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How to use Creativity to Manage Stress

November 16, 2017

Stress: A Necessary Evil

By: Madelyn Moberg B.A. in Creative Writing

Stress is necessary in order to accomplish goals and tasks in our lives. It provides motivation to study for a test or prepare for a job interview, but too much stress can feel overwhelming and can be disabling. It is important and worth the effort to find a good balance of stress in our lives.

However, it is easier to talk about minimizing stress than it is to accomplish. In today's world, stress seems to be a constant companion, and sometimes the advice to alleviate it can seem difficult and not relevant.

Finding an Outlet

I find that being creative is helpful in reducing stress. Engaging our minds and hands in a creative pursuit can focus attention away from the stress and help us feel accomplished. In a recent article by Deepak Chopra and Kabir Sehgal, it was discovered that participants in a research study experienced a decrease in cortisol, the stress hormone, when they engaged in a creative activity. The researchers found that the subjects derived benefit from being creative regardless of how experienced or proficient they were in the artistic pursuit. Thus, anyone can become more calm from being creative. 

My Three Favorite Creative Activities

  1. Baking and/or Cooking: I find that taking the time to bake or cook something nice for myself and/or my family can be an emotionally comforting activity. It can be fun to experiment with a new recipe, to modify one of your old favorites, or just to make something you know you love. I love to bake chocolate chip cookies, and I have tried many modified recipes to find the one I like best. I sometimes blast some music or listen to one of my favorite podcasts, and just get going. If you're not a great cook, try buying some pre-made cookie dough and baking those. Best of all, at the end of all of this, you get something delicious you can enjoy. It's up to you whether you want to share your hard work with others, but I find there's nothing better than seeing someone's face light up when they get a baked good they weren't expecting. And making others feel good is a great way to make yourself feel better as well.
  2. Drawing and/or Coloring: I find that drawing can reduce stress as well. I get anxious when flying, so I bring an adult coloring book and I become engaged in coloring a beautiful picture. I even fell asleep on my most recent flight, which is something I thought would never happen to me. It is helpful to know that I have this effective option, allowing me to feel less anxious before the flight even takes off. In addition, I draw cards for family members, which makes me feel connected to them (because I think about them while I am drawing), and makes me happy knowing that I will bring them joy. You can also try just doodling in a notebook or on a scrap piece of paper - try drawing some basic shapes and patterns or just something that's in front of you.
  3. Writing: Whether you decide to start a short story or journal for a couple of minutes, writing can be a great way to minimize stress. When I feel overwhelmed, I find that writing down my feelings in a journal can help me work through confusing feelings or help me understand the situation. If journaling isn't your thing, try writing a story, a poem, a song or a letter to a friend! It does not matter how good your work is, you can derive benefit from any creative effort.

In the same research study that I mentioned above, the researchers found, for example, that if you "lose yourself" in the composition of a song... you are essentially entering a healthy flow state." This flow state can decrease the feeling of stress and you can forget about the world around you for a little while.

These are just a few of the ways I use creativity to manage stress, but if you have your own methods, leave a comment! There are countless ways to be creative , so find one that works for you and try it out!

A Parting Gift

(And if you are wondering what my chocolate chip cookie recipe is, here's the modified Pillsbury recipe):

  • 1 cup of firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of margarine or butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup of shortening
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 7 once bag of chocolate chips/chunks

Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Beat brown sugar, sugar, butter and shortening until mixed. Then add vanilla and egg, mix well. Then add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix again. Put in the chocolate chunks and stir them in. It's best to put the dough in the fridge for twelve to twenty-four hours for the perfect cookies, but if you're impatient you can bake them right then and there. Drop the cookies onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes or until they are golden brown on the edges. Let them cool on the cookie sheet for a minute and then enjoy!

 1. Sehgal, Deepak Chopra and Kabir. "Science Shows How Creativity Can Reduce Stress." Entrepreneur, 15 Sept. 2017, www.entrepreneur.com/article/300347




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