bigger issue is when I don’t have an outlet. It is dark when I get up in the morning, it is dark when I come home from work at night.
This means walking before work or in the evenings is a no-go.
I’m still trying to figure something out, especially with the kids. I have a treadmill and an elliptical in our finished basement, but it’s an act of Congress to get down there. Including the negotiating, pleading, and filibustering.
What do you do to deal with stress? Any of these tips more helpful for you? Do you find it easier to burn off the stress hormones with physical activity?